I'm sorry to say I probably won't be hurrying back to Yuzu. This reassessment had been a long time coming, actually. I'd noted, with some unease as the average price for a plate of two nigiri crept up on recent visits past $6, and then hit $6.75 (remember, this is including a 20 percent gratuity). Today's box score at lunch: Nine plates for $70 ($7.77 per plate). And, no that didn't include any toro or uni. Ouch.
Arima-san is an artist, and should be granted some artistic license. But he's now consciously placed himself on par with Sakae, Sam's and Kaygetsu. Considering how half of my Peninsula top ten -- Hotaru, Higuma, Fuki, Akane and SushiYa -- are consistently delivering superior quality and still managing to hold the line right around $5 a plate, I regret to say that Yuzu has priced itself beyond this Sushi Monster's reach.
If Arima had the deep, deep white board of special tane that puts Sakae and Sam's in a class by themselves, that might be one thing, but I haven't seen that breadth in recent visits.
If the front service or the experience at the bar were superior, I might factor those in, but I waited damn near an hour to get a warm-up on my tea. I was acutely aware of this because I *needed* a refill on the tea in the worst way, considering the flat-out overapplication of wasabe on the aji and the madai, both very subtle fish. These are the kind of missteps you don't want to see from anyone at this elite level.
Don't misconstrue what I'm getting at by knocking Yuzu down three notches. The fish is still absolutely top quality. Particularly the masu (ocean trout) and kanpachi. He does get Japanese special fish that don't show up on many white boards on the Peninsula. But considering the competitive landscape, $70 for a lunch that was just good -- but not great, or even memorable -- represents a poor value no matter how you swing the hocho. Kitsho in Cupertino, (at a ruinous $7.95 per average plate recently) is the only other establishment so far out of whack with the median. Unfortunately, Kuni in Cupertino and Tomi in Mountain View seem to be vying to join the dubious big-spender club.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Peninsula top ten now looks like this. Remember, the first number is the total lunch tab including 20 percent tip, w/o any beverage other than tea. The second number is the price for an average nigiri plate, also factoring in a 20 percent tip. These figures are an aggregation of more than a half-dozen visits to each of these sushiya except Sakae and Sam's.
1) Sakae, Burlingame. ($113/$8)
2) SushiYa, Palo Alto. ($36.75/$5.40)
3) Higuma, Redwood City. ($31.35/$4.75)
4) Sushi Sam's Edomata, San Mateo. ($50.50/$7)
5) Naomi, Menlo Park. ($42/$6)
6) Akane, Los Altos. ($47.60/$5.25)
7) Yuzu, San Mateo. ($54.30/$6.50)
8) Koma, Menlo Park. ($53.30/$6.375)
9) Fuki Sushi, Palo Alto. ($54/$5.75)
10) Hotaru, San Mateo ($29/$4.10)