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Nov 9, 2007 11:58 PM

Sushi Zo: Caveat Emptor

OK, so I've eaten at Sushi Zo 4 times now. 3 times omakase and 1 time a la carte. 1st time (omakase) - absolutely fabulous. 2nd time (omakase) - great as well. 3rd time (a la carte b/c friends didn't want omakase) - TERRIBLE attitude by Keizo. 4th time (omakase) - fabulous again.

What was so terrible about the 3rd time? I'd gone w/ 2 friends who didn't want to do omakase so we ate at a table. Halfway through the meal I realized that I was charging up much more than my friends who were eating at half my clip. So I politely asked the waitress if I could separate my portion of the check. A few moments later I heard Keizo yelling in Japanese, "Damedayo sonnano imagoro yuttemo!!!" (No way!! Too late to speak up now!!!). I didn't think he would be yelling something so rude when I was at a table right in front of him, but a few moments later the waitress returned and said, "I'm sorry, we can't..." OK. No problem. I wasn't offended at the fact that they couldn't split the check (it might have been dumb of me to ask in the first place) but no need to be so rude about it. Sheesh.

I didn't go back for a while b/c of that, but returned this week b/c I missed the sushi. Had omakase and he was a sweetheart. The food was divine. I left a happy camper.

So tonight. A friend of mine took his whole family there b/c I had sung Sushi Zo's praises to high heaven having just been there. I advised him to do the omakase. But he opted for the a la carte. He arrived around 7 p.m. and spoke to the waitresses in Japanese. He was seated at a table. Apparently his order was taking a long time. When he ordered something he heard Keizo yell, "Jikan kakarutte yuttoite!!!" (Tell 'em it's gonna take a long time!!!) When my friend called me to complain about that and just the general rudeness he experienced, I was SO disappointed. I thought Keizo might have yelled in Japanese when I was there not knowing that I'm fluent in it, but my friend was speaking in Japanese to the waitress the whole time. So there's no excuse there. That's just rude.

My conclusion: Keizo is nice to regulars and omakase customers but rude to a la carte customers. Much as I enjoy his sushi, I don't think I'm ever going back. If I'm gonna drop $120+ on a meal, I don't wanna feel like he's doing me any favors. Plus, when I recommend a restaurant to a friend, I don't want to follow it w/ a disclaimer that although the food is divine, the sushi chef may be an a-hole...

Very disappointed. I generally don't rant b/c "good service" is so subjective, but Keizo clearly crossed the line this time. Caveat emptor guys.

On a brighter note, Sushidokoro Kirala's sushi chef really made my friend and I feel welcome when we had omakase there last month. No attitude. Even a yummy oyster tempura w/ truffle on the house. Though I would rate the sushi slightly lower than Zo's, it was overall a much more pleasant experience b/c of the lack of attitude.

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  1. Great post. Never been to Zo, and won't be in now. Bad attitude is a dealbreaker.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Adsvino

      so sad to hear.
      i go to zo regularly, both ordering off the menu and having omakase.
      last thursday, i took my teenage daughter there for her first omakase as a celebration of her birthday.
      we had a WONDERFUL meal. Keizo san was lovely and gracious.
      as a matter of fact, he has been lovely and gracious EVERY time i've been there.

      1. re: westsidegal

        I know... I was sad when my friend called to tell me about his experience.

        I know you love Sushi Zo b/c you're always defending Keizo-san, which I think is nice and much needed. He does have 2 sides. If some are going to call him out on what they perceive to be his gruffness, others should give him credit when he is in their opinion lovely and gracious.

        Having seen both sides of him first hand, I don't think it's out of malice. I think that's just the way that he is. Still, some won't stand for it.

        Plus, IMHO it's entirely possible that people are having different experiences w/ him not just b/c they react to his behavior (assumed to be the same towards everyone) differently, but b/c he actually is treating some people differently than others.

    2. "I didn't go back (to Sushi Zo) for a while b/c of that, but returned this week b/c I missed the sushi. Had omakase and he was a sweetheart. The food was divine. I left a happy camper.

      "On a brighter note, Sushidokoro Kirala's sushi chef really made my friend and I feel welcome when we had omakase there last month."

      So you still haven't tested the second place, because you had no issues with Sushi Zo, until you veered away from omakase. Just saying.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PommeDeGuerre

        Yeah, very true. Was wondering about that after I posted.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. Then I was absolutely right in my guess that K-Zo is seemingly a perfectionist. Meaning he has a way of doing things, he knows his routine and all, and any interruption would break that, and annoy him. So the verbal nuke outbreaks, while very unprofessional to hear and witness from a customer standpoint, are not necessarily directed at the customer, just a reaction (like a bad rash outbreak) to stress or anything that goes wrong.

          Ino Sushi in San Francisco is somewhat like that (emotion wise). I've never heard the guy explode but others have heard him chew out the waitress and even his wife in Japanese, in front of all the customers.

          Makes you wonder if one of those guys will at some point flare up so much and become a Super Saiyanjin (Dragonball Z reference)...

          1 Reply
          1. re: K K

            I agree. I think it's just a reaction to the stress.

            IMO if a la carte is going to throw off the rhythm of omakase, a restaurant should just have omakase on the weekends (or whenever). But any sensible businessman would never do that b/c omakase customers aren't guaranteed. So it could be that currently at Zo a la carte customers (who aren't regulars, i.e. potential future omakase peeps) are just filler and are bumped down in priority when the omakase peeps come strolling in.

            OK, I'm gonna stop now. I just wanted to represent and explain my (and my friend's) perspective and I hope I was able to communicate that effectively, fairly, and respectfully. Peace.

          2. I think I don't get what the big deal is. If the chef is running behind, and he knows it's going to be awhile before I get my order, I'd rather get a heads up then just be sitting there wondering what the hell is going on. I think him telling the waitress to pass that along isn't such a big deal. ( I think in general there's more yelling in sushi restaurants than in other restaurants, at least that's been my exprerience.) Japanese is his first language, so I'm not sure why he shouldn't have yelled it in Japanese. I'm not a regular, but every time I've been he's been really nce, and remembers me. He's always been really sweet actually, and teases me because he knows my husband doesn't like sushi and I only come when he's out of town. Maybe I'm not as sensitive, but his comment wouldn't have upset me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: writergirl

              The problem wasn't the fact that he yelled in Japanese but the Japanese that he used. Japanese has roughly 3 politeness levels: Very formal (used when addressing VIPs and customers), formal (used when addressing strangers), informal (used when addressing someone very familiar, animals, children, etc.). He used informal. May seem overly trivial to Americans (I know b/c I'm Japanese American) but it's understandable for someone socialized in Japan to be surprised and annoyed.

              1. re: writergirl

                Also, there's a lot of energetic yelling at sushi joints but they're usually saying, "Irasshaimase!!" (Welcome!!) or "Arigato-gozaimashita!!" (Thank you!!).