Sushi lovers in Greenwich and New York City are getting a raw deal, with both cities ranking among the most costly locales in the U.S. for the Japanese cuisine.
The price of basic sushi at New York restaurants was about 26 percent higher than the national average this year, topping the Sushinomics Cost-of-Living Index for the second straight year. The measure, compiled by Bloomberg Rankings, is based on prices for spicy tuna and California rolls -- the two most common items -- at restaurants in 28 major cities. Greenwich topped the new Sushinomics Premium Priced Index, which ranked the cities by their restaurants' most expensive sushi rolls.
New York's basic sushi prices were 3.3 percent higher than those in second-place Los Angeles. San Francisco, Dallas, and Austin, Texas, rounded out the top five most expensive cities. The U.S.'s cheapest sushi city was New Orleans, which was 23 percent below the national average.
"New York is New York: You have to pay rent, and anywhere you go you're going to pay a ton of money," said Guy Vaknin, sushi chef and owner of Beyond Sushi in New York's Meatpacking District. "So to make up for it, prices go up."
Vaknin said he tries to keep his costs down by dealing directly with the farmers who supply his produce instead of working through distributors, and by offering vegan options to avoid the high cost of fish.
The last city to top the index other than New York was Los Angeles in 2011.
Americans are spending more on eating out, buoyed by rising U.S. payrolls and a jobless rate that held close to a four-year low last month.
Sales at U.S. full-service restaurants are forecast to climb 2.9 percent this year to $208.1 billion, according to data from the National Restaurant Association in Washington.
"When it comes down to sushi, it's a very specialized product, it's a very affluent consumer that goes for sushi," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Chicago-based researcher Technomic.
"As a result, they have the ability to raise prices."
The new Sushinomics Premium Priced Index ranked 30 cities according to the average price of the restaurants' two priciest house-special rolls. Greenwich sushi connoisseurs paid an average of $17.59 for the fanciest offerings, $10.87 more the average cost of basic rolls nationwide. New Yorkers' premium rolls averaged $16.06, for ninth place.
Portland, Oregon, had cheapest premium rolls at $13.26, only $6.54 more than basic rolls.