The key to sushi is freshness

The Book of Sushi, by Kinjiro Omae and Yuzuru Tachibana.New York: Kodansha International Ltd. $15.50. Nowhere in the world is the art of food presentation more exquisitely developed than in Japan and there, some would say, this development reaches its apex in the preparation of sushi.

These individual morsels of raw fish and vinegared rice look like jewels and their fresh unadulterated taste of the sea is increasingly becoming appreciated by non-Japanese connoisseurs of fine but simple food.

One such devotee is the international flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who has written the foreword to ''The Book of Sushi.''

While sushi can be appreciated on several levels, so too can this volume. It is lovely to look at, containing many superb color photographs, each as carefully composed as the pictured varieties of sushi.

In a sense it is an art book, yet it also contains a great deal of information relating to the many varied aspects of sushi. In this regard it is a most useful guide for answering the many questions that come up after afirst visit to a sushi shop.

Various types of fish are identified and described, many with photographs, although a more comprehensive chart would have been useful. The essential accompaniments of ginger root and wasabi, a green horseradish, are also described.

Sushi in its present form originated only in the last century, not quite the centuries one might have expected. The training of the sushi chef is described in detail. Two years may be required just to learn how to make perfect rice!

Finally, this multifaceted volume becomes a cookbook describing with detailed and geometrically intricate drawings the actual art of transforming raw fish, seaweed, and other ingredients into simply spectacular foods.

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