Master sushi chef Tomonori Nagai is descended from three generations of offshore fishermen from Fukkushima, Japan. He learned how to break down fish from his father, who often made sashimi for the family at home.
“He taught me when I was probably still in elementary school,” Nagai reminisces. “My father was very happy when I became a sushi chef. He was very happy that I decided to do something involving fish.”
At Nagai, his namesake restaurant in San Francisco, the chef prepares smoked katsuo—his father’s favorite dish—as well as, steamed awabi, iwashi, octopus, and his personal favorite, mehikari fish. Mehikari is a small oily white fish that’s rarely seen on U.S. sushi menus, as it has been hard to find following the 2011 Tsunami in Japan.
“Mehikari is a fish I ate growing up,” Nagai says. “And it’s special to me because my father taught me how to prepare it.”