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Bad Experience at Shibucho in Los Angeles. Are we the only ones?

I have always spoken highly of this restaurant, been going for a few years, now. We have had a few problems off and on, but have always decided to overlook it. But I think they pushed us too far.

We were there Xmas eve, sat at the bar. We brought expensive bottle of wine and shared a generous amount of it with Shige as usual. The meal was great, although the Toro was just fair this time. We were not that hungry and stopped him a little early, and skipped his dessert completely. Being Xmas eve, he was making special dishes for others, I think they might have been his friends or special regulars.

We only got standard menu items, no special dishes. When we got the bill, it was $295 before tip. It was not itemized in any way, just said Sushi - $295. It was disconcerting, but we just paid and quietly left.

We went back to about a half dozen Shibucho receipts over the last year or so and found that we were charged 25-50% more than all our other visits, and again, we definitely had less food this time. And note it was proportionally less in terms of the most vs least expensive items, so it wasn't like we just went to town on toro, uni, and marugai.

Someone talked us into calling and asking about it. We called today and asked if perhaps a mistake was made, as Shige never wrote down what he gave us, and the other people at the bar had much more elaborate dinners than us that night. We were told it was probably the $25 corkage, and that his prices have been going up. Well, we never have been charged corkage before. I asked how much their corkage was once a long time ago and was told they did not charge. And you would think that it would have been listed separately on the bill. Also, the glass we gave Shige was easily worth that amount.

We asked how much his Omakase costs now and they said between $100 and $150 a person depending on what is served. This sounds extremely arbitrary to me, and it implies we got the top of the line quality/quantity, which we really did not have.

Has anyone else been to Shibucho recently and had a similar experience? Is anyone finding that other high-end sushi bars have been raising prices?

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  1. i can't comment on shibucho, but the last time i went to zo, the tab was about 20% higher than normal. . ..

    sadly, this rise has caused me to favor k-zo now as the budget alternative (despite the fact that k-zo charges $3 for their green tea) obviously, the food at k-zo is nowhere near the quality of sushi zo, but until my bank account recovers. . . .

    1 Reply
    1. re: westsidegal

      went for the first time in ages to zo, it's all omakase, all the time now, whether you're at the bar or table. there's no way to get out of there for less than 100 per person, and that's not including tax and tip.

    2. I have found all of my recent sushi experiences more expensive than I was used to, but with rising costs it's to be expected, especially with sushi which has such a high cost of ingredients.

      I don't know if I would qualify an expensive omakase and a corkage a bad experience though. Most restaurants charge a corkage and many if not most sushi bars do not set a price on omakase. Shige has always been very gracious however, when I asked him to stay within a price range.

      1. Recently had omakase lunch at Zo (with only hot tea to drink) which ran $120 pp before tip, so your tab (with the corkage included) sounds like it is well within bounds for the higher end LA sushi places these days.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Servorg

          I normally pay around $120 as well when we get the full Omakase, both at Zo and Shibucho and other semi-high end places around town. But this was $150/pp with less courses that what we usually get for $120. Unless you believe the corkage argument, but even then it is still $135-$140 pp. I have no problem paying it, certainly there have been nights at certain sushi bars when we get xtra of this or that and it has gone much higher, but we always knew why. In this case there is no rhyme or reason to it.

          1. re: wasabica

            I *do* think that sushi bills--particularly when dining at the counter--tend to be arbitrary. I keep a rough estimate of what we eat; and fortunately, we've been on the generous end of the bill ($85 for 4 people, $40 for 2 people; dining @ different locations, with alcohol and eating well). I agree with you that there is no rhyme or reason....

            1. re: OCAnn

              Agree agree, and this could be easily remedied if they would just itemize the bill per omakase and put the corkage on separately (I always bring wine too). At least then you would know what you are paying and judge whether that particular spot is worth it.

              Sushi houses, are you listening?

              1. re: Adsvino

                It is a bit antithetical to omakase to ask to view an itemized bill however...

                1. re: cls

                  me and my friend actually asked one, and shibucho scribbled an itemized list just for us. but yeah, re: the main poster, 300 bucks for two people is expensive considering that you didn't go to town on the special dishes nor toro nor uni nor any other expensive stuff, and the fact that you ate much less than usual, here's roughly what it might cost"

                  albacore salad 12 bucks (minimum)
                  tuna, perhaps 7-8 per pair
                  toro handroll, 20 bucks
                  toro, 20 bucks per pair.
                  dessert 8 bucks,

                  but these are my prices from 2-3 yrs ago so adjusting those for inflation and see what you arrive at.

                  in some ways, i still have a soft spot for shibucho considering that it's open until MIDNIGHT (what other sushi bar, or at least high quality sush bar does that?), there are interesting dishes such as the albacore salad, and french foie gras at times, etc. and great desserts such as chocolate mousse, and tiramisu and tarts.

        2. We are giving serious consideration to putting a price tag on it when we get Omakase (at places that don't announce tiers/prices.) Something like "We'd like to do the Omakase tonight, can we do something at around $130/pp?" Of course, that doesn't address the other issue we run into where they load us up with multiple orders of Toro, a good way to quickly get the bill up while saving the chef lots of labor. I guess we could say "Can we do Omakase at $130 pp but please keep it to one order of Toro..." No, I guess that would not be appreciated.

          Ordering a la carte would be safe, but then unless you have an exceptional relationship with the chef, you would probably not get the most interesting selections. The whole idea with Omakase is that you are are TRUSTING the chef, right?

          Well, I for one feel like my trust is being taken advantage of.

          19 Replies
          1. re: wasabica

            I think he has very good fish. That said - for some reason, I've never clicked with shige as i have with shibutani. I think i had real omakase once and I've been going to shibucho since 1980.
            Ordering a la carte makes no difference as I've never ever seen a price list nor asked for one. I trust him even on the a la carte level. His real omakase is wonderful - looks like it especially when i see others. I don't like grape wine with sushi particularly, and I don't esp care to enjoy premium red bordeaux with his food. He has said several times that he himself enjoys the wine and the sushi separately.
            And without liquor it's still not a cheap cheap evening. although not as expensive as other places of lesser quality.

            When i first went to shibucho, with shibutani, we were students, young and set a price on what we wanted for a selection of sushi for the table. We were newbies and trusted shibutani and it was wonderful and reasonable. I wouldn't be surprised if the prices aren't always standardized there. Have YOU ever seen a price list? Its just not the vibe place. It's almost like the lottery - sometimes more expensive, sometimes i feel i got a few freebies.

            But I think he's a wonderful asset. His place is often discouragingly empty, so if he charges more to keep the lights on, that's his prerogative. For me, I eat sushi at very few places. For serious sushi - shibutani's shibucho and shige. I've gone with peer pressure to hidei - it's ok but the quality and variety of fish isn't as high. Sasabune, is - to me- not a serious place. Echigo was a joke again to me. For a while I liked Nami sushi in the valley - at this point, ok for chirashi, not for aserious evening for me.

            Kiyono or whatever the one is beverly where kawasaki works impressed me, with kawasaki.

            If you have other places where you're happier - go. Shige is inconsistent in mood and customer accomodation, but he is an artist and I have never been disappointed in his food.

            - also, when -what's his name,,, used to be sushi ryo now owns izayoi downtown, he has interesting things, definitely worthwhile although it's not sushi only anymore. I had excellent hoya there once when I asked in advance. The ankimo is a poem... etc.

            But again, I will say nothing against shige as a purveyor of sushi and sashimi. IMHO - he's excellent. with a cost.

            1. re: Jerome

              Thanks for your thoughts and recommendations, I will look into them for sure. FYI, it is not about what we are spending or trying to save a buck; I am more than happy to spend hundreds on a quality Omakase experience; and we do this often at many places all over town. Also, I am certainly not expecting a price list, the idea is to trust the chef. My issue with Shibuchu/Shige was not the overall cost, it was the inconsistency of the experience (versus many prior visits) for the cost.

              1. re: wasabica

                We had been loyal customers of Shige's for years. My family went almost every Friday night for all 4 years of high school, and continued to go when I would come home from college. Shige would always greet us with a huge smile, some amazing sushi and my favorite dessert, a napoleon, at the end of the meal. We stopped going about 4 years ago. After several (and I do mean several) disappointing meals where the check was completely arbitrary, we gave up. I had seen enough of his bills to know about how much I would pay for what he served. We never ordered, just let him lead the way, but his prices got ridiculous. He lost his assistant, and the meals and prices became completely unpredictable, and seemed to depend entirely on his mood that night. After a couple nights of walking out of the restaurant spending over $300 for 2 people, when he hadn't even served any of the specials or dessert (because he dessert guy hadn't come that day) we just gave up. I still miss this place terribly, but refuse to return based on his shear arrogance. At Zo, you do know what you are getting into, at Urasawa you know what you are going to walk out the door paying, and at least you know that quality will be amazing. I am glad to hear that he still has it in him to put out some great meals, but sadly we won't return.

                1. re: Food622

                  this was always the way with shige - and i had written about it back when i first was here many years ago (quanjude was still open, if that gives you an idea). Luckily you had a good rapport with him, and I noticed when i went with certain people - not famous people or anything, certain friends of mine clicked with him and we seemed to get out for a bit less. It was never more than a 15%-20 % difference. But sometimes we would be astounded as to what a bargain it had been. So the inconsistency was something I believed to have noticed, BUT i could never swear to it. No proof. just a feeling.
                  and still I go back. Because he is that good.

                  He is skilled and respects the materials. and is a master at his work. I stand by his artistry and still believe he is superior to what i've had elsewhere, esp including mori and nozawa who are quite good.

                  1. re: Jerome

                    I have to say that I have always been a bit dismissive of people who have faulted chefs like Shige at Shibucho and Keizo at Zo with having "attitude" towards customers that are not in their inner circle. I figured they were misinterpreting the situation in some way. I am starting to rethink my position. Maybe we annoyed him by coming in on Xmas eve and bringing in our own wine, and then having him stop early. Perhaps he overcharged us as some kind of passive-aggressive punitive thing. Hmm, now I am sounding paranoid. Still, we as much as we love the sushi there, I think it is time we found a new favorite.

                    1. re: wasabica

                      i hate to say it, but he might be punishing you for the whole christmas eve thing. he is tempermental at times. i don't know why he would do that, especially now in this economy of all times, wouldn't he want to open up at least somewhat to his customers???

                      just to fuel my curiousity, what other special dishes was he serving to the other loyal customers at the bar? it would be interesting to note if there bills were even cheaper with the special dishes? also, what desserts was he serving on that night?

                      1. re: kevin

                        Re special dishes, it is worth noting that the other people were there way before we got there and presumably well after we left. We overlapped mostly for the main pieces of sushi. But it was quite clear they were getting many more items then us, especially hot dishes from the kitchen like chawan mushi. There was a lot more variety on the sushi as well; they got Ikura and we did not. I think it is also worth mentioning some more specific details: One of the dishes he gave us was a salmon skin roll where the salmon had clearly seen better days. Also, there was a mixed clam dish done in a sweet miso sauce that overpowered the clams. We each received a total of 2 toro sashimi slices and 2 sushi pieces that might have been otoro and chutoro, but neither was that great. Not that buttery, no marbling. So I didn't want to muck up the message in the original post with quality issues, but we did have them. We don't know what desserts others had as we passed and they were still going. They offered us the menu which had all the standard french pastries he usually offers. We were just supposed to pick 2. As far as the service that night, to Jerome's point, the older woman (who knew us and was very chatty) was actually a customer that night, perhaps SHige's way of an Xmas bonus? A younger woman I have not seen before waited on us. When it was time for the bill, she went to Shige and they huddled in a corner for a bit where it seemed like he told her what to charge us. When we called 12/26 to ask about the bill, the girl had us talk to the guy who works in the kitchen.

                        1. re: wasabica

                          Whenever I went sometimes my friend would mention don't question the bill at all. Shige is very imposing, it must be said.

                          as for the special dishes you mentioned, chawan mushi, ikura and clams in miso sauce, none of the sound at all out of the ordinary, unless perhpas the chawan mushi had matsutake mushrooms in it, to make it more extravagant.

                          i actually tried to email shibucho through their website email, but they didn't answer.

                          as for your toro sashim AND toro sushi, it could have easly been 30 to 40 bucks for the toro sashimi and easily 20 bucks for the toro sushi par (10 bucks for each nigiri), so that would make it possibly 60 bucks for the toro alone.

                          do you happen to know if he was serving up French Foie Gras or any dishes with Beluga Caviar, etc.

                          1. re: kevin

                            I did not see the foie gras or any caviar as we would have asserted ourselves at that point ;) So to use the prices you mentioned earlier, it could be
                            Toro sushi/sashimi - $60
                            Toro Handroll - $20
                            Albacore salad - $12

                            So that is $92. Add on the hirame carpaccio, the eggplant parm, 2 pieces of uni, 1 amaebi, 1 konpachi, and a couple misc pieces of sushi, plus perhaps corkage and I guess you have an argument for $150 pp. But being that Shibucho told us that $150 is the highest price for Omakase, and we did not get caviar, foie gras, etc, it is still a question. Also, that Toro quality was simply subpar for it to be $60. But the math does work. HMMM

                            1. re: wasabica

                              Sounds like he charged you $125 each for the omakase, even though you got less than what he had planned for you--you did say that you stopped him early. Perhaps if you had your fill w/o stopping him early, then you would have seen your $125 worth? That (2 x $125) plus $25 corkage + taxes = $295.

                              I'm not trying to defend the guy, just figuring on the math.

                              I'm sorry a place you once enjoyed is now a thorn in your side. It would bug me too....

                              EDIT: $250 for sushi + $25 corkage = $275 + taxes = $295.

                              1. re: OCAnn

                                We only brought one bottle at $25, not two at $50, (and the $295 included tax) but yes, if the Toro was in fact $80 pp including the handrolls the math is close enough to say it was not a blatant overcharge. So that changes this discussion to be one of value for the money. Perhaps if the Toro was really good that night (it wasn't) I would be assuaged right about now. But even if it was good, Omakase should transcend Toro being 50% of the cost of the meal. Maybe it is not a price tag I want to request of the sushi chef it is to say keep it to 1 order of Toro so that we can experience a greater variety (and quantity) for the same money. If the Toro turns out to be spectacular it's easy to add more on. I wonder if Sushi Chefs would be cool with that approach.

                2. re: wasabica

                  yeah, if it was appreciably more expensive then something was wrong but he does have mood swings.

                  i've gone and it's been a 100 per person, and once i went and ate a much lighter meal at it was 65 bucks, but this was a while back., maybe 3 yrs or so, so prices of course have gone up.

                  what dishes were others eating on chirsmast eve that were so special?

                  thanks. and you're not crazy in making your statements on the inconsistency of pricing here.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Thanks for the validation, kevin. :)

                3. re: Jerome

                  Shige has prepared many fine courses. However, I have had some salmon that was definitely off. Also, I had an albacore tuna prepared as one of the courses. A few of the pieces were off. I do not know about you, but I would be terrified to tell Shige that his fish was off. He is the "Sushi Nazi."

                  That being said, he usually does serve some of the finest sushi I have ever had. Not to mention that he uses real wasabi, yuzu, negi, etc. I enjoy his element of surprise, and appreciate his skill. I also enjoy his hot courses through the middle of the meal. His use of European dishes with Japanese ingredients, are of Iron Chef quality.

                  As far as beverages go, Shige is well known for his Burgundy pairings. I find it rather interesting and hard to believe that he would ever say that he himself enjoys the wine and the sushi separately. That does not sound like the Shige I know. He would never call it "grape wine" either. He has served fine aged Burgundies that pair extremely well with his Omakase. Maybe, he said that he also likes to drink Bordeaux and Burgundy separately. Fine food and fine wine are meant to be paired together, and when done properly, have perfect harmony. I am an extreme foodie and enjoy a very good wine with fine food. I would be the first one to say that this food is good but the wine is not doing it for me with the meal, even if the wine was a good wine.

                  I often eat meals that are very expensive. The most expensive meals have been at Alinea in Chicago, and Urasawa in Beverly Hills. Both meals were absolutely awesome. Both meals were an all night event 5.5 to 6 hours long. I would also expect a high price tag on a meal like that, and have no problem paying for it. I also enjoy small "hole in the wall" ethnic places throughout LA that come to less than a bottle of Evian. However, I expect to get consistent experiences, even if they are different, every time I visit. I do not expect a Urasawa experience when I go to Shibucho, nor do I expect to pay that price. Just the same, I do not expect to receive Shibucho talent at K-Zo. If I go out to eat a particular meal, I expect that the price would be roughly in the 20% range of that experience the last time I had that experience (within a few months to a year). If the experience (meaning the type and quantity of food) is different, then all bets are off for 20%. I guess what I am trying to say, if a meal that you typically get at a certain place costs price X and then the next time you went back and received a lesser experience or even an equivalent experience and the price was 50- 75% more, I would be very disappointed and would not go back.

                  I have also had inconsistent pricing and quality, and do not plan on ever returning. When you trust the chef, that includes trusting that he will not take advantage of you as well as trusting him with his skills.

                  1. re: ThePalate

                    I call it grape wine. He didn't. as opposed to shaoxing wine, etc...

                    I remember eating at Shibucho on beverly blvd long before it was shige's place. I remember when he started selling French wines. Your incredulity is sweet, but the pairings are relatively recently for a thirty year old restaurant - maybe just the last decade.
                    Next time you go ask him. My memory is quite clear. When he first started serving wine which he collected, the idea of pairing in a european sense was foreign to him. His dismissal of western esp american methods may have tempered over the years. He became friendly with italian chefs (i believe the ones at madeo originally) and developed an appreciation for some non-traditional japanese approaches.
                    But again - the inconsistency which can sometimes be delightful when the evening feels as though some things were comped, has been a hallmark of this restaurant since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
                    Additionally, the use of real wasabi is not ubiquitous by Shige-san. It is used for his high-paying omakase KNOWN customers without question. When I once asked about having it, he told me it would add $50 to my dinner and gave me the option (since my orders there are rarely real omakase).
                    If I came off strongly before regarding Shige - I will say the relationship is contentious but friendly. He knows me well-enough and I have never bought his wines ( HE DID SO make that statement, although it was over 15 years ago) which are very impressive.
                    I certainly accept your proclamation of extreme foodie, although this forum is made up of many whose reaction to that position might not be exceptionally positive. I also believe in how wine and food can match up. I'mperhaps less extreme and more traditional or even Luddite. I believe in wine and terroir and the cuisines that develop as the wine develops. Traditional sushi developed in a culture that did not drink GRAPE wines but did consume other alcohols. The cuisine developed to complement rice-based and sorghum and millet based alcohols. As well, german style beer and western influenced distilled liquors have been available since long before the second world war- Japan occupied previously German-adminstered Qingdao in 1914. Wikipedia claims that the dutch opened beer halls during the edo period. Maybe.

                    But french, italian or other wines were unknown. Pairing sushi with them might lead to delicious results. Pairing sushi with a selection of bourbons or grappe might also. But I'd rather explore what I consider more organic pairings. I would love to have a matelote of Loire eel coupled with a bright chinon. and would love to see if they balance each other. Or Sologne style game. Sushi and wine? Does it matter what French wines would pair well with an imperial style chinese Man-Han banquet at Fangshan? Why not try the traditional accompaniments?

                    We seem to differ. For me, premier cru and sushi is like gilding the lily. (or prime burgandy if you like...).

                    In any case, I will continue to make my more infrequent trips to Shibucho on Beverly. If only to continue a nearly three-decade old tradiiton with a man who still, is an artist.

                    1. re: ThePalate

                      I too have stopped going to see Shige. I have had the same experience as others...charged much too much for too little one time, and then paid half as much for twice the food another time. Once I brought in a 1970 Bordeaux after having ordered an equal bottle from his list. When I gave him a glass....he exclaimed loud and clear "that's good grape juice" HE was smiling and meant it as a joke/compliment i believe...but it seems to be his stock response. I have, though, noticed a path to his graciousness or too avoid the fickle high prices....make sure that you bring pretty Japanese girls with you...your bill will go down, and specialty dishes will appear. No, I am not kidding. Try it and see...just make sure to sit at the bar....and thank me later :-)

                      1. re: dtranquil

                        Now this is going to be ONE damn expensive evening:

                        Omakase at Shibucho: $130 per person

                        Vintage Bordeaux: $300 per bottle

                        Japanese "Hostess" Rental: Melted down my Master Card

                        Explaining about my "hostess" rental to the LAPD: Priceless

                          1. re: Servorg

                            we won't dare mention the hostess rental. but it will be an interesting evening.


                  2. Maybe the very fact that this thread has gone on for so long indicates an inherent billing problem from the restaurant management (whether or not Shige-san even sees the final tabulation at all at the end of each meal, I am not sure).

                    Shige-san needs to read this thread.

                    We're talking Beverly location and not Costa Mesa, right?

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: J.L.

                      Yes, this is all based on the Beverly Blvd, 3114 Beverly location. Not to be confused to the other master's sushi bar on 19th st in costa mesa, which is actually much much much much cheaper, and more traditional, of course.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        why should he read this thread? he seems perfectly content to run his establishment the way he's been doing it for over a decade.

                        As for seeing the tabulation - there's only him and the woman who serves the alcohol and restocks the tea. No one else deals with the customers.

                        1. re: Jerome

                          I've gone to Shige-san's 3 times. Each time I've gone, his server was the only one scribbling stuff down on the bill. I did not see him touch my bill even once. Therefore, I surmise from my experiences that he may not actually see the bill before it's handed to the customer(s)...

                          1. re: J.L.

                            i don't think that's possible, are you absolutely sure. there must be some communication between him and the server.

                            1. re: J.L.

                              I've often seen him making notes with a pencil.

                          2. re: J.L.

                            I think the fact that the majority of items on the menu are MP and subject to extreme fluctuation is more likely the cause of billing inconsistencies. If you want omakase, and a seasonal menu developed around current and sometimes unusual or rare offerings, then the bill with vary accordingly. Tell him in advance if you have a price range, otherwise, what's the point? If you let him choose, then he is also in control of your bill.

                            1. re: cls

                              but i think i now what the above poster is getting at. they went and had nothing that was truly seasonal and still the bill was extremely egregious. also, i don't know if others will agree but i have never seen anything really exotic there for some reason or another.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Correct. Nothing remarkable in any way. The kampachi was very good. A hirami carpaccio was nice. There was a single amaebi that was good, but isn't that out of season now? Nothing else memorable at all. Uni and Toro better at the torrance hole-in-the-walls I frequent. There were only two things we never had before: the cooked fishy-tasting salmon handroll (yuk) and the mixed clams drowning in miso dressing (also yuk), Even the albacore on the salad was a bit fishier than usual.

                                Quality on all else was acceptable but not remarkable.

                                1. re: wasabica

                                  why is that even though he, i'm sure, tries to get good fish, there are so many stinkers on the menu at times. i hate when i'm spending over 100 per and higher and a few of the pieces are terrible that would pretty much ruin the whole meal for me. and sometimes it does, case in point, had a disgusting piece of sushi with a disgusting sauce at Zo, but then everything else was super fresh and super great.

                                2. re: kevin

                                  Perhaps their meal was not subject to wild fluctuations, but still, the items are all MP. Tuna, for example, can vary from 10-12/lb to easily $100+/lb. Sometimes even if the restaurant seems to be offering "standard fare" the wholesale pricing that day may well above the norm.
                                  Shige has plenty of exotic items, most of which he does not offer to non-regular customers because he is unsure of their tastes or budgets.
                                  To one of the OPs previous posts, salmon with skin (Shige frequently leaves a thin layer on) is much "fishier." The typical Japanese customer has a much greater appreciation and tolerance for items that taste more of the sea, and the flavors are frequently confused by Western diners as being not fresh. At a meal I had recently at Shibucho Costa Mesa, after developing a rapport, we were served nothing but what could be called fishy tasting sushi. Most of the fish was exotic, and Shibutani told us that it was mostly reserved for his Japanese customers because Westerners don't typically like the stronger flavors. BTW, he insisted we eat ginger between courses to cleanse.
                                  It is very difficult to know how to approach a strict Japanese chef. Manners are everything and it is easy to offend. I would definitely ask in advance about pricing and tastes if that's a concern. If you are not happy with the results, find another place. Although I wouldn't be too quick to judge a sushi chef as being arrogant or not accommodating because of their reaction.
                                  If there's one thing we have a lot of in LA, it's good sushi restaurants, and a good relationship with your chef can make all the difference.

                                  1. re: cls

                                    CLS, While I am not Japanese, I have been eating it for multiple decades now and consider myself fairly well-versed on Sushi that would appeal to Japanese locals. That said, perhaps you can teach me something, as I have never heard of what you described before now.

                                    Besides the big names, we frequent many off the beaten trail sushi restaurants in the Torrance area run by Japanese where the clientele are pretty much only Japanese expats from the car companies. We have been told by the chefs we have a Japanese palate because we enjoy the oily fishes, exotic roe, live sashimi, and other unusual items. I am also familiar with the dirty little secrets of how "fresh" tuna is actually best not off the boat but after it has undergone rigor mortis and has actually aged a bit. So for me, the preceding = good fishy. However, the salmon we had was fishy as in it it has been in the case a couple days too many. I buy a lot of salmon sashimi from marukai, etc. and I know the smell of fish being close to/just at the "sell by" date. It had that aflatoxin aroma. (As did the albacore in the salad, something I never experienced before at Shibucho.) I figured both items were cooked for a reason. Am I missing something?

                                    1. re: wasabica

                                      Agree with the aging of that tuna. Is it true that "fresh" tuna is actually also "flash frozen" on the boat, in order to kill parasitic worms?

                                      1. re: wasabica

                                        Given your description, it sounds that you aren't missing anything. J.L - Yes, Tuna is gamey fresh and is generally frozen and defrosted. There is a government guideline for the flash freezing of all seafood in the US. Given that many fishing boats are not day boats, it follows that they freeze their own fish on board.

                                        1. re: wasabica

                                          Sam Fujisaka - I guess that explains all of those expensive sushi meals I have had in Japan served by masquerading Americans. Of course, your sansei self can explain what traditional Japanese is...

                                          1. re: cls

                                            Look, I have a lot of respect for all of you who pay big bucks. You obviously know a lot more than I do. But to sneer at the sansei is uncalled for: ask people in Japan who are the quaint throwbacks in terms of language, manners, and customs.

                                3. It's simple really...when given the "leeway" of reputation, no itemization, etc, greed has a tendency to set in. Sad but absolutely true. Bet you don't go back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: onedrummer

                                    If you researched Shibucho on these boards you will find that I have said many nice things about that place over the years, including that I prefer it to Zo, Mori, Kiriko, etc. We have had a few bad experiences there, but we gave them many chances because, well, it was generally so good. This was not the first of the "arbitrary" bills that we received, but it was quite clearly the most egregious of them. So yes onedrummer, I think I am done with Shibucho in LA. :(

                                  2. These sushi / omakase "masters" and your willingness to pay is just a huge scam! These guys are NOT traditional Japanese. They are just people who (look like me) that have figured out what you would be willing to pay for OK stuff - 20x what its worth!. It is hype! But many of you keep these operations in business; and the mis-guided snooty hakujin "knowledge" about sushi just helps to keep the prices high and the hakujin rubes happy! You are being scammed!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      really? have you eaten sushi in LA feel that the names that get mentioned all the time on the LA boards and in conversation such as Shibucho, Mori, Nozawa, Sasabune, Hikko, Sushi Zo are all scams? I sure hope not.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Sam Fujisaka, I have to respectfully disagree about the premium sushi places in LA being scams. Just walk into a flagship marukai or mitsuwa and pickup one package each of each grade of Tuna/Toro, which range from $20-$80 a pound. I think any fish aficionado would agree that they differ drastically in quality, especially apparent through texture and flavor. Now add to that a chef who has trained for decades in how to properly choose, slice, and serve this fish, plus the overhead of running an entire restaurant around it, and it will not look so scammy. If the sushi chefs were making all those bucks you would not see them working the crazy hours they have to do. Perhaps you are an extreme connoisseur and you mean it is inadequate vs what you have had in Japan. If so, then all the more reason why it costs more for the premium places (for LA standards) vs the more common fast food sushi joints. If, however, you think that there is no difference from places like mori/zo vs kabuki/fusion, then you are probably in the same group of people who don't understand why people like me and many other hounds on this board spend 3 bills for a couple oz of caviar, a few bites of kobe steak, a bit of foie gras, a handful of truffles. But I never understood $500 shoes or even $200 haircuts. Hedonism is a very subjective thing.

                                      2. i've asked (again not an omakase guy at shibucho) shige for various things and told that he isn't stockingone or the other because they are too expensive. When the price gets much too high, heknows that even his customer base will not pay what his markup would have to be.

                                        I think this thread is getting out of bounds. He usually has wonderful food. If you don't trust him, go and order by the piece and not omakase. It's not nozawa. you have a choice. Althought, again the price fluctuates. If you aren't ready to run risk, order what you know. Great risk means possible great rewards and possible stinkers. That's why it's called risk.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Jerome

                                          t I disagree with you Jerome regarding this particular restaurant. As someone who is very familiar with Shige, we had gone to his place for 19 years, I wouldn't make the same recommendation that you made. I think it is more fair to say he "can" have absolutely amazing food depending on the night, his mood, and who you are. You do have a choice, but as his bill is not itemized, even if you order ala carte, a small dinner can run a difference of $50-100 ordering the exact same thing, that is not price fluctuation. I know this, as we experimented with this on different nights. I wouldn't recommend this restaurant to anyone period. The previous statement really saddens me as I had so many wonderful meals there, but there has to be some level of predictability on price and quality. And if there is not, there is no reason to support the restaurant. Take a risk somewhere else.

                                            1. re: ThePalate

                                              and still, i'll go back. when he's on, he's great.


                                              1. re: Jerome

                                                Me too, but we're in the minority. The place is usually empty.

                                                1. re: cls

                                                  That's probably one of the reason he's so expensive at times, which also points towards some of the fish going bad, possibly, or at least not as great as it should considering there is such a low turnover.

                                        2. This thread has been really interesting. We tried Shibucho a few months ago, and had a somewhat uncomfortable experience. It was our first time there and I tried to establish a rapport with Shige. We were the first two customers in, and basically asked for omakase. I knew that Shige wouldn't know our tastes and he would be more conservative on a first visit than on subsequent visits. The food we had was good, not great, and definitely very basic. A party of three came in pretty soon after we did, and clearly they were regulars - it was a mom, dad and teenage son. Shige proceeded to give them some of the best looking sashimi, sushi and cooked dishes that I've ever seen, but with a rare exception, we were not given the same although we said we eat anything. It kind of pissed me off but I didn't know exactly how to handle it politely. Could I have just said, "We'd like that?" We were kind of ooohing and aaahing over the food that the other people were getting, clearly paying attention to what Shige was doing, not wrapped up in our own conversation but instead obviously into the food. To give him credit, maybe he didn't know our cost threshhold. However, our bill was $193 including tip (I just checked my AMEX bill) which I felt was very expensive FOR WHAT WE HAD. And I spent the evening feeling pretty uncomfortable, kind of like a second class citizen, although he wasn't overtly rude or anything. I guess part of it was my fault for not speaking up. Anyway I was left thinking that I'd happily spend that much money for better food but never again for a meal like we had. And how to resolve that issue is a mystery to me so we haven't returned.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Debbie W

                                            You hit the nail on the head, Uncomfortable at times, yes, very true. The thing this is if you're up for spending the money, you should have at least tried a few a la carte dishes on your first few tries and then went full-more on the omakase after the first few visits, But that would take a lot of time and huge sums of money to accomplish so I dont know what to say.

                                            But the best piece of Foie gras I have ever had in the United States was at Shibucho, so does get good ingredients and knows how to prepare them, even the French dishes (he once told me everywhere around town serves Sauteed Foie Gras with a sweet sauce, he further asked, "you know why they do that? rhetorically. "Because it's poor, poor, poor quality foie gras." and then he went to say he never gets that type of foie gras, he only gets the best). and the foie gras was amazingly good.

                                          2. I really appreciate all the people who took the time to share their experiences at Shibucho. If nothing else, where before I felt "is it me?" now I see many of you have validated my concerns. I think I lost what I thought was my favorite Sushi place, but at least I feel good about my decision now. I love Chowhound for this :)

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: wasabica

                                              I think it's fair to say that you see what was your favorite sushi place with more acute eyes. The faults were always there, even when you were loving it.

                                              Too bad. Let us now, please, when you find a place that's better in a similar price range (not urasawa and not hidei range)...

                                              1. re: Jerome

                                                Urasawa aside the two that seem to almost always deliver on the LA board are Zo in West LA (just outside of Culver City where National crosses back under the 10 Fwy) and Mori in WLA very near the 10/405 X'ng.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  I'll try zo. I've been to Mori several times. I find it in general more expensive than Shibucho and on the best nights at both, I still prefer Shige.

                                                  Too bad for me.

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    I prefer(ed) Shige to Mori as well. With Zo, my issue is I do not like the ginger infused soy he uses on many fish items. THere's Kiriko - I liked it but a little too non-authentic for me though. I have heard good things about Sushi Gen and Nishimora (sp?) Never been to either..

                                                    1. re: wasabica

                                                      nishimura used to be slightly good but not it's very very very expensive, and they are not that welcoming to begin with.

                                                      1. re: wasabica

                                                        I'm sorry to hear about your experience. How disappointing.

                                                        My husband and I used to frequent Shibucho a few years back when we lived close by. Shige-san was cordial but somewhat aloof and formal the first time we went. But we found it endearing how he'd present something and without fail, very carefully, usually out of the corner of his eye, watch our reaction. When we would react accordingly, with effusive praise or eye-rolling ecstasy (all sincere, never feigned), he would break out into a smile that seemed to transform his usually gruff visage into one of a delighted schoolboy!

                                                        The second time we went, he remembered us and became a bit more adventurous in his offerings. By the third time, it seemed like we had "proven" ourselves and were deemed worthy of being treated as regulars. We returned, maybe, five or six more times after that. The food was always spot-on, fresh and delicious. Shige-san was delightful (seriously) with a dry sense of humor we really responded to. We're pretty healthy eaters and I think we usually averaged $150-200 for the both of us. One blow-out birthday meal may have crept toward the $300 mark.

                                                        On the other hand, the female half of our closest friends and kindred spirits in food, hates Shige with a passion and has never returned after getting into an argument with him the first time they went--I think a year prior to our first time.

                                                        Interestingly enough, once we moved out of the area two years ago, we have yet to return. I couldn't tell you why. And after reading through this thread, maybe it's better for us to keep our good memories of Shibucho intact. Though, I still think about the ankimo.

                                                        Now days, we are regulars at Nishi-ya on the border of Glendale and Burbank. We've never had a bad experience there and, best of all, we never had to earn Kenji-san's approval. :-) Curious to know if you have tried Nishi-ya and what you think of it.

                                                        1. re: caveatempty

                                                          I've never been. I live in south bay so there is no way I could pull off being a regular there, but I will check it out soon.

                                                          1. re: caveatempty

                                                            i've been to nishi-ya, but i prefer shibucho, nishiya is in the same vein as nozawa, sasabune, et all but just not as good in my opinion. and also not as good as sushi zo.

                                                            i would go to nishiya if i was hankering for sushi and lived a few blocks away.

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              We live fairly close to Nishi-ya, but even if we didn't, I'd like to think we would still frequent it (else that would mean we dined there as a matter of convenience, rather than chow-worthy fare!). I definitely prefer it to Nozawa. I haven't made it to Sushi Zo yet but it is on my list of places to hit this coming year.

                                                              We never brought in wine or ordered off the menu, but Shige-san would give us the occasional complimentary glass if the mood struck him. The first time he did so was after he told us about going to auctions to find wine and then showing us his menu/notebook/album. I pled ignorance regarding sushi and wine, and he was happy to oblige. There was one particularly big Bordeaux that was amazing, but I didn't think to write it down (nor did I think I'd be able to track it down at an auction/afford it).

                                                              We got foie gras once, eggplant parmesan another time, some sort of braised fish (almost like a stew) another. And desserts mostly consisted of various fruit tarts.

                                                              Hmm, I think maybe a return trip might be in order.

                                                              1. re: caveatempty

                                                                yeah, i'd like to return too, but all these posts are not promising although it was like he was America's sweetheart 10 years ago.

                                                                the eggplant parmesan sounds great, i'll request it the next time i visit.

                                                                did you have a glass of the big Bordeaux or the whole bottle?


                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  I"m sorry. I don't ever recall being offered glasses of wine at Melisse or at any fine dining establishemnt in this city. If Shige offered people (and let's hope this wasn't all the time because if it was, how generou is that?) incredibly expensive and fantastic bordeaux, wonderfully prepared surprize dishes out of the scope of the cuisine of which he's a master, and then people are bitching that he's capricious...
                                                                  well, that just strikes me as ungrateful and ill-mannered. I've never had foie gras there (again - i remember a time when he was critical of foie gras altogether ["too stinky"]) and he told me that he didn't stock certain items as they were so expensive that the price he woudl be forced to charge would be unacceptable to his omakase customers (e.g., the fins for hire-sake, sea squirts/hoya, etc), so he was conscious of his customers.

                                                                  Looking over this thread, people were getting exceptional service, individual attention and tremendous quality from shige - service and attention that no french or italian restaurant normally gives (i do remember once getting a glass of complimentary Sauternes at the late Bernard's downtown)and then a few bad experiences and they're gone.

                                                                  Well, it seems he was quite capricious in providing people with excellent times at more than reasonable cost (a glass of an opened bordeaux that the customer believes he could not afford even at retail?) - and capriciousness cuts both ways.

                                                                  I am more than convinced now that i need to go back to shibucho soon.

                                                                  1. re: Jerome

                                                                    if that's true then he is more affable than i though, and more than we have given him credit for.

                                                                    as for the foie gras, he did say that most joints around town that served foie gras did serve stinky foie gras, which is why they all seared it, and placed a sweet sauce on top of it. but he said he only served the best from France. or at least as long as he could get a hold of the best from France.

                                                              2. re: caveatempty

                                                                did you ever have the big heavy duty wines with your meals?

                                                                and anything interesting to eat besides the sushi?

                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  im' sure the big-ticket "foodies' here can answer better, but I never had the wines. Usually have had Excellent fish. There are other dishes on the omakase when he knows you. I have ordered a good salmon skin salad (which i don't know if he makes anymore ), butter-fish (miso and sake marintaed grilled black cod) in season he has matsudake soup, and chawan-mushi. Desserts are good, although his fruit was truly exceptional back in the day.

                                                                  1. re: Jerome

                                                                    i think i started going there right before he switched from the 3am closing to the midnight closing. so about 10 years ago or so, perhaps a little more.

                                                                    yeah, i remember you mentioning that you usually just had the sushi suspects rather than the franco-italian-japanese dishes.

                                                                    some have mentioned he lost his dessert chef a few years back, which is probably true. since i can't get than exceptional chocolate mousse i had back then.

                                                      2. Well, I have told this tale before: always wanted to try Shibucho - thought it would be really something special. Mme Zoe and I were on our way down town to a concert and showed up early so we had sufficient time for a leasurely dinner before hearing Racmaninoff. We were the onlly people in the restaurant (and well dressed for the coming evening's entertainment). We were completly ignored and then asked what we wanted in a a very offhand way. We responded: please give us your choice. No annoujncement of what was prepared - we had to ask and then after about six offerings were made Shige unaccountablhy disappeared without asking if we wanted anything else - so we had some tea and the bill and left HUNGRY. Had to stop for a Tommie's so we didn't starve, Would never go back.