Sushi in Redwood City?
I started working in RWC about three months ago, and all of my sushi attempts have ended in tears and bitter, bitter disappointment. The fish is mealy, and they all seem to offer only california rolls, tuna and yellowtail or maybe eel.I need to be able to walk to it-I work on Broadway next to the fox theater (right behind sequoia station.I am in a desperate way...any help?
How serendipitous you should mention Naomi.
Once again today I walked into Naomi and was subjected to omakase by ambush. As I waited to order at the bar, I watched the taller of the two owner/itamaes preparing this very elaborate and photogenic platter of eight single nigiri and wondered "who's ordering that?" As it turns out, I was. But I just didn't know it yet.
I guess they only do the ambush when 1) they have the requisite variety of special fish in stock necessary to pull it off and 2) they know you well enough or like you sufficiently to be confident they can tailor something to your palate. To their everlasting credit, every time they've pulled this on me, they have never served me any marinated dog's bollocks or other such exotica. By God, I sure hope they don't do this to just anyone who walks in. I can see some hard feelings and uncomfortable exchanges coming up there. ("Whoa! I ordered *what!?!? The hell you say!") This is now the third time they've pulled the "leave the driving to us" move on me. And I have to say although I resented it the first time, it's growing on me. And I'm so quick to downgrade other sushi shops on the basis of being predictable and lacking variety, it's only fair that *I* walk the talk and acknowledge great variety when it's offered. (A small part of me still resents having the decisionmaking taken away without so much as a word of discussion, but I'm getting over it...)
Some of the stuff -- the sea bream (which they seem to always push), the kingfish, etc. -- didn't do anything for me. But there were three big surprises there. It really underscores what's good about Naomi: Even when they miss, it's still entertaining. Say what you will, it's only boring and predictable if you absolutely insist that it be.
Surprise 1) Two salmon nigiri, one farmed Atlantic, one Alaskan king (wild). The real surprise: He seared both just enough so one side was done and the other was still completely raw. Wow. Home run on both. I have to say, though, the searing really did something for the extra fat in the farmed Atlantic piece. It was really good and a textbook case of a little different presentation setting a ho-hum standard item on its head. Is it sick for a West Coast partisan such as myself to admit getting a cheap thrill out of the farmed stuff?
Surprise 2) Relatively scarce East Coast dayboat scallops. Mild and served with a dot of spicy garnish and scallion. Another novel taste. More bland than the usual offering.
Surprise 3) A complimentary plate of engawa (halibut fin muscle) and another rare fish I thought I heard as "ariboko" or "eriboko." You never see stuff like this offered on a menu and rarely on a specials whiteboard. The itamaes (correctly) feel that few if any of their gaijin customers would know or care about such things. So these things only come out when they're driving the bus.
Ceding control to the two jolly despots at Naomi is still somewhat distasteful for me. But the potential of being guided toward richer, new experiences and tastes is beginning to outweigh the negative.
Bottom line: Five paid plates at a very reasonable $5.50 apiece, plus tax/tip and one two-piece plate of lagniappe. These guys put the fun back into the lunch experience. My main complaint lately -- after consuming so much good sushi between Burlingame and Mountain View -- is "show me something memorable. Please, not just the same old thing." Even when they're not dead-on target, these guys never serve "the same old thing."
I hear that the Higuma-don at Higuma is full of delicious goodness in a very Hokkaido (the owner is from Hokkaido) kind of way. It's a bowl of rice topped with ikura and salmon with cucumbers and omlette-ish eggs - very popular with my Japanese friends.
I am not sure if this is an off the menu item, but I've been told that all I have to do is ask for it.
I never asked the owner's name but yes he too did tell me he was from Hokkaido when I asked. Linked below is my review on the restaurant, as well a mention of his marinated ikura with soy sauce and sake, which sadly wasn't done as well as Sam's, Kitsho, Ino, and perhaps Anzu (have yet to go there).
Nijiya supermarket deli section sells a similar kind, a prepackaged salmon sashimi + ikura don. I can't recall if it had any tamago in it.
One of these days, KK and I are going to walk into Higuma together and sit at the bar -- just to mess with the itamae's head. The two obsessive-compulsive nigiri eaters going head-to-head.
Today at Yuzu in San Mateo, KK and I were at the bar and Arima-san did a double-take. "Waitaminute. Waitaminute! You two *know* each other!? How is that?"
"Ah, it's hard to explain. It's kind of a secret society for sushi appreciation. Very loosely organized."
For those of you keeping score at home (OK, I'm the only one keeping score at home), KK went omakase and I ordered for myself. I inhaled eight excellent plates for $55. And when the dust cleared, KK's tab was within a buck of mine. So the two of us for lunch (w/no drinks) were about $130-ish. The uni-masu (ocean trout) and the wild Alaskan sake (salmon) were both killer.
I very strongly recommend Higuma. Although it's 4.5 blocks from your office, it is very much worth the trip. The two places that are on Broadway, in closer proximity to you, are both utterly skippable. And Yokayama (also on Broadway) is acceptable only if you can tolerate an abysmal, narrow selection of ho-hum standard fish.
Higuma is a small, traditional sushi shop with a five-seat bar. On any given weekday there could be a line out the door any time after 12. In eight recent visits, I've never had anything but a high-quality experience. And in terms of value, my rolling average of $4.50 per nigiri plate is well below that of comparable quality shops on the Peninsula.
In addition to the Big List referenced above, KK and I both posted detailed reviews of Higuma within the past few months. They're easily found by searching for our names and Higuma.
I immodestly predict that your desire for quality sushi is going to force you into a car some lunch hour -- southbound to Menlo Park. (See the Big List for summaries of the three MP neighborhood sushiyas on El Camino -- Naomi, Akasaka and Koma.)