The phrase "omakase", literally "I leave it up to you," is most commonly used when dining at Japanese restaurants where the customer leaves it up to the chef to select and serve seasonal specialties. The Japanese antonym for "omakase" is "okonomi," which means you are choosing what to order. In American English, the expression is used by patrons at sushi restaurants to leave the selection to the chef, as opposed to ordering à la carte. The chef will present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to the heaviest dishes. The phrase is not exclusive to raw fish with rice and can incorporate grilling, simmering and other cooking techniques.
Customers ordering omakase style expect the chef to be innovative and surprising in selecting dishes, and the meal can be likened to an artistic performance. Ordering omakase can be a gamble, but the customer typically receives the highest-quality fish available at a lower cost than if it had been ordered à la carte. According to Jeffrey Steingarten, recounting in Vogue a 22-course "memorable feast" that required several hours:
In the U.S., omakase usually refers to an extended sushi dinner, ideally eaten at the sushi counter, where the chef prepares one piece of fish at a time, announces its name and origin, answers your questions, and guesses what else you might enjoy and how much more you’d like to eat. You expect to be brought the most perfect seafood available at that time of year, fish that will be handled as carefully as a kidney awaiting transplantation and as respectfully as a still-living thing. You marvel at the endless training of the dedicated staff, the precision of their work, their incredible concentration for hours at a time, their lack of pretense, their quiet. And the beauty of their knives.
Food writer Joanne Drilling compared the omakase experience to prix fixe but said it was "slightly different. It involves completely ceding control of the ordering process and letting the chef choose your dinner." Like Steingarten she recommends omakase dining at the sushi counter. The Michelin guide called omakase the "spiritual companion and counterpoint to kaiseki," an elaborate multi-course highly-ritualized meal.
- "お任せの英語・英訳 - 英和辞典・和英辞典 Weblio辞書" [Omakase English Translation – English-Japanese and Japanese-English Weblio Dictionary] (in Japanese). Weblio. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- "Kitchen Language: What Is Omakase?". MICHELIN Guide. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
- Luber, M.; Cohen, B. (2019). Stuff Every Sushi Lover Should Know. Stuff You Should Know. Quirk Books. p. 77 pp. ISBN 978-1-68369-159-4. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
- "Omakase or Okonomi: How to Order Your Delicious Sushi?". Japan Info.
- Corson 2007, pp. 318–9.
- Corson 2007, p. 77.
- Corson 2007, p. 98.
- Corson 2007, p. 113.
- Corson 2007, p. 102.
- Corson 2007, p. 288.
- Issenberg 2007, p. 121.
- Steingarten, Jeffrey. "Inside the Costly, Rarified World of the Omakase Menu". Vogue. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
- "Omakase dining lets the chef pick your dinner". WCPO. 30 January 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2020.