Royal Izakaya’s $1,000 nigiri plate is basically art

Chef Jesse Ito usually turns down requests because the dish is so time intensive.

The 104-piece nigiri plate at Royal Izakaya, available by request only — if the chef is willing

The 104-piece nigiri plate at Royal Izakaya, available by request only — if the chef is willing

Instagram / @jesseito
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Art, by definition, is not a necessity, and no one needs a fancy $1,000 nigiri plate right now. But it exists, thanks to whoever decided they can afford to order it from Royal Sushi & Izakaya in Queen Village. And the rest of us get to experience it vicariously.

Jesse Ito, restaurant co-owner and chef, is as obsessive about visuals as he is about freshness and flavor — and his raw fish creations exploit the relationship between all three.

The super-ultra-mega-deluxe tray, which holds 104 pieces and heaps of luxurious ingredients, is not on the usual takeout menu for the Japanese spot. But certain regulars insist on asking for it, Ito said. Even when they ask multiple times, the decision comes at the whim of the artist.

“I usually say no,” Ito explained. “I’m extremely busy these days. I try to optimize my work so I can try to get some personal time. Making this tray requires a lot more time than making two 44-piece trays.”

How long does it take? Just cutting, forming, and plating the carefully dressed ingots takes an hour and a half. That’s not to mention the whole day spent prepping the fish, most of which Ito breaks down from whole. (Check his IGTV for video proof.)

The resulting omakase might be more beautiful to look at than it is to eat. Then again, that depends how much you love otoro with caviar and uni with truffle.

Here’s what the plate usually includes, per Ito:

  • Akami (lean bluefin tuna)
  • Chutoro (medium fatty bluefin)
  • Chutoro with Osetra caviar
  • Otoro (super fatty bluefin)
  • Otoro with Osetra caviar
  • Kamatoro (bluefin fatty neck)
  • Kamasu (Japanese barracuda with scallion)
  • Sake (torched NZ king salmon with sudachi citrus)
  • Kinmedai (Japanese goldeneye snapper, gold flakes)
  • Saba (cured Japanese mackerel with sesame)
  • Buri (Japanese adult winter yellowtail)
  • Ishigakidai (Japanese spotted knifejaw bream)
  • Maguro (Japanese blackthroat seaperch with chive)
  • Shima aji (Japanese strip jack)
  • Madai (Japanese sea bream)
  • Botan ebi (Canadian spot prawn)
  • California uni (sea urchin)
  • California uni with winter black truffle
  • Hokkaido uni (from Japan)
  • Hotate (scallop) with Maine uni

The whole thing comes with a side of nikiri shoyu, a sauce you can use for drizzling or dipping. But each piece is already layered with soy and wasabi flavors, painted directly onto the rice, so you might not want to mess with the chef’s original intent.

Next time you’re looking to burn a grand in a tasty and delicious way, you know where to go. For now, you can just enjoy it as art.

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