Greta Reid’s Greta’s Sushi offers pop-ups, catering and private omakases | Food and drink | Gambit Weekly

Greta Reid got hooked on Japanese culture while growing up. During her time at the University of Minnesota, she worked at a restaurant with a sushi bar and eventually started training to make sushi rolls and nigiri pieces. After her sister came to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, her family moved here. Though Reid pursued a master’s degree in child and family psychology at the University of Denver, she also worked at Uchi, a high-end sushi restaurant started in Texas by Tyson Cole, a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef. After graduating, Reid moved back to New Orleans, and though she’s done work with school kids, like organizing an “Iron Chef” style cooking competition at Edible Schoolyard, she’s focused on starting her own sushi business. Greta’s Sushi now offers catering, pop-ups and direct-order pick-up food menus through her Instagram, @gretassushi. She is offering a five-course “Somakase” dinner with wine pairings on Friday, Sept. 16, at the wine shop The Independent Caveau. Visit for more information.

Gambit: How did you get your start making sushi?

Greta Reid: I was always interested in sushi and Japanese culture. I was a big anime nerd. People in my family made fun of me for liking anime.

I got my first sushi job in Minnesota. It wasn’t a traditional sushi restaurant. It was Chino Latino, and the concept was street food from hot zones, between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. So there was North African food and South American food. Japan is not in the tropics, but they had a sushi bar.

I was a food runner at the restaurant when I was 17. I did that for a few years, and I impressed the crew because I was the only food runner who wasn’t a guy and I worked really hard. I asked if I could learn how to make sushi, and though they liked me, they said no. They were like, “It’s a career, and we worked really hard to learn how to do it.” But they let me start training. They let me start practicing with maki rolls. Later I got into making more traditional nigiri.

At Uchi in Denver, I really upped my game. That’s where I had to work through the ranks. I’d come in early to make rice and be the rookie showing everybody that I was working hard, carrying around the sushi rice, which was heavy. I moved up to different stations to a position like a sous chef. I was just under the Ichi, which means No. 1 in Japanese.

I made a lot of sashimi and crudos. Uchi is also where I learned to make nigiri fast, like it was flying out of my hand. We’d have lines out the door for happy hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Gambit: Was it weird to make sushi in a landlocked state?

Reid: Some landlocked states have really good sushi. In Denver, we had a big airport hub, and that’s what it’s all about: What you can get flown in. That Uchi was the first location outside of Texas. It took off in Houston, which also has a big airport hub.

At Uchi, I liked to serve whitefish, black bream, golden eye snapper and all these interesting snapper varieties that are from cold water areas. They have oily and dense textures, so they’re really good.

Here I like to use snapper from the Gulf, striped bass from Texas, tuna that I get off and on. I get hiramasa, or yellowtail amberjack. For omakases, I branch out and get East Coast scallops. I try to source as much as I can locally, and I always use Louisiana crab. I keep things seasonal.

Gambit: How does Greta’s Sushi work?

Reid: I am doing a whole mix of things. I do a lot of pop-ups, but catering private dinners is what I really like to do. I generally do omakases, so that will be like a 10-course meal. Sometimes they’re seated dinners like fine dining. Sometimes I’ll have people mingling and coming to me. I like to start (an omakase) with lighter, citrusy flavors and move to heavier and more intense flavors.

One of my recurring dishes is a tomato “tofu” that I learned in Minneapolis. I take heirloom tomatoes and blend them with Usukuchi soy, a little rice vinegar and agar agar, which is like a gelatin made from seaweed. It turns into this lush jello, but it holds its shape, so you can cut a square that’s a perfect little bite of tomato. I top it with tobiko. I like to do sake-poached shrimp which I serve with a dashi vinaigrette. Another dish of mine is galia melon and lemon cucumber gazpacho, which has a togarashi torched scallop, spiced toasted pepitas, mint, Thai basil, olive oil and lime.

When I started, people wanted to know if I had a Cali roll. I was defiant at first. I wanted to make what I wanted to make, but I have found middle ground.

I do some versions of other Japanese dishes. I do a gatoryaki. It’s like takoyaki, which are octopus balls. I make them with alligator, so it’s like Japanese-Cajun fusion. I serve it with traditional Japanese toppings.

I learned a ton at Uchi, but a lot of my knowledge was accumulated from there, Chino Latino and Rock-N-Sake. In the year and a half I’ve been working solo, I have learned techniques so I can come up with sauces. I come up with my own new dishes every week.

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