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BYO wasabi etiquette

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[The Chowhound Team split this bring-your-own wasabi etiquette question off from its original location on the Los Angeles board http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359867
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few of these are in the Best of Sushi category. anyone know the etiquette of bringing a grater
and root? + i use it sparingly so i don't think it should be $15. someone will catch on.

the whole point of having it or growing it is to have it with the
best of sushi meals, which, in this case, isn't at home.

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  1. I very much doubt a restaurant would appreciate it even if they don't serve fresh wasabi (it would look bad in front of the other customers.)

    And if they do, how would this be any different from, say, pulling out a thermos because you only drink half a cup of coffee after dinner and don't want to pay for a full one?

    1. While it certainly is reasonable to want to have the best wasabi you can I don't really think there is any polite way to do this.

      Manners are really important in sushi restaurants.

      If there is a place where you are a regular and they know you perhaps you could try calling ahead? Tell them you're experimenting with growing your own wasabi roots and you would like to try it on some truly excellent sushi.

      If they grant permission the grater and the root could be discreetly passed to the sushi chef (preferably by a server)and the chef could in this way make it look to the other customers as if nothing unusual was happening.

      The biggest issue with bringing your own is, after all, that your bringing your own and grating it at your seat would draw the attention of other guests.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Could you not grate a little at home and bring it with you in a small, discreet container? I think that would be OK. Grating it at a table, or even worse, at the sushi bar where all can and would see, up and down the bar, would be putting on your own show and very in-your-face to your chef.
        This reminds me of a dinner many years ago at Le Cirque in New York when I observed a little old man dining alone at a two-top and he took a black truffle and a small folding knife from his pockets and discreetly shaved some truffle on his dinner. My server mentioned later that the little old man dined alone there every night with the same routine, but it was cool.

        1. Problem with that is that fresh wasabi is very volatile and loses its aroma very quickly.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lebelage

            exactly; i would've done it years ago if this wasn't the case

          2. For $15???!! I assume you mean you've been to a sushi restaurant that charges you $15 for fresh wasabi? Screw 'em. Bring your own and teach the little sushi guys to price their items more reasonably. I've been to places that bring it by and ask you if you want some... for free.

            1. extremely tacky. would you pull out a hunk o' parmesan and a grater at an italian restaurant?

              if you have a place where you dine regularly, perhaps suggest they offer it upon request? better still, if you grow it (did i read that right?) bring it to your regular place as a gift to the sushi chef.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Yeah, but what if you were charged $15 for a grating of parm?

              2. What has the price got to do with it? It is not acceptable restaurant behavior. Period. If you don't like their prices, don't eat there. Would you bring your own jar of caviar to a restaurant and politely decline a starter, because, well, their prices are too high and it's cheaper to bring it with you? WTF?

                6 Replies
                1. re: MikeG

                  I agree. Maybe the price issue deviated from the original question. If you don't like the prices, don't eat there - you're absolutely right. And it doesn't really have to go much farther than that.

                  But... ;-) Let me deviate back to the price a bit. It may be a bit off the topic, but I'll go ahead. You're not making equivalent comparisons. The difference is that we're not talking about a course at a meal. As you suggested, would it be proper to bring your own first course of caviar? No, of course not. But we are talking about a small, for lack of a better term, seasoning - on par with bringing your own cheese or ground pepper or salt.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    do people really bring their own Parma into a restaurant?! seriously?!

                    it's not the same as bringing salt or pepper -- neither of those are on the menu or are live produce.

                    1. re: orangewasabi

                      I know a lot of people who carry their own salad dressings, or bottles of sweetener.

                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                        I am truly hoping they're carrying it for health reasons, which I can get behind sorta. Not just for preferences.

                      2. re: orangewasabi

                        I would hope that people do not bring their own cheese! Reason? It's provided by the restaurant at no charge. The price per pound? Here in Atlanta I can usually find it for around $15-$16/lb. Not cheap, yet the restaurant respects the customer enough to provide it.

                        You're correct, real wasabi is quite perishable and it's expensive, more expensive than cheese I'm sure, but the amount used is much smaller in comparison.

                        And for the record, I'm not arguing too heartily here. In my experience, I have always been treated to fresh grated wasabi at no charge at the sushi restaurant I visit on occasion. That's my only comparison, so when I saw $15 per "serving" I was amazed.

                      3. re: HaagenDazs

                        correction: the places i go don't have it...

                    2. Ok, I can live with Parm example, and yes, the same thing would apply. Don't get me wrong, I'd be the first to agree that $15 is absurd, if they charge at all in an expensive place. (Wasabi is expensive, but seriously, it's not THAT expensive.) But that's an almost entirely different issue. The same can be said of many things restaurants serve, that doesn't mean it's acceptable to sneak them in either. I realize this isn't likely to happen, but if a restaurant charged extra for something other than a basic sherry in turtle soup, would it be OK to sneak in your own because you don't want to pay them an arm and a leg, for the really good stuff? Or do you just get to suck it up or learn how to make turtle soup at home?

                      Ignoring the marketing puffery common to the hospitality industry, public restaurants don't exist to fulfill some putative natural right to ideal cuisine at a price their putative patrons consider fair, they serve what they serve, at the prices they charge. They might be willing to accommodate you, they might not. You can eat there, or you cannot. I'm far from a laissez-faire capitalist/libertarian, but in this case, that model fits without a chink. You can't seriously even call it gouging, since we're talking about an expensive, luxury meal to begin with, not a monopoly on basic foodstuffs or anything like that.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MikeG

                        You're right - and maybe the quality of the establishment should be considered here too. Sushi can be, and is often, a luxury meal but due to it's popularity more casual restaurants are quite the norm as well.

                      2. I used to do this at my favorite sushi spot all the time. I'd bring a ~5 inch piece of wasabi and give it to the sushi chef, he would serve it to me with my sushi and get to keep the rest to do with as he pleased. It worked out well and everyone was happy.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: chococat

                          That sounds like an ideal solution. You bring a gift to the chef, and you both benefit. :-)

                          1. re: chococat

                            which was my ultimate suggestion. if the op is growing his own, it only cost him pennies, and is a very nice gesture to the chef and the establishment.

                            something nobody has mentioned: in my state anyway, it's against health codes to bring your own food into a restaurant. if you get food poisoning nobody can be certain the culprit, but the restaurant will still be liable.

                            and i'll repeat: it's TACKY.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              again, i would gladly pay for it if they had it.

                              my main goal is never to be tacky. i'm surprised, with all the great traditional sushi places in LA in particular, why this detail has been overlooked, since we would pay.

                              you're right on that one. i'm considering growing it, btw, but don't have it yet.

                              1. re: epop

                                if you ask often (and nicely) enough at your regular place, eventually they will realize there indeed is a demand.

                                i don't think most people pigging out on california rolls are overly concerned with freshly grated wasabi.

                          2. "I used to do this.."

                            If the OP weren't just trying to avoid paying the restaurant's price, I would have suggested that myself. But what this OP wants to do is pull out the root, grate themselves a little, and put it back away. If they were willing to give up the rest of a $20 root, presumably they wouldn't mind spending $15 on the restaurant's portion.

                            "maybe the quality of the establishment should be considered here too"

                            Of course. The question was about fresh wasabi with "the best of sushi meals", not taking it Whole Foods or the local food court cafeteria-style joint.

                            1. "again, i would gladly pay for it if they had it"

                              Now I'm totally confused. In the original post, it says: "i use it sparingly so i don't think it should be $15". Are we now talking about something else?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: MikeG

                                ah sorry about the confusion. it was taken out of context from a different post. i would gladly pay for it if the great places i go to had it (even so i don't think it would have to be $15, no matter how much one uses), although i gladly pay ten times that for lunch if it is great.

                                the issue is just about having fresh wasabi with my sushi, how to have it when so many places don't serve it... in the original post i'd asked for recs in the LA area as well, in case someone knew of a place that had it.
                                asabeno and urasawa seem to be the ones thusfar. my hope is that more will follow