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overrated/overpriced in tokyo

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A recent thread had me wondering what people feel are the most overrated and/or overpriced restaurants in Tokyo. Judging from past threads, Gompachi (overrated), Hirosaku (overpriced), and Hamadaya (both) probably qualify. Any others?

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  1. Isn't Hirosaku very good value for its lunch ? I see on Tabelog 90% of the reviews are for lunch and mostly spending is below 4000 yen. I guess people mostly go there for lunch ?

    1. I have not been to Hirosaku, but you are certainly spot-on re: the other two.

      Also vastly overrated and overpriced (not sure if mentioned on chowhound, but certainly from personal experience): Two Rooms. A good venue if you are a lazy and unimaginative gaijin with an expense account. I went more than once, never out of choice, because of a client dinner. What nonsense for those prices, given the alternatives available in this city.

      The restaurant that has pissed me off most recently is Yonemura. What pretentious bollocks. Lots of dishes trying to be clever Japanese fusion type little things and mostly failing. The amuse bouche took the biscuit: Not so amusingly, it was basically conbini-style bread with cheese and ham. Some kind of culinary statement? Trying to be clever? Not sure how to interpret it. The pretentious people on the table next to us seemed to like it. We thought that if we ever saw a naked emperor, this was it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Asomaniac

        Hirosaku looks like good value for lunch. For dinner, it is oh-my-god expensive. Don't go.
        Quintessence seemed extraordinarily overhyped and expensive to me. But that was a couple years ago, and it's still just as popular, so whaddoIknow?
        I liked Yonemura a lot, but I had a much better experience than Aso (didn't realize that was recent). I even liked the cheese-and-cheesecake! Lunch is a better idea there too, but the whole thing is still steep.
        Oooh, while I'm complaining, I went to Sushi Isshin in Asakusa a while back. Michelin starred, nastily-priced, mediocre quality.

        1. re: jem589

          Actually, the 'most recently' tag was misleading - it seems recent because the wounds still seem fresh (OK, ignore the melodrama), but thinking back, it was around my wife's birthday's time, so a year ago. I guess I have been living a sheltered existence recently, restaurant quality-wise!

          It's not that it was the worst meal I have had, or even bad. It was perfectly fine, though for 14,000 yen per person for food only it was certainly underwhelming. What pissed me off was the annoying attempts at originality (and the pretentiousness than went with it) which in the case of several of the dishes did not work at all, and the cheek of the conbini bread.

          Service was polite but quite cold. Ingredients were very fresh, very good quality - it was a shame they did not put them to better use.

          I guess I am also looking at it from the OP's questions's perspective: overrated restaurants. Yonemura is OK per se, but gets rave reviews like it's something really special, but absolutely was not when we went. There were five of us that night; two pretty easily pleased food lovers who don't annoy their fellow men with constantly going on about the texture of this or the naunce of that - they just eat and love food; then there was my wife - a 'good'eater - myself and a true gourmet friend who I think has a really impressive palate. We all universally reached the exact same conclusion about Yonemura. On the other hand, so many other people who love food and have expereinced one or the other top quality meals love the place, so maybe we went on an off-night, who knows?

          Nevertheless, the conbini bread, petty as I am, remains unforgivable in a 14,000 yen meal.

          1. re: jem589

            I was also going to say Quintessence on the basis of a number of friends' assessment whose judgment of top end French food I trust.

            While I have never had dinner there, the friends who did all said the place was overhyped and would attract two Michelin stars at best if located in Paris (people were split on this; some swore that anything more than one star was preposterous).

            Again, I cannot judge as I have never had dinner there, but I trust their judgment, and they were unusually united in their assessment of it being utterly overhyped.

            From what I hear, the staff have an attitude to match the hype. Too cool for school is not a great attitude for people working in the service industry. Again, this is a criticism I have heard many times and I don't think I will be booking dinner there anytime soon. Lunch on the other hand seems to be good value, like in so many other top end restaurants in Tokyo.

            1. re: Asomaniac

              yes some of the service staff have some "attitude" . i went for dinner the last time .. for me most of the dishes didnt really resonate with my tastebuds. maybe its me not liking french food anyway... but their fish main was the most incredible thing i ate in my life.

        2. My sushi lunch at Sushiko Honten (1 Star in Ginza), at 20,000 per head before drinks, was IMO overpriced. I dont think the quality of the fish, or the shari, or the 'handwork' was remarkably higher than Tsukiji Zanmai at a quarter of the price. but maybe that is because it was too close to my Sawada dinner which was out of this world.

          1. Just my personal opinion....

            - Hirosaku is not overpriced. Lunch is great value for money. Dinner is expensive but yet they served ingredients like abalone, turtle, crab that are very expensive. But I know most westerners are not into those esoteric stuffs, so the value may be perceived differently..

            - My opinion is different completely from jem589 and Aso's friends: Quintessence's lunch set is value for money, and I love this place, perhaps the best French restaurant in my experience, I enjoyed the meal much more so than what I had in Per Se (NYC), L'osier (Tokyo), Galera Robuchon (Macau), all of them Michelin 3 stars.

            Now these are the ones I consider overrated. I know the first 4 choices are controversial here because they are very popular on Chowhound. Here is the list: Kaikaya (more suitable for Westerners), L'osier (I know many here love this 3 star place but I would just give it a borderline 1 star), Fuku (the favorite yakitori in Chowhound but I thought just an above average joint), Butagumi (the favorite tonkatsu here, perhaps I did not try the Iberico pork but the Hokkaido one was nothing special), Kyubei, Daigo, Keyakizaka, Makoto, Gonpachi (perhaps the consensus here as the most overrated).

            7 Replies
            1. re: FourSeasons

              I'm with you on Kaikaya and Keyakizaka, Fuku is a matter of opinion, Butagumi as well, though personally I am a fan, but I think your view that L'Osier is borderline one star is totally out there.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                p.s. Did you base your assessment of L'Osier on lunch or dinner? I have never had lunch there so cannot comment, but dinner there was three star, and not even a borderline three star, a strong three star.

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  @Aso: That is why I highlighted "personal opinion" and "controversial". Not saying these are poor restaurants, all I meant in the context of "overrated" is that I went in there with very high expectation, and walked out disappointed based on that very high benchmark. The high expectation was in response by very favorable comments either from Chowhound (Kaikaya, Fuku, L'osier, Butagumi), friends (Kyubei, Makoto, Gonpachi) and Michelin (Diago, Keyakizaka) but left the restaurants knowing that I had many other superior meals before in comparison.

                  I went to L'osier for lunch but ordered the dishes based on dinner ala carte menu. I know it is very highly rated restaurant; I know you and Yabai love this place; and know many food critics/bloggers rate this one as highly as any 3 star in France. Maybe it is just me not appreciating classic French, I left not overwhelmed at all. On the other hand, my meal at Quintessence was a highlight.

                2. re: FourSeasons

                  I second Daigo as being overrated.

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    Would you (or anyone here) say that there are better shojin-ryori restaurants in Tokyo?

                    1. re: Robb S

                      a fair point -- i haven't tried any others (and probably won't now.) but compared to the vegan courses of masa, urasawa, kanda, tsukiji yamamoto, daigo's courses would rank last. compared to bay area vegetarian courses at manresa, coi, french laundry, it would rank last. and it certainly isn't even in the same league as a place like arpege in paris. but i'll admit it is quite possible i just don't understand nor appreciate some crucial aspect of shojin cuisine, and was turned off by its focus on grains rather than vegetables.

                  2. re: FourSeasons

                    I love Kaikaya. Two times now I have stayed at Cerulean Tower and gone there for my first night arrival dinner, as it is walking distance and casual. Now, this is not michelin type place, and I do imagine there are other places as good in Tokyo, but hey, this is the only place like it that I know of and I really love it there and will go every time I visit. :-)

                    I ate at L'Osier once and was not impressed with the food. Gorgeous place though. Trying very hard to be French/Parisian but just not the same and the food not nearly as good as places like Lasserre and that ilk. I'd never give it 3 stars. I'd give it 1 star as well. Would not go back.

                  3. Most places in the touristy and gaijin-heavy Roppongi, Azabu, and Aoyama parts of Minato-ku, the touristy and historically upscale parts of Ginza in Chuo-ku, and several neighborhoods in the political and business districts of Chiyoda- are overpriced. You’re partially paying for the address you are dining at….And I don’t think Gonpachi is overrated. Who’s talking it up like it is a great place? It’s a moderately priced large scale restaurant serving mostly capably prepared standards. It’s right in the middle of Global Dining’s (the company that runs Gonpachi) capability curve. There are not many large scale places like it in Tokyo, so it has a point of differentiation at least vs. everything else out there.

                    1. Inaka-Ya is the most stupidly overpriced experience of any kind I have ever had the misfortune of becoming victim to.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: la2tokyo

                        Ding ding, we have a winner!

                        1. re: la2tokyo

                          How could I forget Inakaya? If you are the one actually paying, you feel such an idiot!

                          1. re: Asomaniac

                            Is Inakaya really that stupidly overpriced? I'm heading to Tokyo next week for a solo vacation and my Dad (who loved the food there) said that he'd buy me dinner there. Just wanted to know if it's basically just not that good or if it's the price to quality ratio that's nuts.

                            Am I better off saving that money and going somewhere else to eat? Also, how much would one spend on average at Inakaya?

                            1. re: raeisrandom

                              yes, it is that stupidly overpriced. How much? Hard to say because they cunningly do not have prices. they just tell you at the end how much you have to pay, depending on what you ate.

                              It's a cool place, especially for tourists - the visual aspects are great fun (two chef sitting in the middle doing their thing, all the food laid out in front of you, etc.) and the food is good. It's just vastly overpriced and not better than at a good izakaya. How much fresher than fresh can a grilled fish get?

                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                Thanks for the advice! I believe I'll give Inakaya a miss and hit up some thing like Daisan Harumi instead. I like knowing what I'm paying for and sushi > grilled stuff, for me anyways :)

                                Thanks again Aso!

                                1. re: raeisrandom

                                  No worries - Daisan Harumi over Inakaya is a very good choice (OK, different animal altogether so comparing apples and oranges, but one I'd definitely prefer, plus prices are very fair).

                                  Again, Inakaya is by no means bad, but very famous for being overpriced for what it is.

                        2. Isn't this sort of a meaningless discussion since overrated/great is a quality vs price issue and quality will always be subjective. Even what is considered an acceptable vs unacceptable price for a meal is subjective. I can't see a discussion like this will ever give any usable answers.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: Roysen

                            i don't think it is always a quality vs price issue - i thought the food at daigo was boring and bland and would feel that way regardless of whether the price was doubled or halved. i thought arpege in paris was brilliant, and worth whatever crazy price they wanted to charge for their vegetables. and i feel the same way about a bunch of highly regarded restaurants in europe, asia and the us. but i'd agree one-time visitors, regular visitors, and locals would often have very different criteria for judging restaurants. e.g. my san francisco favorite spots i would never recommend to someone visiting from asia.

                            1. re: Roysen

                              If you think that subjective discussions on the quality of food are pointless, then maybe a discussion board like chowhound isn't the place for you?

                              1. re: davew666

                                Discussions of the quality of food is certainly not pointless. However a discussion of value would be another story.

                                1. re: Roysen

                                  how so? I dont see a difference that makes a difference here between discussing quality and value. in fact, value is more readily applicable to objective appraisal than quality

                                  1. re: shekamoo

                                    It is so individual how each person values money. What one person consider expensive compared to the next person. How people make priorities. Some might think it is a once in a life time experinece to visit the worlds most expensive restaurant and really don't care how much it cost because they value the experience but others might try to find something similar at lower cost because they consider that a better value. Some might be considering the interior, the view, the service of a meal but others might just care about the food. Some might find formal dining a out-of-touch with their personality but others might enjoy it.

                                    It is very easy to discuss how much we like or dislke these things but how we value them in terms of money would be very individual and not very useful to someone else unless they know you personally.

                                    When one individual relates to his/her value on something it is not possible to get a bearing on what they mean unless we know well how they make priorities, their presonal economy etc.I don't think it is the right place to get into that here.

                                    1. re: Roysen

                                      2 things

                                      1) we can eliminate some of your points of concern regarding the 'context' by focusing on the food, which most people do here as a rule anyways

                                      2) You are also apparently confusing expensive with overpriced. the crux of what you say here is how some $500 pp meal maybe 'not worth it' for some people because of personal constraints or priorities.

                                      But we are not talking about the subjective value of money here, rather simply doing a comparison: if a meal of quality A costs $n at place X and a meal of comparable quality costs $n+m at place Y, then place Y is overpriced.

                                      now you can replace X and Y with Harvey's and McD's or Sushi Kanesaka and Mizutani. a $5 per person meal may come out overpriced under this comparison while a $500 per person meal may well turn out to be a bargain.

                                      The only thing 'subjective' here is the quality of the food, which your presence on CH shows you appreciate its being applicable to meaningful evaluation.

                                      1. re: shekamoo

                                        I might have been unclear. This has nothing really to do with the most expensive restaurants. I mentioned that to make an example.

                                        I mean of course that it is no problem discussing different quality of food and rating different restaurants based on that. The same would be the case for all the other attributes like service, interior design, the view etc. During these discussions it would become clear each individuals preferance and priority for his standard of quality.

                                        However when we discuss value (as in price vs quality) money becomes an issue. When it comes to price, the value of one dollar would be equally individual as the value of 500 dollars. The individual perception of the value of money is equally individual no matter how much the meal would cost and it would be based on each individuals personal situation not apparent in these discussions. I am not talking about if people have the money to pay for the meal or not but how they consider its value compared to the price charged by the restaurant.

                                        Some might find a 50 dollar meal overrated because they thought the fish was overcooked or the service slow but some others might think it is very good because the generally can't afford any better or will not allow themselves to pay for any better.

                                        When comparisons of value is made based on two equally priced meals I would agree its no problem, but generally one can read that restaurant X is overpriced or not worth its price. How can that statement be of value to anyone else than the person writing it?

                                        Overrated on the other hand is a term which argues quality alone and that is in my book no problem to relate to.

                                        1. re: Roysen

                                          The quality/price is depending on the quality more than price. Sukiyabashi Jiro tempts you to go back. I never thought of the price paid by going there. Then the price paid can not be forgotten when you have had shari(=rice) with no taste, random service order. Idem for the 3 stars sushi that tried to give me an uni(=sea urchin) thinking that I can not make the difference between 'bafun' and 'murasaki'. 
                                          Prices might be progressive and premium quality is exponential.

                                          1. re: Ninisix

                                            I certainly agree that quality/price is depending on the quality more than the price but I am not sure that is generally so.

                                            1. re: Roysen

                                              Sushi price vs price/quality is a reduce analogy and can be compare to Tokyo only in my opinion

                                              1. re: Roysen

                                                Roysen - no, the debate is not pointless at all. Obviously things are subjective - they all are. If they were objective, there would be no discussion. You get different points of view because of subjectivity, and we are exchanging views on places that are not value for money in our opinion, partially to vent at having been screwed over royally at places like Inakaya, partially to warn people off places like that.

                                                Your 50 dollars for fish example is not a great one in the context. The point about the fish being overpriced is not that some people think it's good because they can't afford any better - in the context of this discussion, the point would be that for the same 50 dollars, you can get much fresher and better prepared fish in many other places. That makes the 50 dollar fish in the restaurant where it is overcooked etc bad value, irrespective of whether you only have 50 dollars or 500.