Every master has a story behind how they crafted their art and Chef Naoki is no exception. His culinary career started at the age of 16 in a Fukuoka noodle shop, followed by a busy Japanese fish market and then a California sushi restaurant, all before he turned 21. His goal was to share his love for simply prepared, fresh fish with his guests – the sushi that he loves to eat himself. As he continued his journey towards creating the best sushi restaurant in Chicago, perfecting his knife skills was one of the first steps.
Precise knife techniques are the heart of Japanese cuisine and fundamental in the art of sushi making. Chef Naoki shared with us his collection of knives, their uses and his favorite ones to work with. There are over 20 different knives used to prepare sushi, ranging from vegetable knives to butchering blades. Chef Naoki highlighted a few that every sushi chef should have in their repertoire; Gyutou, Deba, Yanagi, and Usaba.
Gyutou | Chef’s Knife
Gyutou knives are the Japanese equivalent of European chef’s knife. Chef Naoki says that this knife is the ideal all-purpose knife that’s easy to maintain, has versatility and stays sharper longer. He can break down a tuna, fillet a salmon and then cut some basil, without pause. He also said that he keeps a gyutou in his knife bag at all times.
Yanagi | Slicer
Yanagi knives are a long single-edged traditional knife used for precision. This knife is incredibly sharp and best used to cut sashimi and other tender fish. Chef Naoki has a yanagi knife that he received as a gift, when he was 23, which he still uses.
Deba | Butchery
The deba blade is primarily used to butcher or fillet larger fish and comes in a variety of different sizes and weights.
Usuba | Vegetable Knife
Usuba knives are very sharp and are used to precisely chop up a variety of vegetables with ease.
Chef Naoki continues to focus on the art of perfecting every detail of the sushi making process. He seeks out the freshest fish from the best Japanese purveyors and highlights specialty items, like whole live scallop or Hotaru Ika (firefly squid) scarcely found outside of Japan. His sushi rice – light, fluffy and with a hint of sweetness, is prepared fresh and to the ideal consistency, everyday. Even the fresh wasabi root, grated to order, is hand-selected.
You can see Chef Naoki’s talent and passion for his craft in all of his dishes. Join us in the dining room or at the sushi bar by making your reservation here.
Naoki has received many accolades since opening in January of 2016. Named one of the Best Restaurants in Chicago by Zagat, Chicago Magazine, the Chicagoist, Infatuation, Thrillist and RedEye, Naoki continues to delight guests with the freshest and most unique sashimi, nigiri and sushi in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.