Shiki Sushi review (Sunnyvale)
At Humbucker's request here's a review of my lunch stop today in Sunnyvale.
Shiki sushi is in a mostly Korean based business mini strip mall shared with Han Kook supermarket, Palace BBQ buffet restaurant, a Korean video rental store and Korean pharmacy as well as bookstore. Naturally this would lead one to believe that the sushi restaurant was owned and run by Korean as well, and the fact that Arima-san of Yuzu San Mateo who once worked at Seto Sushi (before it changed hands to Shiki) mentioned the sale of the business to a Korean, which made me certain I was going into a non Japanese run Japanese restaurant.
However I was surprised to hear the waitresses talking in Japanese as I was ushered to the sushi bar. I arrived close to 1 pm and it just started raining a little bit, and there were only a few tables.
The sushi chef greeted me and I had never seen him before. I took a look at the black board specials and noticed a few Japanese characters, so I was a little puzzled from what I was briefed before. I proceeded to ask the chef, what is good, I eat anything, and he named a few things that were fairly common to me(tuna, hamachi, clam, uni). The specials board had ankimo, kanpachi, aji, mirugai, hotate, toro, katsuo, and tai.
After I ordered tai, I was told they didn't have it today, so I started with hirame and kanpachi. At this moment the kitchen chef comes out, sees me, we're both surprised, and gives me the "hey I know you" look and greets me and I return the greeting. Turns out he was a sous chef at Sushi Tomi Mountain View, then Tomi Sushi in San Jose, and is now at Shiki. The owner was surprised I knew him and began to let his guard down as we chatted about the sushi business, people in it, and sushi in general.
So I had hirame, kanpachi, hotate, mirugai, aji, uni, and tamago.
In summary I would say cuts are on the big side, which would represent good value to the average consumer, bordering on almost giant slabs typically seen in Korean run sushi restaurants. Quality wise is just a notch above average but as my tastes are more tuned to my favorite places, something seemed a bit amiss, but certainly way better than the average Korean or Chinese run sushi restaurant or sushi boat place. Unfortunately nothing really stood out today for me, and as I am rarely on that strip of El Camino, I doubt I will be returning (further south are Korean restaurants I want to try like Sui Tofu and the other places reviewed by Melanie, Porthos et al).
Prices are reasonable as my bill was similar to that of say Sushi Kuni in Cupertion ($4 for hirame and kanpachi I think, $6 to $8 for uni and mirugai).
As the chef and I conversed further, I asked about the story regarding the sale of the previous restaurant's owners to Koreans, and it turns out the chef, who is from Hokkaido, is half partner with a Korean guy. That may or may not explain the bigger sized nigiri that I got today. The chef owner used to work at Kantaro in SF and he was shocked to know how much I knew or read about other restaurants (all thanks to the internet, newsgroups, blogs and even then he was still amazed). I remember reading that the owner of Kantaro passed away, with speculation of heart attack or suicide as the media had claimed (stress brought on by a huge plunge in business following 9/11/01) and we talked about that.
The chef and I had a great chat, that extended to where else have I eaten, and whether he knew other sushi chefs (he actually is good friends with the former owner of Kabuto, but blanked out when I mentioned ex-Anzu chef Kaz Takahashi), the differences in the sushi culture in the US and Japan, the differences between non Japanese run sushi restaurants and Japanese run.
I think if you are in the area and are in need of nigiri sushi with decent variety and value (and not wanting to drive 8 mins locally to Kitsho), Shiki would serve that purpose, and I'm guessing better than Midori up the street. I think this restaurant might have potential.