Sushi can have a reputation for being quite expensive, especially at high-end restaurants, but do they really offer anything different from ordinary sushi?
Is expensive sushi worth all that money? Yes, and for good reason. Not only are the ingredients used in more expensive sushi costlier to purchase, but they are also procured from more specialized sources. Their preparation methods are also of the highest standard and the chefs who make them are masters who spent years honing their craft.
On that note, price is not everything in deciding which sushi to go for since some establishments can be overpriced. As such, you need to understand what to look for first.
Pricey Sushi VS Regular Sushi, the Difference
The food industry is wide and varied, with prices ranging from the reasonable to the mind-blowing. In the case of sushi, higher prices usually mean better quality but this is not always the case. Broadly speaking, however, you can expect a better experience compared to other forms of sushi.
Just to hammer home just how different these two scenarios can be, just take a look at the table below, which contains details on the different types of sushi with different price tags:
|Sushi Type||Price Range||Description|
|Pre-packaged sushi||$1-$5/pack||Pre-made sushi kept in convenience stores, gas station store, or supermarket chillers. Made of the cheapest ingredients.|
|Restaurant sushi||$5-$20/plate||Made in family restaurants, Japanese restaurants, served via sushi conveyor belts, or regular sushi bars. Reasonably priced, made with high-quality ingredients.|
|High-Class sushi||$100-$2,000/order||More varied in types of service, quality of ingredients, and presentation. It can involve more specialized ingredients, more authentic servings, and unique features.|
The details in that table are a bit of a generalization, but they are actually quite close to what you can expect. Simply put, the price range of sushi can be quite ridiculous since it is a truly versatile dish. What’s more, not everyone is hampered with trying to keep to traditions with it.
It’s basically one of the few dishes in the world that can be both street food and a high-class meal, at the same time. Naturally, a lot of this will depend on where it is coming from and who is making it. In the case of more expensive sushi, you can usually expect such a price range from high-end restaurants.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that not all of these restaurants are going to be Japanese. In fact, so of the most expensive sushi can be found in establishments that offer other food items with cuisine fusion themes. This is where things can get a bit tricky for you.
The worth of expensive sushi can basically be determined by a few things, which makes them distinct from regular sushi. Among the most noteworthy are:
· Quality of ingredients
· Service quality
· Skills of preparation
Ingredients – Simply put, more expensive restaurants serving sushi that are actually worth going to would have much better ingredients than their regular counterparts. It’s not just a matter of freshness, though. There is also the authenticity of things like the wasabi, the types of fish that are served, the vegetables and fruits, and even the condiments will be different.
Importing fish from select places is a common practice in high-end restaurants and the variety of items can be extensive as well. For those who may not be aware of how more traditional establishments serve sushi, the list of fish is huge, to start with.
Everything from the intensity of the taste, the amount of fat, the texture, and the appearance is considered. You have to understand that even with regards to tuna, not all examples of this popular fish species are the same. Truly committed sushi chefs tend to shop for these themselves and they will only go with the best.
The very best sushi bars also tend to have their own special preparations for the ingredients that they serve. This includes the rice, the fillings, and even the nori. As such, you can expect the flavor to be top-notch.
Flavor – Speaking of which, the flavor that comes with sushi is affected by many things, as well. Aside from the fillings, there is also the rice, the nori, the condiments, and the sides. When you eat at more expensive restaurants, every single aspect of the dish is carefully curated so that they complement each other.
This is why it is very important for all parts of the dish to be authentic and done by the ones who will actually prepare them. Many of the best chefs pickled, smoke, dry, and cook the fillings for the sushi that they are going to make themselves.
It’s also not unusual for restaurants to either have sources that they own where they get the ingredients that they use or to have special connections with farms and fishmongers. The importance placed on consistency is also high, so you can expect these items to be prepared and inspected with the highest standard in mind.
Once you taste and compare expensive sushi with cheaper counterparts, you can easily tell just how much passion and effort went into the pricier option. Of course, this only applies to expensive sushi that is actually worth it.
Service Quality – Suffice it to say, the level of service that you can expect from establishments selling expensive sushi will not be the same as those found in less costly dining places. Everyone from the greeter to the chef will all be professional, though, you should understand that attitudes may differ from what you expect.
To start with, the servers are going to be courteous, attentive, efficient, and caring. However, the chefs themselves might be brisk, professional, and organized. Do not expect the back of the house to have the same level of patience as the front, so always make sure to act accordingly.
To that end, if you are going to eat at super expensive sushi bars where you will be served by chefs directly at the counter, you can interact with them a bit. You can exchange greetings and they will be warm in their response at the start. However, once they get going, do not expect them to be chatty.
They will serve you your sushi, explain what they are with a smile, and then get started with the next piece. Be understanding and simply enjoy each plate given to you. This is the kind of thing that is just the norm at high-end places.
Skills – Sushi chefs are among the most meticulous food specialists in the world. Every single cut, every single item chosen, and every single movement is designed for efficiency and effectiveness. Their whole day revolves around making sure that each and every single piece on your plate is the best that they can offer. For many, this is the real reason why expensive sushi is worth it.
The care and consistency that goes into every dish are maintained at the highest standards and you can expect to have the same experience the next time as you did the first time, if not better. In many cases, the price that comes with the expensive establishments is more a response to the economy than anything else.
Master sushi chefs basically want to maintain the quality of the food they make and if the ingredients, the market, and the laws make procurement costlier, the price would naturally follow. Too many restaurants make concessions with regards to the quality of their food in order to keep them affordable, to the detriment of customer satisfaction.
Variety – As already pointed out, the list of ingredients that sushi can have is huge and this is another reason why high-end places can be so pricey. Just as an example, you can expect the selection of fish in cheaper restaurants to be limited only to tuna, mackerel, or salmon. These are not really bad, but they don’t exactly provide that wide of a spectrum in terms of flavor.
In the best sushi bars, the list of fish that you can be served can be in the dozens. They range from the mildest in flavor to the most intense. Sweetness, firmness, smoothness, fattiness, and appearance are all considered beforehand. Seafood is also often on the menu, include oysters and sea urchins, and those are just the fresh ingredients.
Sushi can also be topped with different types of egg items, smoked food, dried products, pickled ingredients, and so much more. Procuring and maintaining such extensive selections can be a costly affair, with some requiring the establishment to source them from very specific regions. This is why their sushi can be expensive.
Reputation – Another factor that can go into why the best sushi restaurants can be expensive is their reputation. Sushi chefs work hard to maintain a certain image and this image tends to be that of uncompromising quality. Naturally, skills, lineage, and even the customers can factor into this aspect, which makes the establishment worth going to.
On that note, this can make the restaurant a bit difficult to access for a few reasons. If the place accepts reservations, sushi bars can be compared to restaurants with three Michelin stars in that they are booked months in advance. There are also restaurants that are difficult to reach because they are in such remote locations.
Finally, there are restaurants that are very selective with regards to their clientele. They will either only serve those who are members of the upper class or they will only admit customers who have been referred to them. These types of establishments are at the extreme end of the spectrum and are quite rare. However, they are known for serving more exotic dishes.
Experience – Then there is the matter of the experience that comes with eating at a high-class restaurant. This is where all of the factors above come together to provide you with the kind of dining conditions that you really won’t get at cheaper restaurants.
You can really feel that your needs are attended to, that the staff is truly professional, and that you are not being taken for granted. The chefs themselves will go out of their way to show you just how they make the sushi so that you can judge the quality of their work for yourself.
Aside from the dishes, everything else about the place should provide you with a sense of quality. This includes the ambiance, the beverages, the attitude of the diners, the dinnerware, and the utensils. All of that combined leaves you feeling like the experience is worth every penny you spent and justifies the bill that you get afterward.
Why Spend So Much on Sushi?
With all of that said, do you really want to spend so much money on sushi that is just going to end up like its much cheaper alternatives, anyway? As with anything, the choice will ultimately be up to you. However, if you are looking for reasons why it would be worth doing even once, the following can be the answer:
· Palpable difference in quality
· Memorable experience
· Truly filling
· Worth every cent
If we are going to talk about the reasons why trying expensive sushi is worth your time, at the top of the list would definitely have to be the difference in quality, which is huge. If you have every eaten cheap or even just mid-range restaurant-quality sushi, you know that there can be a lot to be desired. The rice can be too dry, the fish too tough, and the form too wonky.
When you eat at a truly high-end sushi restaurant that takes its food seriously, however, none of these are going to be an issue. You will be getting an elevated dining experience in terms of appearance, taste, smell, and variety.
The freshness of the fish that you are going to get is simply beyond compare. The quality of the oils, fats, sauces, and flavorings are also incredible. The moment you take that first bite, you will immediately be able to tell the difference, especially when you eat the sushi the right way.
Eating at a high-end sushi restaurant is also worth it because it is an experience that you are not going to forget. Ignoring the potential bill for a second, which is bound to be difficult, this type of dining situation is just going to stand out. When you think about it, of all of the restaurants and dishes that you have tried, how many of them have actually stuck around in your memory.
The good food, excellent service, and amazing authenticity will stick with you when eating at a sushi restaurant that is worth the money. This is something that you can take with you for years and now you understand what a difference in quality dining can actually be.
It’s also worth pointing out that sushi restaurants that charge you a lot of money for sushi are practically guaranteed to fill you up. Never underestimate the density of the dishes that you are going to be served. Every single piece is already packed but when they are provided to you in a huge platter or a continuous stream, you are practically guaranteed to burst.
Of course, this will depend entirely on how the operation of the restaurant is actually done. In the case of sushi bars, you will be served sushi piece by piece as the chef makes them. By the end of the last item, you will be ready to lie down and go to sleep.
In cases where sushi is served by the platter or the box, you should also expect each of them to be of sharing size. If the restaurant is any good, they are not going to be stingy in the quantity of the food they are going to give you, along with the quality.
Speaking of which, unlike with other restaurants that might give you the feeling that you paid more than you should have, good high-end sushi establishments are worth every penny. This is because the goal is not usually to get rich. Master chefs who prepare sushi spend that money on getting high-quality ingredients. You truly get what you pay for.
Why Expensive Does Not Automatically Mean Good?
Although this article has so far been praising expensive sushi as basically the better option when it comes to eating the Japanese dish, this does not necessarily apply to all restaurants. In fact, depending on your preference, you might want to actively try to avoid eating at such places. This is because these restaurants can be:
· Involved in unethical practices
· Only interested in profits
· Ridiculous in their offers
To start with, there are just some restaurants that are selling sushi at unbelievably exorbitant prices while the quality of the products does not reflect the costs. This can come in the form of the ingredients being of common origins, the chef being unskilled, or the freshness being unsatisfactory.
Simply put, there are restaurants offering pricey sushi while providing items that are practically no better than what you would get at mid-range places. If this is the case, you might as well save your money and just go with the cheaper option.
There are also expensive restaurants that serve sushi through unethical, immoral, or downright illegal methods. They break rules in how they procure their ingredients, ignore responsible practices, and even deal with criminals in order to get specialized items.
Restaurants that treat their staff poorly also do not deserve your patronage, so it would simply be for the best for you to avoid those kinds of places. If you were to eat at those kinds of establishments, it will only leave a poor taste in your mouth, thus ruining the experience. That would be the same as flushing money down the toilet.
As for restaurants that are only interested in profits, these can come in two flavors. One offers high-quality sushi that underpays staff. The other overcharges you with hidden charges that you did not knowingly pay for. In a way, these are the types of restaurants that you would want to avoid the most.
Then there are the restaurants that are basically frauds. They masquerade as genuine sushi establishments but this is just not the case. They offer dishes that are hardly sushi, which is made by chefs who were not trained in the traditional sense, and are basically coasting on ambiance.
If you don’t mind being ripped off while eating something that only looks like it could be sushi, go ahead and eat at these kinds of places. However, you can never say that you got your money’s worth since you did not get a reciprocal dining experience.
Finally, there are restaurants that you simply have to avoid because what they are serving can no longer be considered sushi just because of how ridiculous they are. True sushi chefs value providing customers with fresh ingredients that are made with love and care. They do not rely on gimmicks to draw in diners.
On the other hand, there are restaurants that try to stand out by making their sushi dishes as unique as possible. They do so by using such ingredients as edible gold and even throwing in actual gems on the plate that you can’t even eat. They do this to jack up the prices of every dish even though they are a betrayal of everything a true Japanese sushi chef is supposed to be.
How Expensive Should Sushi Be?
Sushi should only be as expensive as its quality is. If you are paying hundreds of dollars for a single plate, every single piece must be made with the freshest ingredients and with the greatest care. Normally, they also come with great sides and huge quantities that will fill you up.
What Makes Sushi Pricey?
The price of sushi can depend on several things, including the location, the quality of the ingredients, the skills of the chef, and the accompanying items that come with every dish. You can justify your patronage of a restaurant after looking at all of those factors.
Choosing the Right Sushi Restaurant
In order to fully enjoy the sushi that you are going to eat, it is extremely important that you choose the right restaurant that you are going to dine in. Your choice is going to set off a landslide of events that will either end with you feeling happy with the results or regretting the money that you spent. As such, if you are willing to spend so much money on sushi, find a restaurant that:
· Has traditionally trained chefs
· Has a good reputation
· Uses the freshest ingredients
· Pays and treats its staff well
The biggest factor that should go into whether or not you are going to pay a lot of money for sushi in a restaurant is the chef that they have. To be clear, the chef does not need to be Japanese in order to be qualified to make sushi. They just need to be trained in the traditional manner and spent years honing their craft.
You do not want to spend money in a restaurant where the chef simply imitated the kinds of dishes they believe is sushi. This Japanese food item is not just about looking the part, after all. The process is also part of the experience and you will be missing out without that.
Another factor to take into consideration is the reputation of a restaurant. Please do not go on yelp to get information on a particular establishment since the feedback there is more often shallow and unhelpful than not. Instead, check out food blogs and YouTube channels.
If the restaurant is actually any good, chances are high that it has already been reviewed by a prominent blogger or critic. You will get more details and explanations, which will allow you to make your own decision as to whether an establishment is worth your money or not.
Another reason why blogs and video reviews are important is how they talk about the quality of the ingredients used. There is no way that competent critics will not mention the freshness and origins of the ingredients that the sushi dishes are made of. If you are satisfied with what you read or hear, then you are much closer to making a good decision.
Finally, if you are interested in fair practices and ethical business operations, the wages and treatment of the staff at a restaurant will be of interest to you. Knowing that you are supporting a business that is treating its workers poorly can lead to an unpleasant experience for you.
Making Your Own Expensive Sushi
Having said all of that, you can actually make your own sushi that is comparable to that which can be found at more expensive restaurants. Of course, you are unlikely to be able to do what master sushi chefs are capable of, but you can procure similar ingredients. Naturally, you would need to be willing to spend the money on it.
You can start by buying fish that are of the highest quality. These are not likely to be found at your local grocery stores. You will need to go to the market for them or specialty shops. Once you get there, you need to check the quality.
Doing some research is advised here since you need to be able to judge the characteristics of ingredients like fish. Among the qualities to watch out for is the color of the flesh, the smell, the texture, and the firmness, and this applies just to fish. There are a ton of other ingredients that you can use and you need to look into the ones that you want to get.
Once you have all of the expensive ingredients, it’s time to make them carefully and this might require you to get the right tools. Sushi knives, boards, mats, and grater all lend to enhancing the experience. This means that you might need to get them.
Finally, it is time to cook and form sushi. Fortunately, there are a ton of professional websites and YouTube channels to help you there. Watch, learn, and practice, and you will be on your way to making expensive sushi at home.