According to restaurant owners interviewed for the article, Lebanon follows the style of sushi made popular in California, with salmon-based makis being the most popular items on the menu. Meanwhile, authentic Japanese sushi is centered on sushi and sashimi.
“The restaurant Mitsu-ya translates to the house of Mitsu, named after its Japanese chef. It follows the Omakase style of sushi, which is more personal and relies on the chef’s skills, creativity and even his mood.” (Fady Achkar, co-owner of Mitsu-ya) Le Sushi Bar, Shogun and Mitsu-ya are among the few sushi restaurants in Lebanon that use fresh wasabi, which is a root and has a rough texture. Most use a powder mixed with horseradish, mustard and other spices. “The easiest way to tell the quality of the sashimi or sushi is to eat it plain, without wasabi or soy [sauce]. If it has a metallic aftertaste, chances are the fish is not fresh.” (Aref Saade, owner of sushi restaurants Tropical Bamboo and Shogun) “Some of the more popular makis were invented by Le Sushi Bar. ‘Crazy’ was called so because of its crazy hair look; ‘Naked’ because there was no nori around it and ‘Volcano’ because it’s spicy. These became staples of Lebanese sushi restaurants.” (Mario Junior Haddad, owner of Sushi Bar) “Most of the sushi consumed in Lebanon is salmon based, unlike in Japan where 80 percent of the world’s tuna is consumed. Salmon is also a favorite worldwide.” (Mario Junior Haddad) “Restaurants are experimenting with sushi, introducing new twists to familiar dishes, such as Yabani’s new style sashimi, which includes scallops with truffles.” (Ramzi Adada, general manager of Yabani) “Some Japanese like to roll the sashimi in green leaves called shiso, along with some wasabi and pickled ginger, and eat it with their hands for an added, close to minty, flavor.” (Aref Saade) “Bluefin tuna is sold at auctions in Japan. The most expensive Bluefin tuna fish weighed 220 kilograms and was sold for 1,850,000 euros. Bluefin tuna can be found on Lebanon’s shores during May and June.” (Aref Saade) “Crab sticks or surimi are made from crab meat and other products. They are sold wholesale from $2 to $7 per kilogram depending on the amount of fresh crab meat used.” (Nicolas Rebeiz, sushi restaurant manager and supplier) “Sushi restaurants mainly work with Scottish salmon because its meat is firmer if you want to use it in sashimi. They also use farmed salmon as wild salmon, which is only available in May and June, is chewier and less buttery than the farmed variety.” (Aref Saade)