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May 22, 2009 02:00 PM

Urasawa Liquor Policies

I've noticed that some people here have mentioned bringing bottles of wine/champagne to Urasawa. Is that still allowed? What is the current corkage fee? Does the restaurant serve cocktails? If not - can you bring hard liquor as well as wine? Also - I assume that there is only one fixed price dinner. Last I saw the price was $350/pp. Is that still correct? Thanks. Robyn

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    1. re: J.L.

      Yes - I had read that. Didn't mention anything about whether people bring bottles as a matter of course - or whether hard liquor is ok. In terms of the wine list - a bottle of Veuve (if it's plain yellow label) is very overpriced at $130 IMO.

      This restaurant isn't a "must go" for me. I'll have to think about it. It isn't the money (we spent more on some dinners in Paris last year) - but the sheer quantity of food seems pretty overwhelming to me. I couldn't possibly eat half of what I saw on Kevin's blog piece. Robyn

    2. The current corkage fee is $50 per bottle. I'm not sure about hard liquor though.... What hard liquor are you planning on pairing with sushi? :P


      9 Replies
      1. re: burumun

        Wine doesn't agree with me - so I usually have a gin or vodka martini (or either liquor on the rocks - or with a bit of tonic water). I'm not very fussy about pairing food with alcohol. Vodka is kind of like shochu (just barely) - but I didn't much care for shochu when I tried it in Japan.

        FWIW - I sent my husband the link on Urasawa - and he gave it "thumbs down". So it's off my list. I think on his part it's a combination of being thrice burnt - four times shy when it comes to higher priced meals in Los Angeles. And also because he's fond of the more traditional Japanese restaurants we dined at in Japan (at similar or lower price points). There may be a few restaurants in Tokyo now that kind of resemble a place like Urasawa (out of 100,000+ restaurants) - but the meal - the way it's put together - is basically a westernized version of Japanese cooking. You would never get that much food - in so many schools of cooking - in Japan (even in a place like the RC in Osaka - there are separate restaurants for tempura - beef - etc.). And finally - because my husband also enjoys a martini before dinner - and wine with. Doesn't make much sense to us to spend big bucks on a place that doesn't have a full liquor license - and only has a limited (and extremely overpriced) wine list. Unlike locals - who have bottles at home - we don't care to go shopping for liquor of any sort for dinner when we're on vacation.

        Finally - the thing I disliked the most about Kevin's writeup was the bill for water. Now in Europe you almost always used to have to order bottled water (or they'd look at you like you had 2 heads). But the times they are "a changing". You can order plain tap water at high end places now without any problem. On my part - if I'm going to spend money for a beverage - it's not going to be water :).

        Anyway - I am sure we'll find some fine Japanese food this trip. Just not at this particular restaurant. BTW - we ate at lots of restaurants in Japan that had full liquor licenses. Apart from some really high end sushi places (where meals usually lasted for 90 minutes or less - it's kind of "wham - bam - thank you ma'am - you don't chat with the chef except to ask what is this - that - or the other thing - he feeds you - you thank him and bow at the end of the meal and leave - drink was almost totally peripheral to the experience) - a lot of people drank hard liquor at restaurants as opposed to wine or sake. For some reason - things like gin and vodka are cheaper in Japan than Costco! If I had to guess - it's a cultural thing - TGIF taken to the max. And when workers drink too much and too late to get home - there are always capsule hotels where they can sleep it off and get back to work in the morning.

        Finally - we went to a birthday party today - some old friends. Their son lives in Tokyo. When we joined him and his wife and young child for lunch in Tokyo (end of one of the subway lines - kind of the outskirts) - well it was hilarious. They took us to their "neighborhood Chinese restaurant" - one of several owned/run by Iron Chef Chen in Tokyo. Some of us spoke fluent English - others fluent Japanese - but the restaurant staff mostly spoke Chinese. It took us a long time to order :). Sorry to ramble - but I very much recommend Japan as a place any foodie should visit. It was wonderful. Robyn

        1. re: pvgirl

          I think Urasawa is built as a "Hiro-san experience" and not a "let's pretend we're in Japan experience." If you are looking to relive some past meals in Japan, then that, along with the other policies you don't like, would almost assuredly guarantee that you should spend your money someplace else.

          1. re: pvgirl

            I cannot sit idly by while you disparage one of the most beloved dining establishments in our fair city - without having even having visited it.

            As a frequent customer of Hiro-san and also a visitor to Japan for tabe-aruki (as many other 'Hounds on the L.A. Chowboard have also done), I can safely say that the top-notch quality sushi kaiseki that Hiro-san serves is on par with any solid sushi restaurant in Japan. I seriously question your claim that Urasawa is "westernized Japanese cooking" - Don't knock it till you tried it.

            Now, the specifics... Portions: Customer satisfaction and comfort is #1 to Hiro-san. If you say your stomach is full to Hiro-san mid-meal, he stops. The problem is usually that his stuff is so damn amazing, I can't say "No" to him when he offers the next bite. And they're BITES, not dishes. I agree with you that often in Japan, it's "wham-bam" in sushi places, but this is sushi KAISEKI (if you're unfamiliar, look it up). It is a leisurely, long, and lovely meal.

            The beverages: I have had tap water (Gads! It's free!) on occasion at Urasawa! But, I usually like beer to start my sushi meal (as does most of Japan), and gradually make my way to sake later (I'm told that it's "old school" to do so - so be it) - Urasawa has both beer & sake on its menu. On my 5 trips to Urasawa, never have I brought wine or spirits with me for them to cork. Please note that Kevin's way of dining tends to be a bit "over-the-top" when compared to the rest of us mere mortals, so please take that into account when you read his reviews. If your husband wants a pre-dinner drink, I absolutely feel that it would be perfectly fine with Hiro-san.

            Iron Chef Chen's places are not the best Chinese food Japan has to offer. the Chinese fare in Yokohama is generally much better. I suspect your gracious hosts were (politely) trying to "Wow" you with the Iron Chef factor.

            Having said all that, if you still don't decide to go to Urasawa, that's totally cool. But I felt that you needed some additional perspective on the place from a "non-Kevin customer" before you make that decision.

            1. re: J.L.

              JL I completely agree with your post. Both times I gone people have asked to stop and he has not had any problem with it. In addition Hiro is very comitted to making you happy and will go out of his way to do so. For instance the last time I was in there he was telling me about the gyoza that he had made. He had run out of them but said he would be happy to make them for me the next time I was in. He is incredible wise and pleasure to have a meal with. It is my opinion that Urasawa is one of the finest culinary experiences in LA.

              1. re: Psiweaver

                Just so you know, you can't bring any hard liquor into a restaurant like you would wine. Bringing wine is different in that the restaurant may not carry the bottle you have b/c of vintage or point of origin, but the view is that distilled spirits are enough alike that you can get a reasonable substitution, in addition to being hard liquor.

                1. re: Endsinavowel

                  This is actually the information I was asking about. Liquor laws are usually pretty irrational - and vary state to state (sometimes county to county within a state).

                  I didn't mean to "diss" what is apparently everyone's favorite restaurant here. If it were open for lunch (presumably at a lower price point) - I would probably try it. But it just isn't my cup of tea for dinner. When you're over 60 (I am) - you pretty much know what you tend to like - and what you don't like. And the goal of my dining when I travel is to have meals that I suspect I will like - as opposed to simply putting notches on my culinary belt. The mileage of any individual diner may of course vary. But I heartily encourage people to eat what they think they will like (at least in theory - otherwise you'll never try anything new) - as opposed to what they think they should like. There are actually restaurants in Japan that are similar to Urasawa and Masa - Japanese "fusion" types of places (of higher and lesser quality and prices). I had some fun meals at those places (for a variety of reasons) - but it wasn't my favorite type of cuisine.

                  I think if I go outside my comfort zone on this trip - it will be to middle to lower end ethnic places - Mexican - pizza - etc. Unless there's a scale in the bathroom in the hotel ;). Off to New York tomorrow for a short trip to celebrate my husband's birthday. Robyn

                  1. re: pvgirl

                    A suggestion if you still want to give Urasawa a try, go across the street and go to the bar at Cut. There you can have a great cocktail, relax, enjoy the scene and then go to Urasawa for an incredible dining experience. As stated above, Hiro is absolutely tuned into his customer's likes and dislikes. You don’t need to gorge yourself and you can stop at anytime.

                    Normally he serves 8 or 9 dishes before sushi starts and that is one piece at a time with 185 grains of rice per sushi piece so you are not loading up on rice.

                    See pics here:

              2. re: J.L.

                This is true that one must take Kevin's meals with a grain of salt! However, I love eating vicariously through his beautiful reviews & photos.

                1. re: J.L.

                  Agreed on having Hiro-san stop ... it's hard for me to say no :P But the party sitting next to me stopped pretty early on and Hiro-san was completely fine with that (while I keep asking for more and more seared toro).

                  I dined with Kevin at CUT and for a table of 5-6 we only ordered 2 bottles of wine, but I did wonder if he felt like he had to restrain himself ;) (Did you, Kevin? I don't think you were full by the end of that meal!)