SUPERIOR – With all the painstaking chopping, rolling and assembly that goes into making just one piece of sushi, it’s easy to assume the chef has extensive training.
That’s often not the case in the United States, according to Ayumi Shiuchi, wife of Japanese master chef Yoshi Shiuchi, who owns Superior-based Sushi Yoshi.
“Most of the people who are sushi chefs in America might have months or even weeks of training,” she said.
“Yoshi is a very well-trained chef. He studied authentic Japanese culinary arts for 10 years in Japan. It’s really rare to find anyone like him in this country.”
Yoshi worked with a Japanese master chef – known as a tateita – in the Osaka area in an eight-step apprenticeship that covered everything from the history of Japanese cuisine to proper table manners. The idea is to master all aspects of Japanese cooking, which, according to Ayumi, is created in series of fives.
“It makes people enjoy the five senses, uses five basic techniques and combines five tastes.” Even the dishes have five basic colors – red, blue, yellow, white and black.
Japanese-cooking apprenticeships are designed to teach students to “learn and gain the sense of cooking intuitively and sensitively,´ said Ayumi, who translates her husband’s limited English. The path to all that sensitivity is paved with suffering. “Sometimes the senior chefs yell at and strike (the apprentices). The superior and inferior relationships are very strict, and oimawashi (apprentices) cannot even speak to tateita directly.”
Yoshi’s apprenticeship began with a year of scraping pots and washing dishes. In the second year, he progressed to cutting vegetables. For the best tempura, “You have to cut the vegetables in a very precise manner, shape and size,” Ayumi said.
The next step was learning how to decorate and present various dishes, which is followed by a year of lessons on cutting fish. After that Yoshi learned the deep-frying cooking techniques like tempura, and he studied baking techniques for fish and meat. He then mastered the three other Japanese cooking styles – raw, stewed and steamed. Finally, he was named a master chef and was put in charge of designing a restaurant menu.
After his apprenticeship, Yoshi joined a well-known Japanese international restaurant chain as a master chef.
He moved to London, New York, Florida and Ohio before returning to Japan. All that travel wasn’t his choice – he went where restaurant management dictated. Sixteen years ago Yoshi, then 34, decided he had enough and moved to Colorado. He met Ayumi and became a partner in Boulder’s Sushi Tora restaurant.
The partnership dissolved about a year ago, and Yoshi decided to open his own restaurant. He chose a shopping center in Superior and is sandwiched between a Costco and a Super Target. While not the most likely location for a sushi eatery, it serves a demand in an area where there are no Japanese restaurants, Ayumi said.
Yoshi designed a menu to reflect his extensive culinary training, including traditional sushi, sashimi and tempura. It also has unusual offerings like Kaiseki Ryori, which originally was created in the Japanese Edo period more than 200 years ago. Known as “four seasons” cuisine, it includes seven courses and focuses on a different menu each month.
Because Japanese cuisine emphasizes fresh, seasonal food, Sushi Yoshi’s menu changes three times a month, which is no problem for an experienced master chef. “Yoshi can create anything he wants to,” Ayumi said. “He doesn’t do any shortcuts.”
Sushi Yoshi’s soy sauce is housemade, the tempura is cooked in brown-rice oil, and Yoshi himself shops for raw ingredients – including organic vegetables – on Mondays, when the restaurant is closed. “He also does things like clean behind the refrigerators on Mondays,” Ayumi said. “He never has a day off.”
Visit Sushi Yoshi for lunch or dinner, and you’ll see the white-coated Yoshi behind the sushi bar assembling one of his signature dishes. That’s what sets him apart from other Japanese chefs in America.
“Yoshi believes that each cuisine or sushi dish shows the chef’s heart. When a chef is enjoying and making with his heart, the food on the plate becomes an edible art,” Ayumi said.
406 Center Drive, Unit D
Tuesday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.;
Sunday: 12-9 p.m.
Soups and salads: $3.15-$14.50
Sushi, sashimi and rolls: $2-$15.95
Lunch entrees: $5.80-$15.25
Dinner entrees: $10.50-$21.25
Business Lunch & Dining
Sushi Yoshi is tiny and austere – it has seven or eight four-top tables (with no room to combine them) and bar seating – so its business use is restricted to a workday lunch or a small meeting. It does offer catering and is great for single diners. The service is impeccable. It has a knowledgeable staff who can explain the wide variety of dishes – a must in a restaurant that serves almost 100 types of sushi, sashimi and rolls, not to mention dozens of entrees, salads and rice.
Dinner is where Sushi Yoshi really shines. You need time to figure out the menu and to enjoy the dishes you’ll end up ordering. Inventive offerings like ostrich tenderloin carpaccio in red wine sauce or the tropical roll – cream cheese and asparagus topped with smoked salmon and mango – ensure you’ll have so much difficulty making up your mind that you’ll order enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Sushi Yoshi also does the basics well – we particularly loved the smoky-flavored miso soup and the lightly battered, nongreasy shrimp tempura.
There’s a good selection of hard-to-find, hot and cold sake brands to wash down the food. The only minus is the strip-mall location, which limits the ambience. Make sure you take a seat with your back to the windows. You’ll get a view of the beautiful kimono on the wall instead of the Office Max across the tarmac.