How to Eat Ayu, Summer's Finest Fish

You'll want to enjoy this Japanese fish from fin to tail

Ayu. You say it the way you'd greet an old friend you weren't expecting, but are delighted to see: "Ah, you!"

The fish is at home in the rivers at the base of Mount Fuji and other freshwater in Japan, sought out the moment fishing season opens in June.

Find out why at Yopparai, a tiny izakaya and sake bar on the LES, getting two shipments of the sweet, delicious fish each week from a farm in the Yamanashi prefecture.

The restaurant grills the ayu traditionally and serves it whole on the bone, with the guts in ($12). Don't be scared off. Here's how to enjoy the lovely little fish:

① Take a moment to notice how beautiful the ayu is, lounging before you on a bamboo leaf. Its fins and tail are dusted with salt and its body has been contorted with skewers before grilling, so it almost looks like it's still thrashing upstream.

② Use your chopsticks to gently flatten the fish down against the plate, then use your fingers to lift the tail and spine out in one go (or, a couple goes). The skin is smoky and crisp, the flesh is sweet, and the liver, which you should most definitely eat, has just the slightest edge of bitterness.

③ Dip bites of the hot ayu into the green tatezu, or herb vinegar. There's only a little at the table because it's powerful stuff–go easy.

④ That beautiful pink stem of young ginger is technically for show, but it's perfectly acceptable to give it a nibble and get at some of the juice between sips of sake.