Masato Shimizu doesn’t want to see you cry. Which is why, if you’re lucky enough to dine at Tocqueville’s sushi-sister 15 East, he’ll serve you freshly grated wasabi, about as far from the gummy paste served at American sushi restaurants as a Herve Mons Comte is from a pack of Kraft singles. The so-called wasabi most of us know is nothing more than reconstituted horseradish, Chinese mustard, a little cornstarch and green food coloring.
The real thing’s meant to revive the palate rather than wreck it. The flavorful rhizomes, native to Japan, have gingerly put down roots in the Pacific Northwest, where the climate is cool and damp enough to feel like home. But Shimizu imports his knobs from Izu, a region in Japan famous for wasabi production, and uses a traditional sharkskin grater, rather than the copper option, to prepare the wasabi as an accompaniment for sushi and sashimi, explaining that sharkskin’s blunter edges expose less wasabi surface area to oxygen, creating less sting. If you need another reason to try the fresh stuff, consider that wasabi—like shiso, ginger and garlic—purportedly holds health benefits, including the ability to fight bacteria, always a good superpower to have on hand where raw fish is involved.
Photo courtesy of 15 East.