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Jun 20, 2007 10:32 PM

Sakae Sushi Burlingame update

Dropped in during lunch today after an almost 2 year's absence, and although the # of patrons were a bit sparse, the fish quality was as great as ever. Fish and sometimes the sauce applied on top (where appropriate) at times overpowered the rice which I was not able to taste its texture. While sushi rice here is served at a cooler temperature than the average Kitsho visit, it still is a bit lacking in vinegar taste.

On the white board(s):

Hokkaido scallops - $6 (always great)
Wild Copper River Salmon - $16 (meaty, not much fat)
Tai - $8
Aji - $8
WAGYU (Japanese beef) - $26
Blue fin Otoro - $23
Blue fin Chutoro - $18
Blue fin Akami (red meat/by the dorsal/back side fin) - $12
Old style marinated Blue fin tuna (maguro zuke) akami - $12
Medai (butterfish) - $9 (it was actually medai no konbu jime, KELP MARINATED) and served with a light brushed sauce (nitsume) that was flavorful with depth.
Mutsu (Japanese blue fish) - $10 (served same way as above but not kelp marinated)
Kohada - $8 (on Japanese white board only)
Kyushuu saba - $8 (on Japanese white board only) - Makes you forget Norwegian saba, but this is not oily or fatty.
Japanese bonito - $8 (listed as katsuo from Chiba on the Japanese white board)
Japanese anago - $12 (excellent as usual but this time a tad bit less sweet than before, but melt in your mouth)

Also on the white board was jidori tamagoyaki (egg omlette made from free range chicken eggs) but I recall this was an outsourced item and not made in house. The Japanese white board seemed to indicate two flavors, which I could not make out and don't want to hazard a guess, but could have sworn I saw the word "ume" somewhere (which is not uncommon for some places in Japan that do sell fresh blocks of various flavors).

Spotted were Hokkaido uni and Santa Baraba uni in their cases behind the counter, alongside marinated ikura (soy sauce, mirin, sake) which was a very light marination today but good quality eggs.

Fresh wasabi (not grated on the spot but decent quality hon wasabi from squeeze tube I think) and really really tasty gari (ginger) served on the geta.

Now I'm really curious how this place stacks up with Sebo, on a fish quality scale.

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  1. I think their jidori tamagoyaki is made inhouse. I asked Jun-san that awhile ago, and he seemed taken aback or surprised that I would think it was not made there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cary

      2 to 3 years ago, owner Hiro-san told me they did not make in house (and did not recommend it). Perhaps they tried their own receipe since then. I'll try it next time which could be another year or two from now...

    2. Sebo's variety can't compete with Sakae's, and while they are the two most expensive sushi houses (with individual twists), Sakae's high-end nigiri sushi prices easily blow Sebo's out of the water. Thinking about it, Sakae's variety in raw fish as well as hard-to-find authentic Japanese cooked dishes is nothing short of stunning, especially when you consider the size of the restaurant.

      Last time I lamented to Daniel Dunham about having trouble finding a dining partner that's both really into Japanese food and willing to spend $$$ to do omakase with me at the bar in his restaurant (Sebo), and he said I could just eat omakase there by myself. Maybe I'll do that sometime. It's not easy because they only offer omakase at the bar, and they don't take reservations at the bar.


      4 Replies
      1. re: vincentlo

        While I have yet to go to Sebo, I've a few trusted JP gourmet friends who are extremely picky about their sushi (way more than I), and have commented on how Sebo's rice isn't up to par (the rice receipe and nigiri molding where the shari is kept compact, right density, temperature, as well as marination). In fact Sakae's sushi rice was very disappointing now that I have been paying more attention lately to this, the rice seemed a bit soggy and it didn't help that the fish just overpowered everything (which is not a bad thing for some, but if you're of the kind who pays attention to everything, improperly molded nigiri with improperly made sushi rice can be/is a sin). Even my favorite South Bay haunt Kitsho is guilty of this, where the freshness and quality of fish is more heavily relied upon, and then too much of a certain sauce is applied on top of some of the neta (fish) it sinks down into the shari (nigiri rice pad) and it breaks apart upon lifting up with one's fingers.

        Everyone raves about Sakae's and Sebo's fish which I don't doubt for a minute how great they are, but I have yet to hear any positive comments about properly done sushi rice.

        Have you had nigiri sushi at Kaygetsu's bar?

        1. re: K K

          I would generally agree with what you've written here re: Sebo's and Sakae's shari. For some pieces, while picking up the piece (and I even use my fingers, rather than chopsticks) you're made keenly aware of the fact that you have neta resting upon shari. Rather than having these molded into one unified creation, a symbiotic relationship, there are two parts, not as closely linked as they should be. Sometimes, when I flip the piece of nigiri to dab a corner of the fish into soy sauce, the neta might invert, and by that point, the structure of the piece is compromised and you're forced to sort of put it into your mouth more quickly. A slightly stronger grip on the piece to prevent "neta inversion" might, in turn, undermine the structure of the shari pad.

          Taking into account all these construction details and the interaction of fish with rice -- not just fish quality -- I would have to express an overall preference for the nigiri at Kaygetsu's bar.

          1. re: K K

            No I have never eaten at Kaygetsu's bar, because every time I have dinner there it's kaiseki time. =)

            So Ken, how do you like the rice at Ino and Tomi then?

            Taka-san wrote in this Japanese E-mail list that Sushi Maru in Sunnyvale has closed, but they plan to open it somewhere in Milpitas in a month or two. Milpitas is a bit far for me for kaiten sushi...


            1. re: vincentlo

              Yeah Sushi Maru Sunnyvale closed about....2 weeks ago? Looks like they will re-open in the Milpitas Town Center complex where Sushi Lovers used to be (another sushi boat place). I've had more misses than hits there, but when they hit it was decent.

              You really should try a bar experience at Kaygetsu and just get nigiri. Lunchtime might be better so you don't tempt yourself to kaiseki ;-)

              I think I prefer the rice overall at Ino over Tomi, but more importantly the way Inoue-san compacts the grains at the right density, texture as a result of the receipe and prep. I guess if you prefer a very old school traditional vinegary tasting sushi rice, then Ino's one of the best. Some like it a bit sweeter or more sugar (like most Korean run sushi restaruants), but I think those are better suited for rolls. Then again it has been close to 2 years or so since I last went to Ino my memory is a bit hazy. Tomi's is not bad although the fish doesn't completely overpower the rice like at Sakae. Kitsho's rice is a bit on and off, and definitely not good when too much sauce goes over a fish and gets into the rice.

        2. I just received word that the chef of Sakae's sister restaurant, Yuzu, will be going on a week-long vacation on independece day week, which means someone from Sakae will be behind the Hoshizakis while Arima-san is on vacay.

          The person filling in is Jun Nozawa. So if you want to get Nozawa-san's sushi at a (relatively) cheaper rate, have dinner at Yuzu Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday following Independence Day.

          Yuzu Sushi & Grill
          54 37th Avenue
          San Mateo, CA

          1. great feedback KK, now i know what some of the delicacies on the white board are.
            Last time I visited, there was Shirako, or cod milt. just wanting to know if anyone had the pleasure of tasting this specialty of Sakae is famous for?

            1. I always wonder why/how Sakae charges/can charge these outrageous prices for blue fin akami/chutoro/otoro. By the way, after years of wandering around sushi houses (Sakae, Kitsho, etc.), I have really settled down on Tomi in Mountain View. Taka-san is now getting bluefin from Mexico every Monday and Thursday, and bluefin from Kinki (Japan) every Friday. The nakaochi (meat plus fat scraped from the bones) don from the bluefin from Kinki I had last Friday lunch was stunning, like a chopped-up otoro donburi with a really amazing amount of buttery-smooth fat from the fish. You may have to specifically ask the sushi chef if it's not on the menu. Only $8.90!


              1 Reply
              1. re: vincentlo

                Agreed bluefin toro is just veryexpensive at Sakae, although in general the cuts are larger and the quality is very good. I'm not sure of their source but it could be Mediterranean or Spain at least that was the case some years ago. I'm not the toro guy I used to be luckily so I won't miss it if I don't have it for a long time. They say the choicest bluefin comes from the Indian Ocean these days.

                Well to be fair you have an "in" with Takao-san so of course he will hooketh you up.
                The problem is that he's rarely at the restaurant on regular weekdays/nights so catching him is tough, which is the key to a good sushi meal and the quality is right on. For some reason on other days when he's not there the experience is severly lacking.

                I finally found what where Wynn's is that you were talking about in another thread. They say some of the Joy Luck Place guys opened it up, and thankfully T&C China Bistro closed up shop, they were horrendous.

                I've had that nakaochi don before, good stuff. Sometimes if it is a loose mush of chutoro, he'll carved it up with scallions and offer it as negi-toro don for under $10. Haven't had that in some years now.