I don’t remember the taste of the first sushi I ever ate, but I certainly remember the circumstances. I was in college and perpetually poor but in search of a place for a date that might make my budget appear bigger than it was. “What about two-for-one sushi?” a friend proposed, as if I understood what that meant. “Go to Sushi Blues on Glenwood Avenueat night, everything is two for the price of one.”

That introduction to sushi now seems as inauspicious as it was unremarkable; lots of people, it seems, arrive at sushi by settling at a cheap place with some steal of a deal. And while that’s OK, of course, those strange specialty rolls, named for bygone N.C. State basketball stars and Hollywood heroes, don’t represent the breadth and bounds of the voluminous and sometimes mysterious world of sushi. Nor, at half-off, are they necessarily the cheapest option. It took me much too long to realize that, and more than a decade later, I feel like I’m just now beginning to comprehend sushi’s range of variety and versatility, let alone the tantalizing specifics.

The four stories that follow are attempts to explore sushi slightly outside of this comfort zone. First, Sayaka Matsuoka explores the kaitenzushi serving system of the Chapel Hill institution Kurama and the couple who have made the little place accessible and open for UNC students for more than a decade. With the help of all-star area chefs and food distributors, Jill Warren Lucas takes a deep dive into the seemingly perilous waters of making sushi at home, only to discover it’s not so scary. Greg Barbera offers advice on what to (and what not to) drink with sushi. And Iyes, being the resident vegetarianroam the area’s sushi restaurants in search of sushi that’s more than avocado wrapped in rice and end up delighted by the results.

This isn’t intended as a comprehensive guide to sushi in the Triangle, as the scene is massive and constantly morphing. Durham, for instance, will get a new downtown restaurant, M Sushi, by the end of this week. But it is, I hope, encouragement to pursue sushi beyond the California roll or the David Thompson, as Sushi Blues calls one of its creations. But please proceed with caution when approaching the natto.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Sushi for everyone”