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Jun 1, 2010 03:08 PM

Are Sushi Overpriced?

No elaborate sauce, no marination, no cooking. Are they overpriced when you pay ~$3 for a piece of nigiri? Your opinions.

P.S.: I know technically sushi is the wrong term, but I figure it is a more commonly understood term.

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  1. Actually, there *is* sauce involved; the amalgam of condiments and lemon juice used to season the sushi rice. The chef, while he may not appear to be "cooking" anything, is a professional who is paid a fortune and trains for years. Real, sushi-grade fish that's been kept fresh is exorbitantly expensive. But to many $3 and even $10 a piece is worth it for the sushi experience.

    I'll tell you when sushi is overpriced (no matter what the menu says):

    - when they use frozen product (other than Hamachi, which must be frozen)
    - when it's sold pre-packed and chilled (as in the supermarket)
    - if ever there's the slightest odor of fish at the sushi bar.

    5 Replies
    1. re: shaogo

      :) I don't think sushi are really overpriced in the sense that sushi restaurants are not always highly profitable. Making one nigiri or one sashimi as on the order is labor intensive and very low output.

      On the other hand, the raw materials to finish products appear to have a huge price increase. Even if we are talking about the high quality sushi grade fish. I do realize there are sauce. I wrote there is no "elaborate sauce".

      By the way, aren't all sushi fishes are supposed to be frozen at one point or other to make them sushi grade?

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Some health departments recommend that you freeze salmon and tuna to kill potentially illness-causing parasites. However, sourcing from a reputable purveyor enables one to avoid this process, which ruins the texture of the fish.

          1. re: shaogo

            I disagree with you on salmon! I learned to make sushi waaaaaaay back in the 50s and 60s when I was taught to candle my own fish for worms. Salmon is not a purely salt water fish, but is born and dies in fresh water. Fresh water fish are particularly susceptible to worms, and so is salmon, which is why in the "olden days' of my past, salmon was NEVER used for sushi OR sashimi. But the ROE of salmon is safe! And delicious. And expensive.

            When I was learning to make sushi back when Moses and I went to school together, the oceans were MUCH cleaner than they are today, but I was taught to candle every slice of fish I cut for sashimi or sushi! In today's world, the oceans are dirty and I don't trust anyone to check my fish for worms. So I don't eat much raw fish.

            I found this article on the web just now when I couldn't remember all of the different kinds of worms that raw fish can carry. And now that I found it, I don't have to! You can read for yourself!

            Oh. And if "SushiMan" shows up, I'm leaving. He told me I make sushi like a grandmother! Well, I *AM* a grandmother! '-)

            1. re: Caroline1

              In volume-production sushi bars, I assure you, enough slicing and dicing and observing of the salmon is done so as to make candling unnecessary. You must, however, eat fish prepared by a chef who's been properly trained not only in cutting but in food science, as well.

      2. Depends on what kind of sushi and where you're getting it. Remember a restaurants location lives up to the real estate law of "Location, location, location." So sushi from the back of a truck should be one hell of a lot cheaper than sushi on the 5oth floor of prime downton metropolitan "sushi bars."

        And then there is the contents. California roll? (blech) Shouldn't be that expensive any place you go. Go to a top ranked sushi chef who has bought best in the world fresh caught tuna (any kind) and it's gonna cost you some bucks. Even off the back of a truck, but I doubt they'd have it on board.

        But if you want really good sushi, go to some used bookstores and buy some OLD authoritative books on how to make sushi. You do not have to use raw fish to make sushi. But you do need to learn to treat your gohan properly, and for heaven's sake, TOAST YOUR NORI...! Watched a Good Eats episode a few days ago in which Alton Brown was making sushi. He didn't do too bad, until... He talked about how critical it was to buy really fresh nori sheets in small bags and use it right away. NOT TRUE! If it doesn't come with one of those little desecant tubes packed in the bag, put one in. Store in a cool dark dry plae, and then... TOAST IT! Never ever use a sheet of nori without toasting it first!

        The reason I don't go to sushi bars where I live is for one of two reasons: I cannot afford Nobu, OR Wolfgang Puck's fiftieth floor sushi menu here in Dallas, both of which I have to assume make excelent sushi. ORRRRR... All of the restaurants I've tried that make sushi do it so badly. So very VERY badly. So learn to make your own... And Enjoy the price break!!! '-)

        6 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          I'm SO with you on making your own. I'm very lucky indeed to have several diff Japanese grocers that sell sushi grade fishes of all sorts, and even sell some of it pre-sliced. I do, however, like to go to my favorite sushi bars once in a while, and just let the chef do his thing. Matter of fact, it's been quite a while since my last visit...

          1. re: Caroline1

            Do I really need to toast the nori? I thought they are toasted already. Even the package states "roasted/toasted".


            In addition, some sushi do not require nori, like nigiri:


            I made sushi once and I were so sick of it afterward. Once you make sushi from two pounds of fish, then you realize how many nigiri you can make. I mean a lot. I were like, "I cannot eat these any more."

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Nori is like a sponge, so when it is exposed to moisture, it drinks in moisture! In time, it also looses it's nutiness from any factory toasting. Toast again, and only as you use it, then eat the sushi immediately! I cannot stand "black bubble gum." Which is a major part of my aversion to local sushi bars. I cannot bring myself to call them "sushi-yas."

              There is no hard fast rule about nigiri not requiring nori. Depends on the type of nigiri. For example, if you're topping it with roe or sea urchin, it is traditional to make a nori "dam" around the edge of the hand formed rice to help keep the topping in place. A narrow band of nori is also often used to hold a slice of tomago (sweet rolled omlette) in place on nigiri.

              Oh, and if you ever make sushi again and have so much of one type of fish you get sick of it, remember! You can always save some and cook sushi grade fish later. '-)

              1. re: Caroline1

                :) Thanks. Yes, I agree with the roe and sea urchin nagiri statements.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Making a smell vessel out of nori on top of the rice for ikura, uni, natto, negitoro, etc. is called "gunkan" maki, which means "battleship roll". Not very traditional. It was invented by chefs at Kyubei in the 30's.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    And there are variants, like this one using cucumber instead of seaweed


                    or this parent and child combo that's probably better for home use


            2. No.

              Sushi requires _very_ good fish (and rice), and that can cost some money; and preparation is done (well, at least is should be) on order and that takes good training and mastering of the techniques.

              1. No.

                Part of the reason I go out for sushi is (1) for the quality of the fish and seafood and (2) to sit at the bar and banter with the chef.

                It's (2) that really holds a significant part of the charm of eating sushi for me. Sure, I can always source a nice piece of tuna and cut it up at home, but I much more enjoy the banter and rapport I develop with the chef sitting at the bar.

                And when I sit at the bar, it's not just the fish that's being served, it's the sequence, size and manner in how the food is presented. All of that -- call it ambiance, if you will -- is what makes sushi more than just a piece of fish.

                Think about it this way, Chemicalkinetics, ever buy a drink at a bar? If you want to talk about something being grossly overpriced ... but a person does it anyway, in part because of the atmosphere.

                Just my 0.02.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  :) I know I know. I am not against eating sushi. Just try to start a conversation :)

                  Beer is different. Beer is manly. How much would you pay to be more manly? Huh? A lot, I will.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Well, it's usually single malt scotch for me ... Neat, never on the rocks.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Ok, that is too manly. I cannot do that yet. Oh crap.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Opps. I take that back. Beer is still manly.

                2. This blogger clearly agrees with you:


                  The YouTube video he includes is hilarious!

                  The solution is stick with AYCE places :-)

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: TexSquared

                    That youtube video in your link is hilarious. :)

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Scroll down to the comments on that site, I'm sure you can guess which one was me....

                      1. re: TexSquared

                        Were you the one who wrote "are you kidding me? I don't care much about the quality, I just go to an all-you-can eat sushi bar for 12 bucks and eat as much as i want. "


                        What I really find interesting is this comment:

                        "Sushi is my favorite food, partially because it's part of my heritage... I do agree it is overpriced in the U.S., but the interesting thing is, sushi is quite cheap in Japan, while burgers and stuff are pretty expensive, so it's more or less the inverse of the U.S."

                        I do know for facts that restaurant hamburgers are sold at a higher price in many parts of Asia. I never thought of this from this angle.

                        By the way, I am not against eating sushi in restaurants. I understand that part of the high price is actually not the fish, but the atomsphere and the "make to order" low throughtput

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          No, mine starts off with "Agree with you 110% my man."

                          I can see why burgers would be higher in Japan... for the simple reason that beef is more expensive there.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            That youtube link has been rolled out a dozen or so times here. Ironic that the blogger posted it when the intent of it is to take the piss out of people like him. Anyway, hamburgers and beef in general aren't particularly expensive in Japan. Hamburgers in the U.S. aren't a very apt analog to sushi in Japan. It's tough to come up with one actually.

                      2. re: TexSquared

                        An alternative solution is not to eat crap, whether it's AYCE or not...