Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Rainbow Roll?

Many Japanese hotels or ryokan (inns) as they are called are constructed of knotty wood. The proprietors of these ryokan determine the rates for certain rooms on the basis of the rustic quality of the wood that is visible to guest. And in accordance with aesthetic principle of Ki, humility in wood, the more knotted or imperfect the wood, the more the proprietors charge for the room.

I learned of this years ago while preparing a campaign for a luxury Japanese automaker.

Japanese culture is fascinating. There is so much to love about it: the food, the architecture, the cinema, the quiet women. And yet while much of Japanese culture has successfully found a home here in the US, there are certain customs that will never gain a foothold.

Omakase, for example.

Weeks ago I ventured into a highly-recommended Sushi restaurant on the westside. I asked for a menu, but the waitress informed me they only serve Omakase style, which for the uninformed, means the chef will literally pick what you eat. Having worked up a good hankering for spicy tuna roll, I reluctantly agreed.

But I shouldn't have. Because spicy tuna roll was the last thing the chef had any intention of serving. Instead I was greeted with a progression of ugly yellow, purple and brown-speckled fish that didn't resemble anything that had ever passed over my lips. And while I was able to fight back the gag reflex on the meal, the bill for the extravaganza presented a completely new challenge.

You see, with Omakase you not only forfeit the right to choose what you eat, you also forfeit the right to see what you'll be paying for the aforementioned fish. I'm no Tea Partier but we Americans will not stand for Mastication without Representation.

And while it may be unfair to compare fine sushi to the fare at Burger King, the Japanese would be doing themselves a favor by studying and understanding the western wisdom of, "hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us."


1 comment:

Alan said...

I'm sure it's not honorable to stick your clients with only High Rent roll but it must be tempting. Sounds like Omakase could be financial Kamikazi if your Sushi Chef isn't going to be able to make the next lease payment on his Toyota. Konichiwa Ritchie-san. OOPs evening, that would be kombanwa!!

Al