I pretty much always go to a pure sushi-ya when I’m going out to eat sushi. If sushi is their core competency, then I know I’m probably in for a good meal. There are, however, Japanese steakhouses (the places with all the fancy foodwork at the table) that also have a sushi bar somewhere on premises. And I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the concept.
The one benefit of a sushi bar in a steakhouse is that, often enough, its not particularly busy and you may get an attentive itamae (chef). And sometimes the food is good. There was one in particular near where I lived a few years ago that was actually quite good. It wasn’t my number one choice, but I always knew I could get in and sit at the bar if my usual places were too full. The itamae was nice and the sushi was good. But I think I was lucky. I don’t mean to disparage the sushi bars at steakhouses, but in my overall experience, they have been sub par. Again, it’s not something they focus on and they may not do the volume of business necessary to keep their items in peak condition. They may not have a particularly diverse selection of items. No specials, no seasonal items. They also may not be able to hire a top itamae.
For high quality sushi I look for a restaurant that specializes in sushi. I don’t want my experience to feel tacked on to another one. That said, you might get lucky at a steakhouse (I have), but you also may not (and I have not). Sushi is something special, even if you eat it frequently, and deserves to be treated as an art, not just a meal. It is best appreciated, instead of being “also available,” lowering itself to merely a fad. I want my sushi to be more than adequate. I’m not convinced that the steakhouse sushi can be that. But if I’m not looking for sushi, I’ll definitely go to one for dinner and a show.
The Sushi Guy
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It’s all about who you know.
A good friend of mine goes regularly to … wait for it … a suburban BENIHANA, of all places, for his sushi fix whenever he’s dining out with family.
As it turns out, the executive sushi chef knows his parents and always sits them down and serves them the best cuts of everything, omakase style.
(In fact, it might explain why the rest of the sushi there is sub-par most of the time).