Any lover of good quality sushi knows that if you’re going to enjoy toro or uni, you probably aren’t going to enjoy getting the bill. That’s the lesson that Vice contributor Chris Galletta and his friend Matt learned after eating at a New York sushi restaurant opened by a sushi chef trained by Jiro Ono, the greatest sushi master in the world.
Galletta and his friend Matt had planned to watch the play “Waiting for Godot” starring actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Before going to watch the play, however, the two friend’s decided to try what was supposed to be a great sushi place nearby. Galletta detailed his hilarious misadventure:
“Not too far from the theater, it turned out, one of Jiro’s protégés had opened his own sushi restaurant. It was supposed to be transcendent. And so it was decided: We would fill our bellies with potent, nutrient-dense raw fish and then listen to Magneto and Professor X say some old words.”
As they entered the restaurant, they were greeted by the extremely polite staff and were encouraged to sit at the bar. Jiro’s protégé, Toma, was there that night to serve the two what might be some of the best sushi in New York. They proceeded to enjoy themselves.
“We started with tuna, then fatty tuna. Then upped the stakes to toro. After each roll, the wait staff would remove our plates and bring new ones, along with a fresh set of hot towels. Chopsticks were discouraged and so were any dipping sauces. (Even soy sauce!) It was like being on Mars. Or perhaps like being in Japan.”
After the tuna, they moved on to uni:
“The uni was particularly good. Uni is sea urchin, which has a disarmingly soft consistency—imagine frozen yogurt that tastes like the bottom of a sailboat. I loved the stuff."
But as the friends were enjoying themselves, the thought that this excellent food and service they were enjoying must come at a price.
“At a certain point, Matt leaned over to me and said, ‘This is gonna cost us.’ I agreed; the food was incredible and the service peerless.
“But we were prepared to pony up at least one hundred. Maybe 150.”
Amazing sushi served by a sushi chef trained by Jiro himself for just $150? Only a rookie would be so naive:
“When the bill came, we took a deep breath. ‘This is going to be more expensive than the tickets,’ I joked. We opened it together, like shitty Golden Globe presenters.
“The bill read one-one-zero-zero. Eleven hundred. One-thousand one-hundred. $1,100. Dollars.
“As I mentioned, I write for a living. I didn’t have $1,100. Matt didn’t either."
As the two friends were slapped in the face with an unexpectedly large bill, they panicked trying to think about what they would do next.
“My immediate reaction was that it was a misprint. ‘No, no, we need the bill in regular dollars,’ I said, assuming the number in front of me was in yen. The place was authentic, why stop at the bill? Alas, it was eleven hundred American dollars. The wait staff, to their credit, calmly pointed out that the bill was correct and what had really happened here was that the uni was ‘fresh.'”
A piece of the fresh uni they so enjoyed had easily racked up $100 each. Galletta contemplated jumping out the window to escape the bill, but Matt had a more rational plan:
“Matt had a plan. ‘Here’s what we’ll do,’ he said. ‘I’ll put it all on my credit card. Then I’ll call the card company, and I’ll fight it. I’ll fight the purchase.'”
Then another panicked thought dawned on them:
“‘Shit. We can’t not tip them.’ And of course, he was right. The service was first-rate. What’s 20 percent on top of $1,100? More than my last week’s worth of food, easily.”
A bill for $1,100 plus $220 for tip. The painful numbers continued to traumatize the friends as they headed to the theater to watch the play:
“On the walk to the theater, Matt kept mumbling ‘… gonna fight it, that’s all… fight the purchase…’ I walked to an ATM right after the theater and took that very large sum out of my savings account and paid him cash.”
“We agreed next time we’d just order a pizza and watch X-Men, because I still don’t remember a word of that fucking play.”
The lesson here is that good sushi, and I mean THE BEST, served omakase by a chef trained by THE BEST sushi master in the world, at a restaurant in New York City, no less, is NEVER going to be cheap.
Still, it makes for a hilarious and lifelong story to tell.