Can “Ethnic Food” be Expensive?

Can an Indian, Chinese, or Thai dinner cost as much as a French one? If the ingredients are sourced well and the food is prepared in a thoughtful manner, why should these cuisines be perennially labeled as cheap?

They really shouldn’t. For decades Indian and Chinese food were simply seen as cheap late night eats. However, this is beginning to change. Recently a new restaurant called Mister Jiu’s opened in San Francisco. Helmed by Brandon Jew, formerly of the Michelin starred Quince and the popular Bar Agricole, Mister Jiu’s bills itself as a modern take on Chinese cuisine. Many of the products used at Mister Jiu’s are either made from scratch at the restaurant or sourced from local purveyors like Liberty Farms and Heart Arrow Ranch. Not unlike other upscale restaurants in the city.

Many initial reviewers of Mister Jiu’s complained about the price. They balked at paying $69pp for the five-course family style menu. It was simply to hard for people to wrap their head around the fact that they were paying that much for Chinese food. But the food at Mister Jiu’s isn’t just regular Chinese food. Roast quail stuffed with lap cheong and hand cut noodles with chanterelles aren’t things you’ll find at your neighborhood take-out joint.

It’s a little sad that people assume most Asian cuisine should be cheap, quick, and non-fussy. Thankfully there are chefs around the world working to change these assumptions. At places like Mister Jiu’s, Gaggan in Bangkok, and Restaurant yam’Tcha in Paris, Asian cuisine is finally being given treatment it deserves. These restaurants are showing the world that food from the east doesn’t always have to dirt cheap and covered in grease.


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