Tokyo Table Trip

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現在,一個名為「食拍(飲食拍賣)」的全新服務正在日本這裡面臨諸多議論。
預定將有「鮨さいとう(鮨齋藤)」、「鮨しゅんじ(鮨俊治)」、「Chiune」、「aca」、「晴山」、「齊華」、「たきや(Takiya)」、「Gourmandise」、「京天神野口」等9大極難訂位的人氣餐廳參與,
具體服務內容則是:有意者將可透過競拍形式,購入特定日期的餐廳座位。

據說會員登錄者已超過了1000人,可以想見屆時座位將會遭到高價競拍。

其重點約莫在於座位並非客人出品,而是由店方統一販售吧。
店鋪相關者的說法是,其意義在於「想要為飲食業界的待遇改善做出一些貢獻」,
但如果只是想要進一步利潤的話,那麼單純調漲套餐價格不就行了嗎?——這麼想的,不知道是否只有我呢。

我的感覺是,以一部份人群為對象,將「難以訂位」作為上好藉口,打算把價格無限制往上抬高的這種行為,是略顯低級了。
再看看合作餐廳,多為鮨さいとう(鮨齋藤)一派(=齋藤先生的夜生活玩伴),實在稍有「拜金斂財感」……

在日本,對此反感的人不在少數,也能聽到不少「我再也不會去這種店了」等等,諸如此類的意見。
雖說本就可以預料到這類服務遲早是會登場的,但不知道各位究竟是否會想要利用呢?
(畢竟像是「さいとう(齋藤)」這樣的店,還是會有人即使一擲50萬日幣仍舊想要上門品嚐一次的。對於這類人群而言,或許算是個不錯的服務吧~)

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https://shokuoku.com/

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Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

There is a lot of good discussion here. My question to all: how important is developing a rapport with the chef to you? As Saito-san mentioned in his article on Hashiguchi, "Owner Affinity" is quite an important thing. If you have a regular place you visit (even outside of Japan), you KNOW this to be true. More likely than not, the chef will remember your preferences and interact pleasantly with you, at a deeper level than if you just visited the restaurant once.

While I would obviously never pass up on an opportunity to visit somewhere like Sugita, the difficulty of securing reservations + his already established clientele means that I'll never be able to establish a close relationship with the chef. If I had the chance to dine there, it would probably me more of a one-off gastronomic experience than anything.

On the other hand, there are many places (outside of Omakase and these auction systems) that are much easier to book. You may even find them more delicious than what Tabelog ratings deem the "best" restaurants in town. Given this, I would much prefer revisiting some of the places I enjoyed the most; on some of my revisit occasions, I remember feeling much more relaxed: not only had I been there once (so I kind of knew what to expect), but the chef was also more willing to engage.

In summary - 1) There are plenty of accessible choices in Tokyo that don't require Omakase, auctions, membership systems, referrals, and other things; 2) While it's not a bad idea to chase superstar restaurants (we - yours truly included - often fall into this trap), I also encourage people to revisit the places they most enjoyed, and hopefully develop a relationship with the chef. Maybe when their store explodes in popularity sometime, they'll still let you in!

7 天 ago 1664173346

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paul_paulpiwat

I have to agree with Justin here. Japan is the only country I could think of in which most has counter seatings. Therefore, the chefs will have to interact with the customers for the whole meal. In contrary, the top restaurants in Europe and USA, the chefs will most likely chat with you for five minutes when they visit your table. So the chefs in Japan will probably want to serve their food to customers who them have prior relationship with or are able to appreciate their cooking. That is why they introduced the introduction only system.

When I visited those restaurants, the chefs were not discriminatory at all even though I was a single diner first timer gaijin. Once they saw that you truly appreciate their work and you are not just their for the IG stories, then they will treat you no different from their regulars.

When you have the chance to visit restaurants in Japan, try show your passion and interest to them. You never know when you will receive the help you need. It may come from completely unexpected places.

There are also many top class restaurants in Japan that are still under the radar and easy to book. So don’t miss out visiting those places :)

7 天 ago 1664176959
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

I may be too transactional but I expect the chef to give a good atmosphere equally without requiring patrons to invest in coming N times to build a rapport. For example you mention Sugita, in my experience he treats patron equally well, with similar intimacy, whether they are repeat or new. It also make me want to go again. Places when the chef gives a cold shoulder to newcomers and treats repeats extra-nice, make me want to not come back. Places I repeat myself are places where I feel a good atmosphere and good food that make me want to come back in a different occasion/season.

It likely also has to do with the character of the chef, which I guess we can now judge easily when it comes to the list of the participants in the above screenshot lol.

7 天 ago 1664177483
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guest

Yee How here, sorry can't remember my login details. Fatherhood is taking its toll on me.

I agree with Justin, it's "fun" to chase superstar restaurants but it is not the end of the world if you don't dine there.
There will always be superstar restaurants before and after your time on earth. If the superstar place is bookable by a hotel concierge, consider it a bonus. If not, just move on. You have far more important things to do in life.

Just explore all the places you are interested in and are bookable and keep on revisiting the ones which you really like.

I will divulge my personal favourite restaurant is sushi takaoka. I have revisited it every trip since the first time I went there. Solid consistent food(great sushi, but may not be the best sushi out there), accept kids at certain timings ,reasonably priced during this sushi boom, comfortable environment, shy and humble chef and super easy to book(you can just book via tablecheck(no funny nonsense like camping for omakase to open or using this shokuoku service or paying inflated prices to tableall). Abit too much free advertising, but I sincerely respect how he runs his business.

For the record, I have gone to a few of the restaurants in shoukuoku's list, they seem to be decent folks. I don't even think it matters to us how they choose to "sell" their seats. If you don't like it, just don't use this service. It is purely business and it is up to them how they would want to ensure their seats are fully occupied. If few people uses it, it will eventually fold. Though I do see there is a market of this service especially for influencers, I don't think it will seriously matter to most of us.


7 天 ago 1664187092
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guest

I disagree that it doesn't matter. If this was done in any other country it would be totally unacceptable and huge criticisms. But because it's Japan everyone just accepts it.

7 天 ago 1664188875
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guest

If you do not agree, you always has the option to not visit Japan. Maybe one day, things will change but just probably not in the near future.

7 天 ago 1664189767

ChuToroZuke

I don't like this concept either, let along any tech company trying to sweep up reservations to resell, regardless what country they are in. It is a sad day when restaurant reservations are being treated like limited edition rare handbags, extremely prized wines and sake, concert tickets, or the latest holiday fad gadget, in the name of profit. But that is classic human nature at its worst. It is unfortunate these esteemed restaurants are choosing to operate that way and hide behind the guise of fairness. That really speaks to their business philosophy and ethics. I'm perfectly fine not going at all to these establishments, since there are so many other great worthy restaurants out there with unique styles, characters, even mom & pop establishments, that deliver satisfaction and unforgettable unique experiences, that don't need to be a part of this joke.

13 天 ago 1663736834

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guest

Does the lottery/raffle system in Omakase ever worked? Anybody had any luck thus far?

8 天 ago 1664167298
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guest

@guest would like to know this as well. Is the raffle only there to make it seem "fairer" but doesn't actually do anything? Or does it really work?

7 天 ago 1664184954
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

Just a handful of restaurants use the raffle system. Pellegrino used it but they seem to have stopped. Basically you get a ticket (you can get one per 24hr over a period of time). When the period closes, they announce if you won or lost. If you won, you get access to a window of time where only lottery winners can make a booking, a few hours before the official reservation opens to everyone.

Not perfect and not really used since the ~6months they created this feature. But still a better concept than auctions or big rush where everyone tries to connect at the same time when reservations open.

7 天 ago 1664186813

guest

Most high end European restaurants is not “relatively” much larger than the Japanese restaurant. They at most can accomodate 2x-3x the occupants per night. Rarely able to turn tables during dinner due to the length of the meal anyway and they are also quite flexible with the slot (only limited seating per 15min frame so not everybody will come in together). Not to even mention the exponentially higher operating cost for running an European restaurant with larger staff and floor space. The best in class places is still hard to get in, and demand far outweight supply. But they are also happy to serve everyone. Its 2022, it just makes sense.

8 天 ago 1664167216

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guest

You just said it yourself. 2x-3x more occupants per night. That is a very significant change in supply. Can you imagine the price of petrol if supply increased 200-300%.

Have you also considered that the population of greater Tokyo is 37 million residents. That's approaching the population of ALL of Spain, just in one city.

I'm not sure what operating costs has to do with this as this was discussion around seat availability not the profitability of European vs Japanese restaurants.

I for one don't like this system, and think Omakase has it issues. But I have yet to find a truly better solution amongst all this "complaining"

8 天 ago 1664171919
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

I think it's actually even more than that. Most restaurant in that list can seat less than 10-12 ppl (except Takiya), Most 3 stars I know in Paris can seat at minimum 30. In fact most could probably accommodate the entire service of a Saito/Chiune (~8ppl) on just one table. I don't think it is comparable :D

7 天 ago 1664175566

guest

Personally during the covid era due to Japan closure to tourists, been travelling a lot around Europe visiting various good restaurants.

I love the simplicity of reservations needed for Paris, London, Italy, Spain etc. Where i can get seats as long as I reserve early via their own website or thefork etc and there is no BS system where restaurants are 100% not possible to reserve.

Japan on the other hand, seems like every reservation especially the hard one is climbing mount fuji since many years ago.

10 天 ago 1663983133

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Eric Yu

The Pursuit of Food Perfection | https://thepursuitoffoodperfection.wordpress.com

I don't disagree that I love the simplicity of reservations outside Japan, but is it really fair to compare a relatively large European restaurant that has a team of staff that turn tables multiple times a day to a Japanese restaurant that may only have 8 seats on the counter, and sometimes only has 1 seating a night?

The demand far outstrips supply, even compared to most popular places in Europe and USA.

Unfortunately what makes these Japanese restaurants great is also what makes them hard to get in to. But there are still many ways to eat great food in Japan without "climbing Mount Fuji" if your goal is just to eat great food

10 天 ago 1663990840
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guest

@Eric, I don't think they turn tables that many times per night, at most twice
For sure, they have much higher capacity a bigger kitchen.

Although mainly it could be the price that deter the demand rather than the capacity. The 3 michelin places in London or Paris will cost >500 Eur but at least there is a genuine shot of securing a dining slot. Whether it is Noma, Fat Duck, Osteria Francescana, Mirazur, Arpege etc

9 天 ago 1664009647
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guest

I think it would be more like the regular status that is provided to customers in Japanese restaurants, whereby regulars can book earlier, more frequently and get more premium pieces.

I won't say it is wrong, but this creates a vicious cycle and this will compel regulars to dine more often to maintain the relationship and ensuring seats, hence leaving less seats for tourists.

9 天 ago 1664037179
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thetokyogourmet

https://thetokyogourmet.blogspot.com/

I think the big difference is that a serious European foodie might go to a 1-Star restaurant once a week and a 3-star max once a month. In Japan there are many people who go to several top restaurants a week. I think part of this is due to the very different types of cuisine to be had. Sushi, tempura, kaiseki, yakitori, yakiniku are completely different. While there's difference in style between the 3-Stars in Paris the cuisine is not fundamentally different. Seasonality is very important in Japanese food. So people book again at the same restaurant because they want to eat particular foods. That culture is negligible outside Japan. There's a bigger appreciation for smaller differences in Japanese food. You often hear the sushi at x is completely different from the sushi at y. Once you get it you'll understand why some people don't get bored eating at high-end sushi-yas week after week. Finally, if you ate at a 3-star in Paris once a week your heart would not forgive you, but high-end Japanese food is less calorific.

I totally get that it's frustrating and I wouldn't diminish this. Just hopefully helping to explain why. Transparency makes a big difference. Michelin has helped with this and Omakase was a big help when it first started but unfortunately in recent years transparency has got worse.

9 天 ago 1664054367
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

Agree with Eric, a fair comparison would be French restaurants in Tokyo, which are also great, but comparatively super easy to book, similarly to restaurants in Paris. The hardest to book must be Quintessence I guess? Just needs a couple months in advance but never had trouble booking it.

8 天 ago 1664151472

thetokyogourmet

https://thetokyogourmet.blogspot.com/

It's obviously a money grab and I don't like it either but a restaurant is first and foremost a business. When demand far outstrips supply there's no supply-side solution that will please everyone. Raising prices would not be fair to regulars so that won't happen. What would help is if people didn't just boast about restaurants they've been to without offering an opinion or not saying anything critical at all and/or just saying that everything was great when it really wasn't. If there were more critical voices demand would be more sensible.

10 天 ago 1663967823

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Eric Yu

The Pursuit of Food Perfection | https://thepursuitoffoodperfection.wordpress.com

Couldn't have put it better myself

10 天 ago 1663990552
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guest

I found this argument consist of conflicting points - if running a restaurant is first and foremost a business, why would raising price for all including regulars not be fair? That’s how a free market balances supply and demand. Otherwise it’s just the plain and simple, old school discrimination.

8 天 ago 1664121715
Tonk

mirugai

Well, "fair" is a word with no set meaning! However, I will say that there is a wealth of very solid research showing that the majority of people do *not* find mechanisms like auctions or raising the price as fair (in their opinion) as mechanisms like lotteries or queues. (See for example Kahneman, Knetch, and Thaler 1986 as an early example).

Policies around things like price gouging after disasters, rent control, and ticket scalping, for example, are full of these dilemmas and tradeoffs. We can't take for granted either (i) businesses necessarily want to maximize their financial return or that (ii) "we" as a society want to a price that "balances supply and demand". Businesses and societies can and do have way more complex goals than that!

Finally, I'll say that the way prices are thought to arise in a "free market", with lots and lots of buyers and sellers, can be quite different than how they're thought to arise when we have market power. It's quite apparent that many famous restaurants have market power, and they can wield it how they choose!

8 天 ago 1664140906
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

I dislike it and preferred the lottery system that omakase put in place, but it was inevitable. For places with "member only" like system, it makes no difference to me, in fact I'm happy for the people who are willing to spend 5000USD for a seat at Saito (I suggest googling for the WSJ piece on Paul Grinberg for an example of the type of customer this service may target towards). Let the market decide on the value for a seat at these places, if anything, this seat/meal decorrelation on prices will hopefully reduce the inflation on Sushi which I believe is partly driven by popular joints hiking their fixe price.

However, I'm a bit worried for not-so-hard to book places. I see on the website places like Aca/Chiune which are quite hard to book but not yet totally impossible for new patrons. This kind of services might tempt many restaurants in closing their reservations out of regulars to extract value from the bidding.

8 天 ago 1664151024

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