According to Wikipedia, Aburi style sushi refers to nigiri sushi where the fish is partially grilled (topside) and partially raw. In researching aburi, it seems that it’s not a specialty of a particular region of Japan and is a technique that has been around. However I wasn’t able to figure out if that meant around since the beginning of sushi or a round like since like the 60s, 70s or 80s (old but not too old). It’s seems when it comes to Aburi in Japan Aburii Otoro Maguro (the fattiest cut of Tuna) is the thing, which makes sense as Tuna is the prized fish in Japan.
My first experience with Aburi sushi was at Miku. Lightly torching a piece of fish to help it release more of its flavour is genius, especially with fatter fishes like salmon.
The Aburi process turns an ordinary piece of fish into melt in you mouth deliciousness. I sometimes think of Aburi salmon or tuna belly as fish butter in the same way I think of Fois Gras as meat butter. Since I’m a west coast girl, I do prefer salmon to tuna.
The only problem is Miku is not as cheap place to eat. I resigned myself to Aburi sushi on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant celebrations only.
That’s until I found it at Sushimoto. As my friends and I were leafing thru pages of fusion rolls, there in the often overlooked and somtimes forgotten Nigri Section of the menu was Aburi! They offer 6 options: Ika, Hotate (Scallop) Moto Negitoro, Toro Steak, Salmon Belly and Unagi (BBQ Eel. I eliminated the scallop and Ika option simply because they naturally don’t have a lot of fat in them and I was worried they would be chewy.
I chose the Salmon Belly and Toro Steak. When it arrived it was lightly glazed with a sweet teriyaki like sauce and a small dollop of chili sauce. One bit of the Salmon Belly and I was in fish butter heaven. The toro steak was good but by default of being fattier, the Salmon Belly was phenomenal. For each piece of aburi nigri, the piece of fish dominated; the miniscule rice base simply acted as a platform to prop up the fish.
The Aburi Salmon Belly was rich and dissolved in your mouth. The only downside I found was that you can only really have 2-3 pieces of it since it’s so decadent.
Sushimoto’s Aburi Salmon Belly nigri is not as fancy as Miku’s Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi but for $2.50 per nigri, I’m very happy that I have found an everyday Aburi place.
Bonus Wow, You’ve Got Something There! Sushimoto is the only Japanese restaurant I’ve encountered that gives away amuse bouches to every table and depending on how long you stay you might get more than one. They are just mini versions of some their appetizers, but it’s a very thoughtful thing to do and makes a great impression on your customers.