No Cash for Nobu? Try All-You-Can-Eat Sushi
[New York Times,
By RICHARD MORGAN
Andrew Block, a preppy 25-year-old, had just paid $160 for himself and five friends to feast on all-you-can-eat sushi and half-priced drinks. Actually, one friend had only chicken teriyaki and drinks, but the meal was still one weird dining moment.
With high-end sushi restaurants the latest word in city dining -- Masa at the Time Warner Center and Nobu in TriBeCa are notable examples -- all-you-can-eat sushi sounds a little like all-you-can-wear diamonds. At Nobu, where a single soft-shell crab roll costs $9.50, the bill for a group of six can easily reach $1,000.
But Mr. Block, an events coordinator for a speakers' agency, had his raw fish at Eastern Sushi, which opened in March at 72nd Street and Second Avenue.
Bargain sushi arrived in New York in the late 80's, but such deals are rare. For years, Yuka, at 81st Street and Second Avenue, was the only choice for Upper East Siders. That is, until Eastern Sushi opened just a few blocks south.
As patrons enter Yuka's blue curtain entrance, they can enjoy as much sushi as they want for $17.95, provided they consume it within two hours and pay a la carte prices for any uneaten fish or rice. The deal varies slightly at Eastern Sushi; its all-you-can-eat special costs $19.95, but if a patron eats food that would have cost less than that amount a la carte, he pays the lower price.
Tim Zagat, the restaurant guide publisher and a fan of sea urchin sushi, confirmed that all-you-can-eat runs counter to the pricey trend among sushi purveyors, but explained why such bargains exist. Such deals, he said, tend to feature cheaper sushi, such as tuna or salmon, which is available domestically.
William Tan, Eastern's manager, said that about a dozen diners go for the sushi special each day, making up three-fourths of the restaurant's sushi eaters. Most are couples or large groups of men.
The financial risk to the restaurant is minimal. For Eastern to lose money on the deal, Mr. Tan said, a diner must eat 30 pieces of sushi or 20 hand rolls. ''New Yorkers are slim,'' he said. ''They diet. So we're not too scared.''
Dieting does not seem to be the guideline for Mr. Block, however. ''I'll eat till I'm full and sushi doesn't fill me up much,'' he said. ''I don't eat sushi for the Japanese culture. I eat because I'm hungry.''
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