Sushi Etiquette Question for CH Sushi Experts
Managed to have my first ever sushi experience the Monday after Irene swept thru NYC at Sushi Yasuda. Del Poisto cancelled Saturday dinner and I was determined to have a memorable dining experience before leaving NYC. It was; and now I'm hooked, tho' still virtually a novice.
Heading to California and researching sushi spots in the San Diego/La Jolla area, I came across a debate on SD Chowhound about buying one's sushi chef a sake or beer during the course of the meal. Just wondering about this practice. I can't imagine doing such a thing at Sushi Yasuda. All the chefs seemed so impeccably formal, such a custom strikes me as being unseemly and overly familiar.
Is this a Japanese custom? Do Manhattan sushi eaters buy their sushi chefs drinks? Insight and perspective would be most appreciated.
204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017
It's not a practice in Japan at all and not really part of Japanese dining culture to do that sort of thing. But seems to be done here in the U.S. I would consult the regional board regarding the specific restaurant you plan to visit and ask other about other's experiences at that shop. It will come down to individual chefs/restaurants and U.S. dining cultural takes.
I don't have much to add to Silverjay's comment except to say that I have never done or seen it done in [my sushi-filled albeit limited trips to] Japan or in New York, but have both seen it done and done it myself a number of times in L.A. Which might make regional sense given L.A.'s relatively more 'informal' vibe. And I hope I'm not opening up a can of worms here.
When I was an itamae, I had a number of customers who would routinely buy drinks for me, as well as for my colleagues.
I'm not sure mixing alcohol and sharp knives is a particularly good idea. If every patron bought the sushi chef a sake they could end up pretty drunk.
I never pay drinks to sushi chefs (or any other chefs/waiters/barman/woman).
If the service is stellar and the chef gives freebies, then it will be reflected on the tip I leave at the end.
It's a pretty common practice out here in Cali, but I've known 4 sushi chefs on a good acquaintance level, and they all prefer tips. (Which I think I would too.)