Chef Kiminobu Saito of L.A.’s Sushi Note has been making sushi for nearly four decades. In those years, he’s learned a trick or two for making the kind of outstanding sushi that earned the chef a following at places like Encino’s 4 on 6. But, it was only two years ago that he learned about a gadget that helped take his hand rolls up a notch — and made any chance of soggy, chewy nori a thing of the past: the Korin electric seaweed warmer.
Saito had seen the $200 seaweed warmer in catalogues, but wasn’t convinced until he used it himself while behind the counter at Sushi of Gari in Hollywood. The gadget is ultra-simple. Consisting of a small box heated by a single, tiny lightbulb, it proclaims to gently warm nori to crisp perfection. According to Saito, it works. “It makes a world of difference,” he says.
Crispy nori is, in Saito’s view, fundamental to a great hand roll, but it’s a race against time, especially in humid environments. “Once you open a bag of seaweed, the moisture in the air will make it soggy, but this container stops that from happening,” he says. Home cooks, take note: Saito adds that the seaweed warmer works wonders on generic store-bought nori, too, making it potentially worth the splurge for civilian sushi lovers who want to flex their maki skills at home.
At Sushi Note, Chef Saito turns on the seaweed warmer before service and fills it with sheets of nori while prepping his other stations. That’s it. “After about 30 minutes, the seaweed is perfectly crisp,” he says. And since the heating element isn’t super powerful, there’s no danger of overheating or burning the nori — like a crock pot, it’s more of a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. “It heats up very slowly at a low temperature that I’m able to just let go for the rest of service,” says Saito. “It’s very low maintenance and convenient.”