I really love sushi. But being that I’m also poor, the sushi joints I go to tend to be a little shady, all-you-can-eat, 50 percent off when you pay cash and housed in dingy corners of town.
On most nights when we are craving sushi, my boyfriend, Mike, and I tend to head to Kumo Asian Bistro, a much-untapped sushi restaurant in downtown Somerville that offers all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi for $23 per person on a weekday and $25 per person on a weekend. The huge restaurant, which has incredibly fresh fish for what you pay, tends to be mostly empty, quiet and relaxing.
However, last night, I really wanted to try Shumi, a high-end Somerville sushi eatery that has frequently been called New Jersey’s best sushi restaurant. Mike told me, “Just so you know, it’s a little expensive,” but we had no idea the hits our wallets would be taking until much later.
We headed into the tiny restaurant, oddly housed inside what seems to be a Somerville office building at 30 S Doughty Ave but has much ambiance once you get inside the eatery itself. No one else was there and no music played which was weird, but this only added to its exclusive vibe.
We checked out the menu and ordered Omakase, which read “$50+” and was described as a chef’s samplings of various sushi and sashimi. It was only after we ordered that I noticed it was in the ‘Appetizers’ section of the menu, so I hoped it would be enough food.
It definitely was. The sushi chef probably gave us each around 20 pieces of sushi one by one, letting us know what was in each one and how it should be eaten. It was truly the best sushi I have ever had and clearly drew the line between other sushi restaurants and Shumi.
At no point did the chef ever ask, ‘Are you done?’ or ‘Would you like this as well?’
When he seemed to have provided us with all that was offered in the Omakase sampling, we got the bill. I reached over to take it from Mike’s hands when I saw his face drop. When I saw the total, I realized why.
And, that’s $234 with not a drop of alcohol – although it does include two appetizers. On the bill, it read that the Omakase cost $194 for the both of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind dropping a chunk of change on a beautiful meal a few times a year – for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. But for a Tuesday night meal?
We called the server over and asked if there had been some mistake. She said no and showed us a list of the sushi pieces we had gotten from the chef, which accrued to $194.
I couldn’t believe how deceitful this was.
First of all, it said ‘$50+,’ which I would assume could spiral to $75 or so a person, but not double it. Secondly, at no point were we asked, ‘Would you like to add this on?’ Instead, the chef simply added everything on himself – which, don’t get me wrong, tasted amazing – but I was simply not financially prepared for.
Thirdly, as my coworker Bob pointed out, it’s not like this was a restaurant in the Hamptons or Beverly Hills, where one can expect to spend money like that and both the restaurant and patrons know it. Instead, this occurred in downtown Somerville – a blue-collar town – in an office building.
Fourthly, the meal itself was in the ‘Appetizers’ section. Wouldn’t a normal person who ordered that, who didn’t know what it would entail, go about ordering an entree as well – which, on the menu, range from about $15 to $40?
As Mike and I shelled out our credit cards, I felt pretty swindled. I would have argued it further with the server but frankly, there’s a huge language barrier at Shumi and I knew it would be futile.
As we walked past Wolfgang’s in downtown Somerville, our wallets feeling light, we marveled at how we could have gotten steaks, appetizers and a bottle of wine to take home for that price – at the ritziest restaurant in Somerville.
Losing some cash to a misunderstood dinner is by no means the end of the world. But I can’t help still feeling a little wronged, a little screwed and a little poor at the expense of this deceptive sushi destination.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Let me know in comments.