Order beer, not sake
Don't feel pressured into splurging on an expensive bottle of sake. Especially because (authenticity alert!!) in Japan, sake's usually not paired with sushi, since both are rice-based.
Get to know your chef
You're likely to have a better meal with a chef who knows your tastes, even if you're spending less. And, even better, when he's trying to get to know your tastes, he might ask you to try stuff on the house. And that, friends, is the cheapskate's dream.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He recommends you try the sardines. Follow him to eating all the little fishes at @Dannosphere.