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"Seto Deli"--Silicon Valley's first and only Japanese deli?

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Hiko Ikeda Aug 12, 2001 07:24 PM

Although Metro had the following story, nobody mentioned it on this board.

Link: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/met...

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  1. m
    Melanie Wong RE: Hiko Ikeda Aug 12, 2001 11:21 PM

    Do you agree with the Metro author? What are your favorite things at Seto that you would personally recommend?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      h
      Hiko Ikeda RE: Melanie Wong Aug 13, 2001 12:32 PM

      I have never been there.

    2. b
      Burke and Wells RE: Hiko Ikeda Aug 16, 2001 06:06 PM

      Burke and I went to Seto Deli twice in the last four days. Here's our review based on those two experiences.

      Seto Deli bills itself as a Japanese delicatessen, but that my be slightly misleading. This impeccably clean storefront on Mary Ave. in Sunnyvale has deli-style counters and a few scattered tables, but you'll find only traditional Japanese-American fare here, nothing you couldn't pick up in any supermarket or low-end sushi kiosk. It's as much a "deli" as the Asian food counter at Draeger's or Safeway is.

      The refrigerated areas are sparsely populated by plastic trays full of maki and accompanying blob of wasabi paste and squeeze packets of soy sauce. It's the usual suspects, all maki: maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), unagi (cooked eel), sake (salmon, but only the smoked variety), avocado, kapa (cucumber) and tamago (sweet firm-cooked egg), with the occasional nigiri sushi (including the popular "fox pocket" of rice in tofu skin) pre-prepared and ready to grab. If you want a small salad, also in plastic containers, or a bit of pickled vegetables or seaweed, that's available too.

      Burke and I found the cold pickled vegetables acceptable but without the great crispness that speaks of quality. The "potato salad" is creamy and interestingly blended with shredded cabbage, but the potato balls and lotus root were slimy (we understand they're supposed to be a little slimy, but there's "good" slimy and "bad" slimy).

      The hot counter provides less typical selection, including legs of chicken teriyaki and fried dumplings (potato or vegetable), as well as fried rice. These suffer from the heat lamps and father time, though the chicken is actually quite good and not too salty or sweet. The rest of the hot offerings were insufficiently enticing to warrant a taste.

      Finally, the sushi itself can be made to order, and we recommend this above the items in the counter. The fish is fresh, even tasty, and there is more of it than in the average supermarket sushi station, but there is also far too much rice--over-sweetened rice, to boot. The nori (dried seaweed) is acceptable, but it absorbs moisture too quickly from the over-sticky rice and gets a bit chewy. We trust the fish here (there was no fishy smell and the color and firmness of the fish was within bounds), but we weren't thrilled by it either. The hamachi (yellowtail) is your best bet.

      It's hard to complain about the price: a six-piece fish maki runs $3.00, and vegetable maki drops to $2.00. A leg of that teriyaki chicken is only $3.00 and is perhaps the best item on the menu. We recommend Seto Deli if you're watching your budget but want a place where the fish is trustworthy and you haven't much time. Order what you know and what you want, and don't expect to be thrilled, and don't expect any new taste sensations.

      Review by Burke and Wells

      Peter
      wells@emusic.com

      Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com

      11 Replies
      1. re: Burke and Wells
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        Melanie Wong RE: Burke and Wells Aug 16, 2001 07:50 PM

        Two visits in four days?! Thanks for the first-mouth report.

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          b
          Burke and Wells RE: Melanie Wong Aug 16, 2001 07:56 PM

          Well, Melanie, Bay Area Chowhounds wanted a review, and we couldn't review a place that inexpensive with just one visit, now, could we?

          Our pleasure. It was very inexpensive and it does get a thumbs up from us, if only a marginal one. Burke liked it a bit more than I did, but I'm VERY picky about my sushi.

          Someday I may let you all in on my ultimate South Bay sushi secret, the greatest sushi of all time (and I include Tokyo), but...I can't now!

          Peter
          wells@emusic.com

          1. re: Burke and Wells
            m
            Melanie Wong RE: Burke and Wells Aug 16, 2001 08:55 PM

            There's something about sushi that seems to cause even the most generous of chowhounds to clam up (sorry for the mixed metaphor). I've had a couple off-line conversations with chowhounds lately about the ethical dilemmas of not spilling their favorites, e.g., "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

            1. re: Melanie Wong
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              Limster RE: Melanie Wong Aug 16, 2001 11:02 PM

              Hey - but I've already told and I haven't killed anybody yet. I will if they ask for a California roll with fake crab at Hama-Ko. (If I don't die of embarassment first!)

              1. re: Limster
                m
                Melanie Wong RE: Limster Aug 17, 2001 01:09 AM

                Well, Limster, you are an unequaled gentleman and a scholar!

              2. re: Melanie Wong
                b
                Burke and Wells RE: Melanie Wong Aug 17, 2001 01:49 AM

                Honestly, I wouldn't keep a secret from Chowhounds if I had anything to say in the matter.

                Truth is, this sushi place of mine DOES NOT ACCEPT NEW CUSTOMERS. That fact is worth the capitalization. If you walk in the door, you are shooed off. You either come in with a "regular" or you're not admitted at all. You're either a good friend of the chef/owner or you're not permitted to dine there.

                It wouldn't do even an intrepid Chowhound any good to learn my secret.

                Lastly, before I wrote about him, I'd ask his permission first. He's that kind of artist. Since dinner at his sushi restaurant usually runs $150 a person (just the food, his saki pushes it up considerably), few even want to be admitted to this little club.

                Okay, I've teased enough, forgive me. I've already gone to a couple of Chowhound sushi recommendations when my wallet was feeling thin--no one can afford $150 a person all the time.

                Peter
                wells@emusic.com

                Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com

                1. re: Burke and Wells
                  n
                  Nancy Acton RE: Burke and Wells Aug 20, 2001 02:18 AM

                  Hmmm... My husband and I have run into a sushi place like this, Sawa Sushi on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. We had a group dinner there a while ago with a "regular" and it was fabulous. But since then, everytime we've tried to go, at various times of day on different days, we are always told that they're closed, even though there are clearly customers inside... (Twilight Zone music in the background)

                  1. re: Nancy Acton
                    m
                    Melanie Wong RE: Nancy Acton Aug 20, 2001 03:08 AM

                    Nancy, I'm shocked that a woman of your considerable charm has failed to talk her way in. (g) Indeed the Twilight Zone...

                    I guess we should be grateful to Burke & Wells for not torturing us with what we can't have.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      h
                      Hiko Ikeda RE: Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2001 10:31 PM

                      To All:

                      Thank you for your posts.

                      In Japan many traditinal Japanese restaurants do not let more customers in as soon as "neta"--food materials--run out. In the U.S. I get puzzled at sushi restautants keep serving a ton of fresh items forever--must not be fresh.

                      After living in many states, I noticed California's delis have several types; REAL delis, semi-restaurants, almost bakeries.....

                      1. re: Hiko Ikeda
                        j
                        Jim Leff RE: Hiko Ikeda Aug 21, 2001 10:47 PM

                        Excellent point.

                        One technical note: you don't need to change the "subject" of the message in your reply. Just leave it alone, unless the title no longer fits. Since I didn't want my reply to read "My Reply" (which was how you renamed it), I've changed the subject to "Sushi You Can't Eat" which more or less describes the present discussion (I hope!)

                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          b
                          Burke and Wells RE: Jim Leff Aug 22, 2001 01:59 AM

                          Now you can eat it, if we gather a party together and take me along as your "passport."

                          I come clean with my Sushi secret. Check out the post near the top of the board (at the moment), in response to "Sawa sushi"--which is indeed the place.

                          You just can't keep something this good bottled up.

                          Peter
                          wells@emusic.com

                          Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com

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