I forgot about my chick's birthday last weekend and found myself in a real bind. It was already 5 p.m. and I hadn't gotten her a present. I hadn't even made any plans. I needed to come up with something quick, and I could only think of one option: expensive sushi.
A banker friend of mine recommended a new Novikov restaurant called YOKO out by Kropotkinskaya, across the street from the Church of Christ the Savior. The friend was there a few weeks before on a business lunch and dopped about $500 for three people. Supposedly, the fish is the best in town. Not that it would matter much. Nastia would order sushi rolls anyway. I cringed at the thought of dropping that much cash on grilled eel and rice, but I sucked it in. I was paying the price of love.
I made the reservation a few hours in advance, but it turned out I didn't have to. We got there a 9 p.m. expecting to see a hip, rich crowd. Instead, all we heard were crickets chirping to a background of Japanese pop music. There were only two other people there.
Yoko's interior is done up in a modern Japanese style. Sharp edges, concrete, bamboo and round pebbles. We took a corner table and ordered a bottle of hot sake right away. I didn't know it at the time, but I was paying 1,800 rubles for 250ml. I'm glad she didn't ask to start doing sake bombs. I ordered a half liter of Sapporo (280r) and drank it seperately. Nastia got a glass of Chianti (300r).
As we waited for out drinks, I scanned the menu. The prices weren't as steep as I had anticipated. An average piece of nigiri sushi cost about $10, which isn't much more than you'd pay at a crappy sushi chain like Yakitoria. But I was getting ahead of myself. After bringing the drinks, the waitress informed us about a recent change to the menu.
"No doubt you noticed our prices have changed," she said. "They have been reduced by half to reflect the smaller portions you now get. All the sushi is now twice as small as it used to be. We did this so our customers could try a bigger variety of sushi for the same price."
The woman wasn't joking about the size. The sushi was good, but exactly two times smaller than you'd expect. It seemed like a joke. Ten bucks for a kids serving. If you do the math, it comes out to about $20 per peice of regular-sized sushi. And we're not talking about pairs here, that's a single piece of sushi you're getting. That's like five times what you'd expect to pay at good sushi place in the states. Weighing in at just over $20, the tiny tuna handroll was the most ridiculously priced menu item.
Nastia's sushi rolls were even worse. For some reason, the chef decided to halve them in girth, not in width. They were all pencil thin had the sickly-look of Playdough. She told me she liked the the four rolls she ordred, but it was obvious she was just trying to be nice. After all, what do you say after eating though a c-note worth of appetizers? All in all, I paid about 9,000 rubles for the dinner, not including tip.
A week later, I was out with Nastia at Dantes, a midpriced pan ethnic restaurant I like, when she delivered Yoko's death blow.
"You know, this sushi roll is way better than any I had at Yoko," she said.
Address: Soimonovsky proezd, 5
Hours: From 12:00 till last guest
Telephone: (495)506-00-33, 506-55-33