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Oct 5, 2007 03:04 PM

Peninsula top-tier sushi price update

Just a little metric for you sushi aficionados to chew on before dinner:

This is for Sushi Monster's solo lunch -- with no beverage except tea -- including a 20 percent tip:

Sam's today: 11 plates = $96.65/$8.80
Yuzu last week: 10 plates = $86./$8.60
Koma in June: 7 plates = $58.90/$8.55
Fuki on Wednesday: 10 plates = $74/$7.40

Now to put this in perspective:

Sakae almost two years ago: *14 plates* = $113/$8.00

Sakae held the per-plate benchmark for so long I am just flummoxed to see it shattered *three times over* in the last several months. I guess it's a good thing I'm not as hungry these days. At this rate, Sam's is going to break $100/person for lunch any day now, with Yuzu in hot pursuit.

Burritos, anyone?

Sushi Monster

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  1. is 1 plate = 2 pieces of nigiri sushi?

    adding to your benchmark

    Kaygetsu last week for lunch: 14-15 pairs (I can't remember exactly) $200 w/ a 17% tips that's automatically added. Kaygetsu charges by per piece with most highend fish at $7/piece

    10 Replies
    1. re: wendy

      Yes, Wendy. That's pairs. And I'm not going anywhere near Kaygetsu. There are a number of issues there. Still No. 1 with me: It's not a sushi bar. It's a kaiseki restaurant that serves sushi. (Yes, excellent sushi, I'm told.) No. 2: The mandatory gratuity -- which is an oxymoron and an insulting one. Etc, etc ....

      Sakae can get up there ... even for lunch ... if you're into the sake tasting. But with all these other top-tier places, strictly using the average nigiri plate as a benchmark, suddenly it's open season on price. A very disturbing trend. If the median in the top tier breaks $8 early next year, it's going to be painful.

      Sushi Monster

      1. re: Sushi Monster

        Haha. SM. You're very dogmatic. Maybe you'll change your tune about Kaygetsu after you go to Sushi Zo in LA. But if Kaygetsu, even with automatic tip is cheaper than the previously mentioned places and is even better in quality, then there's not much reason NOT to go.

        And also, given your new price analysis, perhaps you can remove Kitsho from your doghouse since that was your main beef with the place.

        1. re: Porthos

          Ah, Porthos. If I'm reading Wendy right, it would appear that Kaygetsu could be fully TWICE as expensive as the aforementioned places, plate-for-plate.

          You're right that I'm overdue to revisit Kitsho. I plan to do so sometime before I post the Big List v. 4.0 in the spring. I also have a re-evaluation of Tomi (the original, in Mountain View) on my list.

          1. re: Sushi Monster

            Ooops. You're right. Didn't notice Wendy's per piece calculation vs your per plate/2 piece calculation.

            What interesting is how expensive sushi in the bay area is. My Sushi Zo experience in LA came out to be about $3.45/piece for a place that carries around 30 types of fish and uses fresh wasabi and even Sushi Yasuda in NYC comes out to be $4.50-5/piece for fish shipped daily via Fed Ex from around the world (toro from Spain, madai from Japan, etc.), freshly grated wasabi, and freshly grilled eels.

            Makes it hard to justify sushi prices in the bay area...especially when you consider that most places are still using paste wasabi.

            Maybe it IS time to give birth to Burrito Monster (although I would really advise against using initials for this one). I'll recommend Taqueria La Bamba in MV for your first stop.

            1. re: Porthos


              Thanks to your wise counsel and KK's, I do have Sushi Zo in Los Angeles lined up for the first Friday of November. For this special assignment, I'm flying in Sushi Monster Sr. and a third squad member, Sushi Monster Sister, from NYC. SMS has extensive NYC and LA sushi experience that I lack. The three of us should be able to tear through Zo's whiteboard like a hot hocho through ankimo.

        2. re: Sushi Monster

          I couldn't agree more on point 2....a "mandatory gratuity" is insulting. If you want to include a "service charge" that's fine with me (especially as it's less than what I'd normally tip at a sushi bar), but at that point it's a part of the price of the item and should be listed as a part of the price of the item (that is, a piece of sushi isn't $7, it's $8.19).

          1. re: ccbweb

            I don't believe they call it mandatory gratuity at Kaygetsu, although at 17% a sushi lunch bill once you hit 3 digits can jump and dent your wallet a bit more. Their claim is that the service charge/gratituties get split amongst the staff (and the kitchen chefs).

            I'm glad we aren't living in a place like Hong Kong where 5 years ago I recall most restaurants (even the places locals go eat for a non fast food down to earth kinda bite), tack on a mandatory 10% (might have gone up), and you are expected to tip (a la leaving spare change/coins) on top of that.

            1. re: K K

              What do they call it? And I'm thrilled that the whatever it is gets split amongst everyone. It's always a tough call about how to tip at a sushi bar where the waiter/waitress may have done virtually nothing the entire meal while the sushi chef provided an exceptional experience. If there's no tip jar at the bar it always feels like a crap shoot about getting the tip where one thinks it ought to be.

              I'm not sure I care what it's called, but if it's "included" for everyone no matter the size of the party, time of day or amount ordered then it should be truly included and reflected in the price on the menu. The Hong Kong system actually sounds better than the Kaygetsu system insofar is it isn't as much on a percentage basis. I'd actually be pleased if restaurants were to increase their prices a bit and end tipping...but that's a whole other thread that I'm pretty sure I don't want to dive into.

        3. re: wendy

          Wendy I would love to hear what you ate! What seasonal imports did he have that day?

          I can't remember how much I ate at Kaygetsu for lunch at the bar over a month ago (this is one of those once a year trips), but the damage was $150 ish including the 17% tip and a yuzu sorbet that while had good texture, was lacking flavor. No seasonal Japanese imports were prepared when I went because Toshi-san spent the whole lunch period making.....drum roll please....CALIFORNIA ROLLS (well he set himself up for it, the only sushi maker in the restaurant, and lunch menu is dumbed down common fare that doesn't even utilize the skills of the kaiseki chefs, unlike Nami nami that offers more authentic J-style set lunches) . While there are people that put his classical training to use, the average lunch customer doesn't spend that much.

          As delicious as the sushi is, when you plunk down a sushi meal that's more or equivalent to a full kaiseki dinner course, you sometimes have to re-evaluate whether it was worth it. So if I ever come here for dinner, I wouldn't eat at the bar for sure.

          However a $14 pair of nigiri at Kaygetsu is significantly smaller than the exact same fish for sushi offered at Sakae, although more refined in knife cuts and of course bolder sushi rice receipe.

          But I have to say that Kaygetsu does come the closest to the LA style sushi scene (of the top places like Zo where I ate a month ago) in terms of fish quality, prep. Kaygetsu's mirugai tasted like the piece at Zo.

          When I talked to Toshi-san, he said that he will at some point scale down his lunch presence to zero, and perhaps hire help for the bar during those times, and highly recommended coming to dinner for sushi where he has more time and can prep the seasonal imports.

          However the places SM mentioned above, for a little bit less, you get even bigger pieces in relation, maybe in not as stellar quality (and definitely no freshly grated wasabi). I don't think Kaygetsu's wasabi is freshly grated, though it is of good quality (maybe pershiable hon wasabi in pre packaged tube).

          Out of the Peninsula quartet, Sam's holds the champion title for having the largest variety on their white board that does not include common items (that Fuki and Koma are guilty of doing a lot). Then again Sam's is out to use these exotic varieties more for fusion omakase, which is their hottest seller right now.

          1. re: K K

            Sorry for the late reply. I can't remember exactly, but we had a lot of shell fish from the bivavle family and items from the octopus family from Japan. This is the 3rd or 4th time sitting at the sushi bar at Kaygetsu and the pricing is about the same to me compared to the previous time. I prefer smaller cut of fish - and small light handling of rice (which I regret to say is best handled by the ex-sushi chef Kazu-san at Anzu). I find large pieces too difficult to chew on to really savor the flavor.

            Although Kaygetsu's Keiseki is special for the bay area, having been to Japan so many times and eaten numerous keiseki meals, I don't find the need to have only keiseki at Kaygetsu. For me, Kaygetsu fits my requirements for high quality sushi better than other sushi bars around here, esp when i feel like splurging.

            On the other hand, i thought the sushi lunch is a great deal - you get "almost" the same quality of fish and Toshi's touch for $25-30. Granted, i didn't have any lunch menu sushi plate but it sure looked nice on other people's table.

            I have only been to Sam's once and could not understand what is the hype is all about.

        4. Thank you for the update SM. I always pay close attention.

          I returned to Yuzu this week for lunch after a 6 mo absence and enjoyed some of the specialties; the uncommon items he is good for. I had the Japanese Makerel and enjoyed it quite a lot. It comes at a premium of about 2x (7 vs 3.50 if I recall) and his ordinary Makerel is above the mean so I don't know if I will reach for it again.

          The high light of my day was Santa Barbara Uni. A truly special example. Conventional presentation but a delightful medium color and the singular, pure seafood taste that we Uni-lovers enjoy.

          I thought his Spider roll may have shrunk a bit since my last trip. But all in a nice experience. As I have mentioned before, I find myself excercising self-restraint at Yazu and (while dining) that is an impulse I generally try to avoid.

          1. Ah... do I sense a new alias? Burrito Monster? *grins*

            1. At Sakae, when Hiro-san or Jun-san get to recognize you, they give you a lot of little freebie food items and near the end of the night, free sake. It helps a little to dampen the bill-shock.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cary

                "a little free sake to dampen the bill-shock"!?!?

                They would have to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart to dampen the shock of that bill ... Forget a *cup* of sake. Start an IV line.

                But, hey, seriously -- I'm heading to LA in a couple weeks, home of the $125 omakase-and-verbal-abuse lunch special. So maybe that jarring experience will enable me to grow as a student of the piscene arts.

                Sushi Monster

              2. >Sakae held the per-plate benchmark for so long I am just flummoxed to
                >see it shattered *three times over* in the last several months.
                do high end sushi prices fluctuate with the USD-JPY exchange rate?
                [i dont know much about sushi, but the price of cheej has definitely gone
                up with various commodity price increases and the USD tanking against
                the Euro].

                USD down about 8-9% against JPY since peak at the end of Jun/beg July.

                If sushi is FX rate sensitive, you could buy a hedge.

                ok tnx.