This might have been the worst possible sushi experience of my life.. And I am not even complaining about the wait, because we chilled next door at Destino and had a few Pisco Sours..
The Tuna they are serving is not Bluefin, they are serving you Albacore... You understand what Albacore is right? Its the shit they put in cans and then make sandwiches out of.. In fact, I dont even know of another sushi restaurant that even serves this garbage... I dont even know if you can find Albacore outside of a bait shop.
The rolls are the most disgusting combinations I have ever seen.. Mixing lime, rice, cilantro, fish,jalapeno, and avacado.. Leave out the rice, serve better quality fish and you have yourself ceviche...
Another g-d awful combination was rice, mango, Albacore, and macadamian nuts.. Why even add the Albacore?? It tasted like nuts and mangos..
This is not sushi, this is one mans idea of what stupid Americans eat.. Do you think this sushi chef, Al, goes home and makes himself some mango nut rolls.. He probably laughs his ass off with his friends when he tells them what he serves people.. This man isnt even a properly trained sushi chef.. His cuts are uneven, fish is often teared and ripped.. His fish to rice ratio was uneven from piece to piece.. I sat right in front of where he kept his fish and it was a mess.. I have never seen a sushi chef with less skill or organization.. Yes he is a nice guy, but so is my mailman..
The baked sea bass with mango.. Mmm.. mayo,cream cheese and chunks of mango with fish.. I could have almost puked..
Out of courtesy, we got all of our uneaten sushi to go.. On the walk home to the Hyatt down Market Street, passing all the homeless crack and herion addicts, I didnt have the heart to give this garbage to them..
The sake was cheap, so was the beer.. I would have spent the same amount of money on what we drank at a decent restaurant in New York, as the entire bill here.. So I didnt feel cheated, just puzzled on how this could have been so highly rated..
Shiro maguro is pretty tasty, especially the toro cuts. Fans of sushi don't rate Sushi Zone very high for authenticity when it comes to the maki. If you get nigiri and sashimi you don't have to be annoyed by scary mac nuts and jalapeno. If you order sushi there you will get sushi.
If you are a fan of the weird rolls you ordered (I can't understand why you ordered them) then you like what I like to call burrito-maki and are no less a hound.
Try Kyo-ya in the Palace Hotel if you want a well trained chef with a respect for tradition.
2 New Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94105
The idea of what constitutes "best sushi" varies widely on whether you're after the traditional version or the Americanized version, so it looks like unfortunately the people you talked to maybe just have very different taste in sushi. I'm with you -- I really don't like Americanized rolls; for me, a "sushi dinner" implies sashimi, nigiri, and maybe a simpler maki or temaki. For that reason, I usually make a point to avoid places like Sushi Zone, unless there's some sort of social engagement involved.
There are other places that offer more traditional sushi experiences: Kyo-ya as mentioned, Sebo, Ino, and Okina are also on the list. That said, it's important to bear in mind that the sushi scene in San Francisco does not have the sheer number of high quality places that you'll find in Los Angeles or New York.
As for the homeless people you passed -- can't do much about that. This is San Francisco, and it's very much a fact of life. If it makes you uncomfortable, you may want to hop on an F-Market streetcar, a bus, or a train underground instead of walking.
Note that shiro maguro or albacore tune is mostly a West Coast thing and not something that a New Yorker would run into at home or in Japan. East of the Mississippi, shiro maguro refers to another fish, and neither seem to be used in Japan. However, our local sushi chefs even the most old-line such as the proprietors of Hama-ko and Ino have adopted it and made it their own in some traditional style preps, such as shiro maguro tataki. Depending on the time of year, the local catch of shiro maguro can be the best and fattiest fish available in the sushi case so I wouldn't fault anyone for serving it. In fact, the albacore served in sushi bars has likely been rejected by the tuna processors for being too rich and dark in color for canning specs.
Given the proliferation and popularity of sushi, one would be wise to specify the type desired. If you want recs for traditional and only traditional types, say so.
re: Melanie Wong
Perhaps NYC is special in that regard (I've only eaten sushi a few times in NYC, and that was many, many years ago), but having grown up in Pennsylvania, I've seen albacore/shiro maguro at sushi joints in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The first time I ever had albacore nigiri was at a place in Pittsburgh while on a little weekend trip during college. Maybe times have changed in the 6 years I've been in the Bay Area... but it used to be readily available.
I still hold by my original issues, regardless.
re: Melanie Wong
i think the current demand for honmaguro worldwide is boosting albacore consumption in japan nowadays. its lack of popularity as sushi was probably due to its texture (a lot of japanese prefer even their otoro a littler firmer than americans) and the fact that it changes color pretty quickly.
as for east/west of wherever, i'm not so sure fish labeling is that geographically tied. i've seen fish labled all kinds of crazy things with no obvious pattern involved. although, i wouldn't be surprised if the use of escolar as 'shiro maguro' was an east coast thing. the problem with waxy esters, how it was known as a 'garbage fish,' and the fact that japan considers it toxic and banned its use in 1977 might have something to do with it.
if sushi zone really is a 'hawaiian take on sushi' then the prominence of albacore on the menu shouldn't be surprising. albacore/bincho/binnaga is known as 'tombo (dragonfly) ahi' or 'bigeye tuna' in hawaii.
also, regarding canned tuna... in the US before the late 70s, the majority of incidental bluefin tuna in a commercial fishermen's catch was consigned to the tuna canneries. nowadays, most canned tuna is made from aku/skipjack with albacore representing the "higher end" of canned tuna spectrum.