$40 Omakase at Ematei
Went to Ematei Japanese Restaurant over the weekend. I usually go there to eat ramen, kaki-fry (deep-fried oysters; Ematei's version is lovely and plump, unlike the mangy ones you tend to get at other places) and some saba (mackerel) sashimi, but this time I tried the $40 omakase (Chef's Choice).
I wasn't expecting much for $40, after having experienced the fabulous but much more expensive omakase (approximately $100) at the likes of Sushi Kaji and Hashimoto. Well! What a pleasant surprise. There are seven courses - the night I was there, they offered: amuse-bouche plate, sushi, sashimi, clear soup, fried tofu, tempura softshell crab, teriyaki bass, buckwheat noodles, yokan (sweet bean jelly)....hey, that's more than seven courses. The courses were served at a civilized pace, the presentation was lovely, and the food was great.
You're not getting artisanal, uber-chef food, but it's a wonderful dinner for $40. And I should mention that Ematei is not one of those low-rent, Sushi Time-type restaurants that unfortunately seem to be everywhere these days; it's authentic and old-school Japanese, with a Japanese chef.
We went to Kaji for Omakase recently and found it truly memorable. I've unfortunately become jaded and I also can't stomach the thought of going to the "low rent" sushitime type restaurants. The Chinese/Korean sushi restaurants are good value but they pale against the Japanese operated ones. Funny, although sushi isn't "cooked" it doesn't all taste the same, go authentic Japanese or go home.
Like Heather and mikeyc, I also tend to avoid the low-priced sushi joints operated by non-Japanese. To me, theyre the McDonalds of the sushi world. Im not saying that non-Japanese cant make great sushi; I think Tom Thais sushi at Tempo is phenomenal. Im just saying that you get what you pay for; if you want to pay low prices and stuff yourself stupid with sushi, youll get the weird stuff i.e., improperly handled/seasoned rice, and mediocre fish. And don't even get me started on the refrigerated sushi sold at grocery stores and lunch counters.