Sonoma - Shiso "A Modern Asian and Sushi Bar"
I've been to Shiso a couple times before, but we had always sat at a booth. We went in one night and the only seats available were at the bar, so we figured we'd try it. My partner and I were feeling a little adventurous, so we decided to get "omakase" which is the chef's choice. We were not disappointed. Every dish we had was incredibly fresh and equally delicious. The chefs Ed and Jacob were so much fun, and really helpful with how to go about eating each dish. All of the flavors complimented the others perfectly. Like it said on the menu, Omakase was a unique experience. I've never had anything like it. The only bad thing-the dishes were all so beautiful we didn't want to ruin them!
My husband and I were visiting Sonoma last weekend for our 1 year anniversary and our last night we decided to go to Shiso for a chnage from the "frenchie" food we had been eating most of the weekend. Sushi is my favorite meal by far, but I have to say this was the best I've ever had outside of Japan. We did the Omakase and the selection will differ for each person depending on what the chef has fresh that day, we had several slections of tuna, oysters (phenomenal), yellowtail, scallops, fried oyster handrolls, and my personal favorite the grilled fish collarbone. The collarbone is my favorite part of the fish but is never found on American menus since this country doesn't seem to value the "interesting" parts of animals. The owner/chef, Ed, was remarkably gracious, all dishes were explained thouroughly, and when he found out it was our anniversary we were presented with an array of incredible small desserts, the banana pillow was my favorite. Long story short, do not miss this place, and take your time trying different things, don't expect to rush in and out in 40 minutes. Lastly, the house toasted genmai tea, was absolutley earthy and smooth, when we came back home I called several different teahouses looking for it and finally found it. One more thing, this place is not pricey whatsoever, not even for the omakase, especially by sonoma/napa standards.
Do you happen to know how late Shiso serves? Looking for something in or near Sonoma for after Mozart--always hard to predict but 8:45-9 to be on safe side.
I don't care much for Cal--too much hidden (undeclared) richness, though I confess the Southern accent at General's does sound enticing. Three out of four of us liked LaHaye when we went a couple of years ago--I was #4!
Unless it's changed its hours, Salette closes too early, even on Sat.
The hours sign says they're open for dinner from 5:30 to close. We asked them about it, and they said they stayed open as long as there were people. You might want to call and ask if you can make a reservation for 9pm. When we left at 9:30, the restaurant was still pretty crowded, and it was a Thursday.
We ate at the sushi bar tonight and had the pleasure of attentive service from Ming behind the bar. He was experienced and confident, said he used to serve at Tokyo A Go Go in the Mission district. We had omakase, quite different selection than Grocers Daughters. We had uni from Santa Barbara (tasty and creamy), toro and salmon (wild king from Alaska) sashimi with baby ginger, japanese Aji served with the spine fried and fresh wasabi, hamachi belly that I don't know how to describe but was the best of the bunch, clams from Tomales Bay that were steamed in sake (delicious!), Korean short ribs (something I've never had at a sushi bar, but an excellent choice to end the omakase). I ended up thinking that Shiso is a good reason to come to Sonoma, maybe even all the way from San Francisco. But Ming went to town for us, so we might have gotten the best experience possible.
The restaurant itself is owned by a gaijin, Jeff, who said he started the restaurant and moved to Sonoma at the same time. The restaurant is beautifully appointed, very modern and clean and has an outdoor patio, which is welcome when Sonoma is temperate as it usually is. (Today was above 95...)
Don't forget Ed Metcalfe (chef/owner)...
Ming was dancing behind the bar the night we were there. Very cute.
Did you have any rolls? I was worried they'd be too fussy, but once I bit into them the textures and tastes played off each other quite nicely.
Just a note for anyone planning to opt for the omakase option. It's only available if you sit at the bar (for obvious reasons) and the bar seats...maybe 8 people. So you might want to request it when you make reservations.
re: Grocers Daughter
We had my partner's kids with us and the boy had a California roll (but what's the difference!?) and what Ming called a Dry Creek roll: salmon, scallions rolled with rice inside seaweed with a spicy sauce and tobiko and sesame seeds. It was a delicious roll, though the sauce was indeed spicy (sort of a Japanese BBQ sauce with kick). The innards were sweet so it set up a kind of sweet/sour thing. It's the only roll we tried.
We had dinner there last night and went with the omakase option. We had a nice selection of sashimi (Aji and o-toro), rolls, oyster shooters (mine with quail egg and my partners with uni), and small plate items. We finished with watermelon and honeydew granitas.
All the dishes were plated beautifully and they was a nice contrast of textures and temperatures. The Aji sashimi was served with crunchy fried fish bones. Crisp jalapeno slices contrasted with buttery pieces of raw fish. The quality of the ingredients was very good. Everyone at the bar raved about the uni.
We were provided helpful eating instructions...eat it with your fingers, one bite, no dipping (easier said than done for some dishes).
The only dish that I didn't care for was a martini glass of (cooked) scallops served over wakami. It was a bit sweet for my taste and the aioli used in the dish reminded me of the walnut prawn dish often served at Chinese banquets. But that's just me. My partnered seemed to enjoy it.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised. We will definitely be back.
Sonoma CA 95476
Telephone: 707 933-9331
A little over a month ago, we were looking for dinner around the square in downtown Sonoma. Some of the regularly recommended places were surprisingly packed for a Wednesday evening. So we walked by Shiso, saw that there were a few tables open, and decided to give it a shot.
Looking around, we could tell it wasn't run by the typical Japanese (or Asian) proprietors, so our expectations were not that high. However, the place was nearly full with people generating good vibes, so that was a good sign.
We tried various dishes, ranging from sashimi, miso glazed butterfish, hamachi ceviche (special), and green tea ice cream.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
We left impressed. Service was a bit slow and inconsistent, but the meal we had either met or exceeded the usual sushi restaurants around the Bay Area.
Of particular note -- the hamachi ceviche was a home run. I believe they used habanero chilies (sounds scary) but the minor amount they used was beautifully offset with the sweet citrus segments.