Sushi Gourmet - Mill Valley
I would never have walked into Sushi Gourmet unprodded. The name to me suggests one of those 24-hour Korean delis in NYC where the rolls are filled with carrots, and the location -- smack in the middle of that strip mall in Mill Valley off 101 (Strawberry Village, a few doors down from Starbucks) -- is less than inspiring.
Luckily I got prodded. Sushi Gourmet is now one of my top 3 sushi places in the Bay Area (with Kabuto and Murasaki, though when Funny Drunken Sushi Chef points are added, Saji moves up a few slots). It turns out "Gourmet" is a play on words, a combination of "Go" -- the onyomi, or Chinese reading, of sushi chef Tsuyoshi Endo's first-name character -- and "mi" -- the "aji" character, meaning flavor or taste. All the sushi is fantastic, and the cooked menu is great too. I recommend trying the BBQ baigai -- the snails cooked in their shells over a flaming bed of salt on your plate.
Be sure to take interest in the small cross-section of fish skeleton mounted in cotton and framed at the left of the sushi counter. It's the eye socket of a small red snapper -- tai in japanese, a fish associated with good luck (from the connection to the word "medetai," for those playing along in Japanese). Endo didn't have money to design a logo, so he traced that skeleton and used that. It's on all the chopstick sleeves and his business cards.
Strawberry Village, Mill Valley, CA
I went back to Sushi Gourmet a couple nights ago. The fried crispy head of the amaebi was so freakin' perfect. This amaebi head takes the amaebi head of Kabuto and whoops it upside the antennae. Best of all, it's not all battery like it gets some places (read Ebisu: friends don't let friends go to Ebisu).
re: Andrew Raskin
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your posts on Sushi Gourmet. If you've had occasion to read the Los Angeles Board, you probably know that I've written a lot about sushi on that Board, and Los Angeles is blessed with a large number of excellent sushi restaurants. My wife and I have friends in Mill Valley that we haven't seen for awhile. Your post makes me think it's about time we visit them.
I'll look forward to reading more of your posts.