Monday, June 12, 2006

Sushi Is Overrated...Yeah, I Wrote It

No really, sushi is overrated and incredibly overpriced. Sushi is not worth the price for what and how much you get. From California rolls to shrimp tempura, sushi is not worth the cost nor risk that comes from eating raw seafood. I'm not saying sushi is awful, but I am not in love with it as many claim to be.



That's a lot of sushi.

Ordering sushi at most legit sushi restaurants isn't difficult since you usually just mark how many of each type you want. Once the food arrives the activity of actually eating sushi is pretty solid. From someone like myself who cuts food like a caveman, chopsticks present a hilariously awkward challenge. The food is presented nicely on a platter or wooden block and stuffing your face begins. Of course I tend to put a bit too much wasabi on my sushi (partly because I can't portion control it well with two large toothpicks as utensils).



He's laughing all the way to the bank.

A typical sushi meal will consist of three things: food wrapped in seaweed or rice, food that has been fried, and food placed on a cube of white rice. The food is (thankfully for my intestinal tract) quite fresh (still being raw afterall) and easy to eat since you don't really have to chew too much. It's a good thing you don't need much chewing because when you order "that fish I've never had before," you usually realize you will never order it again either. Perhaps it's an "acquired taste" like coffee, beer, wine, chopped liver, and gefilte fish, but I don't have it.


Is the sushi experience a scam?

I've gone to sushi restaurants and do know the difference between just-prepared sushi a few feet from my table and sushi prepared within the last (few?) days available at the local supermarket. However, even when I eat restaurant-grade sushi, it just doesn't leave me eager to figure out how soon I could eat there again. The food is so simple that I'm completely underwhelmed.

A typical sushi roll of 4-6 pieces consists of: 1 tablespoon of rice, 2/3 slice of cucumber, a teaspoon of raw tuna, and 1 teaspoon of some avocado-like vegetable. Wow, all that for $5! What a bargain! I sure hope I have room for seconds! Sushi restaurant owners must laugh that they can charge what they do for such little food that doesn't even have to be cooked. Fine, throw in some labor consideration, but if Alton Brown on Good Eats can teach you how to roll like a pro, some of the price has yet to be explained.



While anything fried tastes good, this isn't so "exotic".

Besides your typical sushi roll, there's also tempura which is nothing more than seafood or vegetable fried in some luscious oil. Please. Fried food is everywhere from fried chicken to friend twinkies. At least rolled sushi is something you can't find at Wendy's. Speaking of which, they're changing to a new oil in August that will cut the amount of trans fat by 95%. All the more reason to get the best combo meal - a spicy chicken sandwich, fries, and of course a frostie (just ask them to switch). That has always been one of the most reliable meals out there. If only I were to combine the sandwich and frostie with McD's fries and sweet and sour sauce...now that's a dream meal, but I digress. Simply frying some vegetable is not worth the cost nor artery clogging. (Of course a spicy chicken sandwich is clearly worth both.)



And this is impressive how?

The last sushi category is the piece of seafood or vegetable on a pack of gum-sized cube of white rice. Is this really that great tasting or special? I always steer clear of this menu offer since it is such a waste of my money and the cook's time to make it (which of course is all of 5 seconds). Even if you put high quality raw fish on the rice, this dish wouldn't be worth ordering. My dad always tries ordering things he (or my mom) couldn't make himself or at least would challenge the kitchen's chef and a piece of shrimp on boil-in-a-bag rice doesn't make the cut.



Sushi tastes good, but just realize what you're really paying for.

I've gone to Cafe Asia (before and after the management change) and plenty of other sushi joints around the country, including Ebisu in San Francisco, but I can't tell which one offered good sushi. Fresh sushi tastes the same at every restaurant. All I know is if it's not from a supermarket, then it will taste fresh, but will definitely cost more for less food.

If you're unsure of my feelings, know that I don't hate sushi, but I also don't go out of my way to eat it more than twice a year. I think the whole sushi craze is way overblown, overrated, and certainly overpriced. The only difference between restaurant sushi and visiting the beach to stuff some seaweed in your mouth and then bite into the side of a freshly-caught salmon is one offers tables, chairs, and a toilet, while the other is free, offers plenty of salt water, and always gets sand in all the wrong places. Maybe because of the sand I should stick with the restaurant.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

if you can't tell the difference between good and mediocre sashimi, chances are that you haven't had quality sashimi/sushi before. you just need to train your palate.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I've been a big fan of sushi for many years, and I can ALWAYS tell the difference between really good sushi, good sushi, and mediocre sushi. I love sushi. I don't care what the price is, as long as it's good, it's worth it to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with both comments. Why do you think people pay so much for it? It's worth it, that's why. I think sushi is amazing and delicious, and not to mention incredibly healthy (the vegetable, seaweed and rice part; raw fish is sometimes risky)
Anyway, maybe you just haven't had really good sushi because I can ALWAYS tell the difference.

B and T Crowd said...

Good points all around. My palate could use some good training.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the rest, I can also tell the difference between good sushi and medicore sushi as well, infact I got so opssesed with sushi. I sometimes cant afford going out and spending $80 on a meal for me and my husband whenever we crave it, so I decided to do it at home my self, it sure saved me a whole lot of money and it tastes just as good. and surprisenley very asy to make :)

Stephanie said...

I really enjoyed reading your post! I have to say; I really do enjoy sushi. BUT, I agree with you; it is a craze and this is partly why sushi is so overpriced. I was also having this conversation with somebody who had recently opened a very popular/(yes, high-priced) japanese restaurant, and he mentioned that his major hole-in-the-budget was the cost of the fresh ingredients and the shipment. But still, buy it yourself, roll it yourself (and yes, it IS THAT easy), and avoid all the theater-play setting of any japanese restaurant (it's nice to look at but seriously... we get it), which is also what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

i just have to say that sushi is harder to make than it looks. my cousin and i have tried before (and you would think it would simple for us since we're asian and have made hand rolls before) but to make that bit of rice for the fish was damn hard. the consistency's never right or the balance between the vinegar and other ingredients is wrong. it takes a lot of practice to make decent sushi so even if i agree that it is a bit overpriced in some restaurants the sushi chefs have to be extremely skilled to make the orders

Ben said...

the value of an item is what the customer is willing to pay for it.

sushi is popular and "in", so it's going to cost more than what the materials and time are actually "worth". the item has a high perceived value, so people are willing to pay more...

I like sushi alright; I refuse to pay restaurant prices for it :P I always just pick some up from the grocery store, if I'm feeling in the mood for it.

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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 also agree many can be an acquired taste (like sea urchin and raw squid), and most sushi is safe, as sushi chefs are usually very well trained in spotting unfresh or parasite-infested meat, so just avoid eating at sketchy sushi restaurants and you should be fine :).

Neil said...

i would have to disagree with the write up. i come from ireland and only tasted sushi when i moved to canada and i must say its the nicest thing ive ever had the pleasure of eating. sure a piece of nigri at $3 a pop seems very expensive but if you actually look into the whole process and not just what looks like a tiny piece of fish on sushi rice then you gain a greater apprication for what your eating and i guess all that aside, nobody ever put a gun to your head and made you buy it so i cant really see the credit of your write up.

..::dartigen::.. said...

You hvae some good points - hard to tell good from bad, especially if you've never had really high-quality sushi.
And $5 seems a lot - here, the most you'd pay (per roll) is about $2-$3, depending on the place. Most of our sushi restaurants in Australia are take-away style (i.e. they just sell sushi, there's usually no chairs, you're meant to just buy it and go) so that may be why.
One thing though - sushi can taste very bland to people who aren't used to it. I used to buy two sushi rolls every morning before school (have since moved house and can't do that anymore) and that would usually be my second breakfast. The rice part is very filling, so 2-3 rolls is like a meal to me. Also, it's probably the least messy food you can eat - slightly off-topic, but rumour has it that sushi was invented by poker players, who needed a way to eat their meals without their fingers sticking to the cards afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Sushi is my favorite food and I'd be willing to pay any price for it, that's how wonderfull it is. I work in a bar and once a sushi chef was drinking and i struck up a converation with him. It takes about 7 or 8 years of training to make sushi, how to properly cut the slab of raw fish. Sushi restaurants are popular because the food is delicious and it is in high demand because of that reason. If it was a rip-off or a gimmick then they would not have been around for so long.

Anonymous said...

... I'd sell my soul for sushi....

FuzzyPeach said...

I LOVE SUSHI!!!!!

You guys are complaining about the price of Sushi in the U.S....you should try getting good sushi in England for the same price!!! Near impossible.

The nearest Sushi restaurant to me is Yo Sushi, mediocre and not cheap! They charge you for water for gods sake.

My experience of Sushi in the U.S was really good. Great avocado rolls, I dream of Sushi that good again lol

: D

Anonymous said...

Your review was incredibly bias and bears no credibility.

B and T Crowd said...

Just as an anonymous comment on said review carries zero bias and complete credibility.

Anonymous said...

The first time I ate sushi in my life, it had a weird, foregn taste. I didn't think that I actually were going to eat it again, but I did.
I got used to the taste and consistency more and more, and here I am - totally addicted.
Now, I make my own maki's!

Sushi is a great masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Ive never eaten Sushi, Ive been intrigued by your comments but Ive just made sushi as part of a sugarcraft competition and youre right, the rice is incredibly difficult to make (in sugarcraft anyway). An interesting site

phuong said...

Hi all,
I am a fan of sushi too. In my country, there are some famous sushi restaurants. I really love it and I've ever tried to make it twice but the rice was not good. As you said, It's so difficult. Could you pls share with me some advices how to cook and make it well? Thanks alot/ Thao

Anonymous said...

I see some of your points, but I disagree.

first of all I do agree it is probably to an extent overblown and some hipsters flaunt their "love" of sushi just like any other fad out there.

but as for being overpriced - most of the more expensive Japanese restaurants are no more overpriced than other western restaurants which emphasize cleanliness, top quality ingredients and ambiance along with the actual food itself. and making sushi isn't just about the rolling, sushi chefs are trained to inspect for worms in sashimi, amongst other precautions.

you can simplify sushi to being nothing more than rolls of rice and a topping or filling, etc. but believe me eating a bowl of rice and some seafood would not have the same effect.

it's like how chefs stress that one of the most important aspects to good tasting food is the preparation. how a vegetable is washed, cleaned and then how it's CHOPPED is a huge factor in not only how it looks but ultimately how it cooks and tastes. the way that sushi is tightly formed into a small package makes it so that all of the flavors explode in your mouth at once. that's what makes it different. and all of the different flavors/rolls chefs can come up with at any given restaurant.

also, although I don't often order sashimi, for lovers of raw fish it is much safer to enjoy it at a sushi restaurant where the risk of infection is lower.

the prices of different cuisines may seem disproportionate based on the quality or quantity of food but besides the ambience there are also other factors at play. japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world, japanese goods are almost across the board expensive.

Anonymous said...

Join the Facebook Group 'Sushi is Overrated'

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sushi-is-Overrated/47708744555?ref=ts

Anonymous said...

Go eat a nasty fat filled Big Mac and fries if you don't like sushi/sashimi! Then wash it down with a coke and get OBESE.

Sushi is filling first of all. Second, you pay for FRESHLY prepared and well-presented rolls. Third, it's healthy, so I can justify the high prices.

Oh and risk of eating raw fish is no different than risk of tainted beef, or improperly cooked RARE steak. Live a little!

Anonymous said...

Agree with you 110% my man.

I don't mind getting sushi at all-you-can-eat places because then at least I feel like I'm getting some value and will come out of there full. $5 for a tiny little plastic tray of 6 rolls, or $120+ for "omakase" (food snob talk for "let the chef screw me up the ass so I can brag about it on Chowhound later") are just a total waste of money. P.T. Barnum said there's a sucker born every minute, anybody who pays significant coin for sushi is clearly who he was talking about. My $120 can go to better use elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this review, remember, he didn't say sushi tastes BAD, just that it is overpriced. And I for one agree, I have never eaten sushi that left me feeling like "wow, this was totally worth the cost and I should have more." Sure it tasted ok, but that was all, and I don't have any care or preference for Japanese culture either.

Overpriced sums it up, especially for what you're getting. People can decry it and call it delicious till the cows come home, that doesn't make it less overpriced or magically delicious.

GuyverXT9 said...

Just roll your own sushi. It's quite easy after the first 3 attempts and a hell of a lot cheaper. I'd say you get about 3 times more sushi as opposed to what you'd pay in a restaurant. Just make sure you get quality ingredients.

Anonymous said...

if you have to "train" your palate to know if a meal is good...THE MEAL SUCKS! The funny thing is sushi is not a big deal in japan. idiots.

Anonymous said...

sushi is overrated. full stop.

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with your review. This sushi craze is completely insane, especially here in Australia. All these "sushiphiles" gushing about how great this crap is. Seriously they need to get their heads out of their arses, and see sushi for what it really is; overpriced, overrated and a complete scam.

Anonymous said...

A hilarious article that makes me laugh, especially the ending. Good job, Author! I am starting to hink suchi IS overrated - but maybe here in belarus it does make sense, since we don't have the ocean or any body of water that woudl have tuna fish )) Otherwise I woudl be biting in it right now!

Anonymous said...

you never made sushi have you? 5 seconds to make nigiri? Don't think so my friend, even with a mold.

You can choose to eat at greasy spoons (compare Wendy's to sushi. good grief!) or eat somewhere where you will leave with a full (but not overly so) stomach, filled with top quality fresh ingredients, that are seasoned by pros.

Whether you pay 30$ at the keg for a meal, 15$ at Wendy's for ... whatever, or 15$ at a sushi place depends on you really. 30$ for a tiny piece of steak, a wrinkled baked potato and hard as rock veggies? that's not overpriced? try making it at home, properly. you may have a little more respect for the craft. (and it IS art).

Anonymous said...

Overrated, I so agree. I've been taken - many times - to "THE BEST" Sushi places in cities I've visited w/ sushi-loving friends. Very fresh, beautifully presented. I would never argue that the ingredients themselves aren't wonderful / well-prepared / fresh. Still, I always leave thinking, "Meh." I never think to myself, "God I can't wait to do that again." I liken it to how I feel about a baked chicken breast. It's good, and sometimes I even order it out at restaurants, but it's never crave-worthy.

Anonymous said...

i have never had sushi at a restaurant, but i can pretty much agree that sushi is overrated, and most people who say they just LOVE it are snobby, obnoxious people.