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Reactions mixed to high-priced Japanese restaurant in Richmond

Is a $300-$500 sushi experience worth it?
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Sushi Kiwami just opened its doors in Richmond's Versante Hotel recently.

A new high-end Asian restaurant in Richmond is receiving mixed reviews -- not of its food but of its prices and policies.

Sushi Kiwami, located at 8411 Bridgeport Road in north Richmond, is offering set menus that cost $299/person, $399/per person or $499/person and, on occasion, $599/person, explained a staff person contacted by the Richmond News.

And it’s not just the prices that are raising eyebrows. 

Diners who show up more than 15 minutes late for their reservation may be denied service but charged the full price of the “cheapest” menu -- $299. Those who make a reservation but don’t show up or fail to cancel more than 48 hours in advance will also be charged the $299 menu price. (Walk-ins are not accepted and reservations must be made with a credit card.)

On its website, Sushi Kiwami explains.

“The fresh ingredients we use in Sushi Kiwami are airlifted from fish markets in Japan. The menus created by our Michelin-starred chefs strive to create a good sense of elegance and balance. Our chefs’ ability to distinguish the temperature, fragrance, and aging time of the food ensures the high standards of our dishes.

People interested in sampling some of that airlifted fish are required to make online reservations for one of the restaurant’s two sittings per evening.

Richmond’s Dana Wu is a big sushi lover but said Kiwami’s prices are out of her league and the reservation policy would stress her out.

 “I would rather go to a family-owned, more affordable sushi restaurant near my home. Dining should be a stress-free and enjoyable experience,” said Wu. 

However, Lucas Kong, also from Richmond, said it’s understandable a restaurant like this would implement such a cancellation policy. 

“From the store owner’s perspective, the ingredients are from Japan and the chefs always need to thaw meat ahead of time. If the customers cancel the reservation without any notice or only give short notice, they aren’t allowed to put the ingredients back in the fridge to serve to the next customer, that’s against their serving rules. Therefore, the ingredients will be wasted if some consumers don’t show up,” explained Kong. 

Besides, Kong added, the reservation and cancellation policy is even more complicated for many similar restaurants in Japan. 

Along with prices and policies, management requires appropriate etiquette, which includes asking before taking a photo, keeping voices low and not wearing perfume or other cosmetics with strong odours that could interfere with the “delicate flavours of Japanese cooking,” states the website.  

Another Richmondite, Dicken Lau, who has worked at Michelin star restaurants in the past said the Michelin restaurants have extremely high standards, which explains how pricey the menu can get.