New York's top-shelf sushi surges past $1,000 a meal

Transport costs, rice drought and labor shortage put restaurants in a bind

Nikkein -- May 09
Eating at a high-end sushi restaurant in New York City can set you back by four figures these days, with the bill pushed up by costs for shipping, ingredients and labor.

Masa, whose cuisine has earned the top Michelin rating of three stars, charges $950 for an omakase ("chef's choice") course at the counter. With drinks and taxes, the check easily tops $1,000. Omakase sushi cost $850 at Masa not long ago.

Tasting Table, a website covering New York's dining scene, warned in January that "if you haven't enjoyed an omasake in a while and are itching for the experience, it may be a good idea to call ahead and find out whether prices at your favorite sushi restaurant have changed."

"Thanks to a number of problems, your omakase (which may have already carried a hefty price tag) could well have become pricier," it said.

Most high-end sushi restaurants import their seafood and wasabi. Many sushi chefs are said to prefer Japanese imports because of major differences in how freshly caught fish are prepared in the U.S.

But air cargo prices have shot up in the coronavirus era. For freight bound from Hong Kong to North America, the average cost to transport 1 kg jumped from $3.62 in 2019 to $8.18 in March 2022, according to some surveys.

In addition, prices for short-grained sushi rice from California have soared to their highest levels in the past decade, owing to years of drought in the state and lower crop yields. ...continue reading