Media commentator rebukes famous food critic Chua Lam after latter says restaurants which serve Omakase food treat diners as idiots

Chow Hin (left) and Chua Lam (right)

7th September 2022 – (Hong Kong) Chua Lam, a local food critic wrote an article on social media at the end of last month, criticising Omakase food served in Hong Kong. The phrase Omakase, literally ‘I leave it up to you’,  is most commonly used when dining at Japanese restaurants where the customer leaves it up to the chef to select and serve seasonal specialties. He claimed that restaurants which serve Omakase food just treat all diners as idiots. By allowing the chef to select ingredients, it is easier for a restaurant operator to calculate the costs and maximise its profits. He added that cost is not the essence of Japanese cuisine. Many netizens agreed with his remark and over 2,000 positive comments were garnered.

Another established media commentator, Chow Hin published an article in a newspaper column said Chua is no difference from ordinary food bloggers. He said that in recent years, it is difficult for local residents to travel to Japan, and Omakase food has become more and more popular. He said that although Chow has a good knowledge of ingredients, he has never been to the more famous and established restaurants in Japan which serve Omakase. Ironically, Chow said that Omakase can help restaurants to calculate costs and lower the prices of ingredients.

In Hong Kong, most Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong charge between HK$2,500 (US$318) to over HK$5,000 (US$627) for Omakase dinner. Most of the established Japanese restaurants are located in prime locations with higher rents to appeal to the well-heeled crowd. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Omakase dinners cost an average of 10,000 yen (US$70) to 15,000 yen (US$105) which is a lot lower as compared to the prices charged in Hong Kong. However, there are some Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan that charge US$637 and above for tasting menus. The costs for Hong Kong would presumably be higher due to imported ingredients, higher labour cost and rent.

To find the most expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, the cooking website Chef’s Pencil researched dinner tasting menus in more than 450 restaurants around the world, according to its website. According to Chef’s Pencil, the 10 most expensive restaurants* that have either received a Michelin star - or are helmed by a chef that has -  are:

1. Sublimotion, Ibiza, Spain — US$1,740

2. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai, China — US$1,422

3. Kitcho Arashiyama Honten, Kyoto, Japan — US$910

4. Azabu Kadowaki, Tokyo, Japan — US$825

5. Masa, New York City, United States — US$800

6. (Tie) Joel Robuchon, Tokyo, Japan — US$637

6. (Tie) Kikunoi Honten, Kyoto, Japan — US$637

6. (Tie) Gion Maruyama, Kyoto, Japan — US$637

9. Guy Savoy, Paris, France — US$615

10. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy — US$580

* Priced per person, usually not including beverages and service charges.

Japan is the only country that appears more than once on this list, and its restaurants — located in Kyoto and Tokyo — dominate half the 10 spots. It’s worth noting, however, that Tokyo-based Joel Robuchon, which tied for No. 6 on the list, serves French cuisine.