Sushi lovers roll with it

Written by Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Julia Cumes

On a recent night at Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar, Chef Kee is the teacher and his eight dinner guests are his students. The three-hour event—“Break Down a Tuna with Chef Kee”—offers not only the best and freshest fish you have ever tasted, but also a behind-the-scenes look at sushi making.

Guests gather around and watch in awe as Chef Kee methodically breaks down a nearly 200-pound bluefin tuna (worth about $3,000) into bite-size pieces of nigiri and sashimi for an unforgettable 18-course meal with a full sake pairing. The dinner also featured different types of toro—the smallest and most expensive part of the fish. “This is just amazing!” says one guest.

With 10 sharp knives of various sizes and other tools—even pliers—displayed in front of him, Kee gets to work. He picks a corrugated knife to cut off the tail first. He explains it’s the most difficult, so he needs a good knife. Bluefins owner Andy Baler says it’s important to conduct a tail cut first to inspect the color of the meat and the fat content. A core sample is also key because it reveals the fish’s color and texture all the way through. “The grade of the quality of the fish is so important,” says Baler.

While Chef Kee slices different parts of the tuna—some needing more muscle strength than others—he shares facts and information with his rapt audience: the fins retract when the bluefin is swimming, its gills produce oxygen and there are several different kinds of tuna, including yellow fin and big eye. But the bluefin is the biggest and most prized of all.

The format of the evening is casual, jovial and lighthearted. Chef Kee, half-Korean and half-Japanese, jokes at one point that sushi chefs have really nice hands because of the oils from the fish. “It’s a nice massage,” he says. “Fish oil is the best!’ Everyone laughs. The guests sit down at their tables to enjoy a few courses, then go back over and watch the chef conduct another demonstration, learn additional facts and watch the sushi chefs create works of art.

Chatham residents Peter Starkey and his wife, Barbara, who attended the delicious dinner that night, say they crave sushi all the time from Bluefins and won’t go anywhere else. “We love sushi so much,” says Peter, “and we were interested in seeing how it’s prepared and what we are eating.”

Baler says his own customers inspired the educational event because they ask a lot of questions and are naturally curious. It’s also helpful for the staff as well. “This immerses them into the whole fish and it creates a more exciting and artistic atmosphere,” says Baler. “They too have never seen this, even after working in sushi bars for 20 years.”

Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar, 513 Main St.,
508-348-1573. Visit their Facebook page for updates on this occasional event. Bluefins plans to resume these special nights in the fall of 2019.