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Dec 16, 2009 10:02 AM

Sushi/Omakase recs? (visiting SF from NYC)

Hey SF hounds, my husband and I will be visiting from NYC next month and are looking for the best omakase in the city. If there are any transplanted NY'ers here, or others familiar with the sushi in NYC, we like the following NYC restaurants for omakase: Sushi of Gari, Sasabune, Sushi Yasuda. We did omakase at a couple places in Vancouver on a recent trip - Tojo's and Shiru Bay Chopstick cafe. We are looking for super fresh fish, (inventive preparations are appreciated but not required) and we typically spend $80-$120 per person. A mix of sushi/sashimi would be preferred (as opposed to an omakase meal that includes many kitchen prepared hot dishes - 1 or 2 would be ok).

Also, would love to hear your favorite sushi restaurants in general, and what you like to order there. Price points and neighborhood information would help too. Any input would be much appreciated! And be sure to look me up on the NYC board if you're ever visiting the east coast. TIA

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  1. A standard response here is Sakae Sushi in Burlingame. A short drive or caltrain ride away from SF.

    They've moved to fancier, bigger, and a more expensive location. That and probably the economy has led them to have a "cover charge" to sit at the sushi bar. The prices for some of their menu items are also a bit higher I think. Seafood wise, there are few places in the SF area that can match the variety of fresh seafood and nigiri preparation at Sakae. Jun-san had formal kaiseki-cuisine training so requesting some appetizers (if you call a few days ahead of time they can do more ornate things) along with your omakase sushi is recommended.

    There are a lot of regulars at Sakae's sushi bar and if you end up enjoying the evening close to closing, Hiro-san or Jun-san will start pouring free drinks and cracking more jokes.

    1. Sushi in the Bay Area is not nearly as good as NYC or Vancouver or Los Angeles. Don't bother eating sushi in San Francisco. It is a waste of time compared to eating at Yasuda or Sushi of Gari. If you have to do it, then go to either Sebo or Sakae, but be prepared to be disapointed with inferior rice, fish, and knife work.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Amy G

        Regrettably likely. San Francisco proper actually has some of the worse sushi in the area - the japanese population is down the peninsula. 20-something focused places like Blowfish are quantity over quality.

        My favorite sushi experience now is ordering the whiteboard at Sushi Sam's, simply for the thrill of unusual fish, but it's not a calm and perfect place - more of an authentic hard rocking japanese beerhall that happens to run by someone with a line on serious fish. You won't get perfection there. They are a short walk from the train station.

        There's a place called Naomi in Menlo Park that specializes in Omakase. Wandered in once and got prime spot at the bar when the head iazaki was winding down, and he started treating us to some kind of saba that he had pressed and grilled himself, does it once a year. The man's clearly a fanatic, and warmed up to us once he figured we weren't the usual expense account types.

        Sushi Sho was also on everyone's short list, but the man retired recently.

        This is worth a read - Sushi Monster's Big List of Sushi - but likely not of high use, because the northern border of his wanderings start about 30 minutes south of san francisco. He also has a very particular taste, so my list doesn't tally with his perfectly, but he makes his qualifications clear.

        One of my favorite sushi experiences was in Manaus, Brazil, along the Amazon. It turns out Honda has a plant there, so there's the sushi place the honda execs eat at, with their bottles of whiskey lined up and labled behind the bar just like any place in Osaka. My travel partners were astonished I'd eat sushi somewhere that has only a light grasp on the concept of refrigeration, but the local fish (nail fish) was a peak experience. No refrigeration can lead to great results.

        1. re: bbulkow

          thanks to everyone for their input (and interesting travel stories)! based on the responses here and having done more research the past day or so i've also come to realize that we won't get what we're looking for in the city of SF (we're only in the city for 1.5 days before heading up to napa so are looking for a restaurant that won't require more than 15ish minutes of travel by taxi). i guess i thought that SF, as other west coast cities, would have superior sushi (esp pacific fish) from what we find in NYC.

          so, for our 1 dinner in the city, what would you recommend? we're doing several fine dining dinners in napa/yountville, so would appreciate a non-fine dining recommendation. maybe something quintessentially san franciscan? or 'californian' cuisine? how are some of the restaurant with seasonal prix fixe menus (coi, gary danko etc)? what about more casual places like absinthe? thanks again for any input!

          1. re: skgchow

            I love the meal I had at Ame and Coi is on my list of places to go. While I thought the service at Gary Danko was spectacular I wasn't blown away by any of the food selections.
            If I were to think of ONE place in SF that I go to again and again, it would be Canteen. The ingredients are fresh and local and the atmosphere is very relaxed. teeny place -- you'll need a reservation -- and only Tuesday is a set menu (other nights are just a special albeit liimited menu).

            (and agree with the others.. sushi sam's is the closest in terms of fish quality you'll get to sushi yasuda but couldn't be more different in terms of atmosphere).

            817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            Gary Danko
            800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            Ame Restaurant
            689 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

            1. re: margieco

              Maybe I've just ordered the wrong thing, but I've NEVER been impressed with Sushi Sam's (and yes I've ordered off the board). I would say however that I've thoroughly enjoyed Kiss Seafood (which does have omakase and is this tiny little sushi spot in Japantown), Oyaji (which seems out of your way so I won't describe too much of it), and my most recent favorite Kappou Gomi - a very authentic Japanese restaurant in the Richmond (between 19th & 20th on Geary - I think). That is out of your range but the food is definitely very authentic, no omakase per se but there is at least 10 different preparations of fish (not just sashimi). Just be warned it's not a nigiri place (sashimi only) and no bento boxes. But this is more of a Japanese gem that does cooked food executed well, beautiful presentations, and great sashimi (highly recommend their Toro and Uni).

              As for other spots (non-Japanese and casual), I'd agree with Canteen and add in NOPA, Aziza, Bar Jules, Gialina (for Californian pizza) - accessible by BART, and Jai Yun (for a different type of Chinese food experience - you don't order you just pick the price). Very general I know...
              Sorry I just re-read what you asked - as far as Californian, I'd recommend NOPA, Canteen, and Bar Jules. Interesting fact about Bar Jules, they don't own a freezer so everything is fresh. No Ice Cream too though :(.

              1. re: jlfoodie

                I wouldn't read too much into not owning a freezer - neither does In n' Out, supposedly.

                Most of the best restaurants have freezers, not because they need to keep old food for long, but because of the numerous culinary preparations that actually require freezing for optimal taste.

                For example, with many desserts, after you make the dough, you freeze it, then you bake it; it comes out a lot better.

              2. re: margieco

                I love Coi and am going to Canteen on this visit (from Los Angeles). Any other places as recommendable that aren't on the obvious radars, Margieco?

              3. re: skgchow

                I second Coi and Canteen, also love La Ciccia - excellent Sardinian. Range is great too. I'm also a fan of Foreign Cinema - sit outside (if it's not raining - they do have heatlamps tho) with a movie playing in the background. Inside is not even worth going - too noisy. I also love Spork, with its quirty, casual decor (was a Kentucky Fried Chicken) and very homey food.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  I can't wait to try La Ciccia. Looks right up my alley, with all that seafood. Thank you.

                  Maybe Spork for Brunch (my dinners are now reserved).

                2. re: skgchow

                  Zuni Cafe is about as quintessentially northern Californian as you'll get within San Francisco, and is centrally located. La Ciccia and Incanto offer wonderful Italian food but they may be further than you want to travel, depending on where you are staying. Absinthe and Gary Danko are good restaurants of their type, but not anything I'd recommend to New Yorkers.


                  Zuni Cafe
                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  La Ciccia
                  291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                  Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
                  1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                  Gary Danko
                  800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                  Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
                  398 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102