Mr. Sato whips up a batch of onigiri with a little help from Sukibayashi Jiro.

The other day, we were startled when we walked into SoraNews24 headquarters and saw Mr. Sato already hard at work. However, our crack reporter wasn’t using his hands to pound out an article on a keyboard, but to shape a plate’s worth of onigiri (rice balls).

▼ Say what you want about him, but you can’t deny that Mr. Sato is always a sharp dressed man.

“Don’t worry, I’m making enough for everybody!” he assured us, but honestly that just made us worry more. Much as we love the guy, he’s got some unusual eating habits, and we didn’t feel any safer when he boasted that he was using a very special ingredient.

After all, the last time Mr. Sato whipped up a batch of rice balls for the office, the special ingredient was salt made from his own sweat.

But luckily, this time he was putting his faith in something much classier and far less insane. It turns out that Sukibayashi Jiro, the world’s most famous sushi restaurant, also sells yaki nori, Japanese-style roasted seaweed. Since sushi restaurants always need nori for sushi rolls, Sukibayashi Jiro produces its own, and also sells it to shoppers through its Jiro International management company.

Even mail-order, Sukibayashi Jiro is committed to an elegant eating experience. Inside the box that the nori ships in is a fancy letter thanking you for your purchase.

The nori package itself is surrounded by multiple padding packs, to keep the seaweed from tearing or crumbling on its journey to your home.

▼ Just about the prettiest piece of nori we’ve ever seen.

Sukibayashi Jiro informs us that “This nori is called aomajiri, and is a harmonization of high-class black nori and green nori, the latter of which has a faint astringency. Its most noticeable characteristic is the indescribable aroma of the sea.”

With that regal description, and Mr. Sato’s promise that this time he was using regular, store-bought salt to season the onigri, we decided to try them.

We assembled a group of five taste testers, and all of them agreed that the rice itself was nothing special. And really, that wasn’t a surprise, since Mr. Sato spent so much time dressing up that he didn’t have time to actually cook the rice in a rice cooker, and instead just used some microwavable rice packs he got at the convenience store across the street from our office.

However, our panel was also unanimous in their impression that the nori was really good. While three of them felt the difference was slight (though noticeable), our remaining two taste testers, perhaps possessing palates of greater culture, thought Sukibayashi Jiro’s nori was clearly on another level compared to ordinary varieties. “Just as you’d expect, this is different. The nori remains a major presence as you eat the rice ball,” commented one, while another praised the “elegant aroma,” which Sukibayashi Jiro itself had said was something we’d enjoy.

It’s worth pointing out that Sukibayashi Jiro primarily recommends its nori for use in sushi rolls, as it says the nori is prepared in such a way as to make it pair exceptionally well with the particular kind of vinegar the restaurant uses in making its fabled sushi rice. Luckily, you get 10 sheets in the 2,000-yen (US$18) pack, enough to try it out in multiple dishes, and if you’re ready to taste Sukibayashi Jiro nori for yourself, it can be ordered here through Amazon.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he was shocked when he learned in the third grade that people eat seaweed in Japan, and never imagined he’d end up eating so much of it himself.

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