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Self-centered sushi bar request.

  • j

I'd like to find a new, usual sushi bar. It's quite self centered of me, but I'll see what happens if I talk about myself a bit and see if I get any suggestions. Of course, I have searched and read reviews and even have a list of likely candidates to try. Ideally, I'm hoping to add to my list of places to try (or perhaps to re-order my list).

I find that I haven't been enjoying as much sushi lately; I don't currently have a go-to place.

My criteria (I know much of this is subjective, but that might lead to discussion):

* Sushi Bar
* In or near SF
* Moderate to Moderate-High cost
* Japanese trained sushi chef
* Friendly and accessible to non-Japanese speaker (Not "sushi-nazi")
* Quiet and relaxed (no techno music)
* Some other small dishes and decent sake

History of places that I frequented. I was never monogamous, and even found other places that I may have enjoyed more, but had comfortable usuals:

* 80's Boston: As students, we'd go out once a semester to Tatsukichi. Couldn't afford more than that, but it was a good intro to sushi. Palo Alto: Fuki Sushi when the prof was paying.

* 90's Palo Alto: Sushi-ya on University (I think Toshi was there at that time) (Alternate was Fukisushi or Sushi Tei).

* late-90's SF: Kabuto. (Alternate was Osaka on Fillmore).

* 00's SF: Murasaki. (Alternate was Tekka).

I'm probably leaving out something important. But, I'm ready for suggestions.

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  1. Have you been to Sushi Aka Tombo?
    Unsnobby place in Japantown with small bar (8 seats?) and many tables. Full regular menu with good cooked options (soups, umeboshi plum over rice, tempura), lots of unusual fish without any rudeness/hipness/attitude. Quite decent sake selection, if not as interesting as the sakes at Sebo. Very fair prices--it's hard to spend $50 or 60 unless you order and drink a lot. I'd be there every week if I lived a little closer. Try the omakase sashimi and an appetizer and see what you think.

    I've come to like ICHI Sushi quite a bit, but it's not very traditional (Tim's not Japanese) and can get a little scene-y (as scene-y as Bernal Heights get).

    Speaking of Kabuto, have you been up to Vivify in Mt. Shasta? I always try to stop in to see Sachio for a fantastic chirashi. Half the menu is macrobiotic. They have very good homemade ice cream too.

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    Sebo
    517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Sushi Aka Tombo
    1737 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

    4 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      Second the Sushi Aka Tombo recommendation. My favorite in the city...

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      Sushi Aka Tombo
      1737 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

      1. re: CarrieWas218

        And to be fair, I learned about it from Carrie's post. Thank you!

        1. re: Windy

          Thanks for the two recommendations to Aka Tombo. It does look good; it's been on my list, but somehow I haven't been there yet. I'll move it up. It looks like a good spot and I've read other good reviews.

          1. re: Windy

            BTW, also near the top of places for me to try is Wayo. Anyone want to compare Wayo and Aka Tombo?

      2. Roger @ Zushi Puzzle on Lombard is a mad man in the complimentary form of way with sushi. Moderately priced. Call for a resv. I wouldn't call it quiet, but it's not loud and obnoxious, and no techno music.

        Ariake on Geary is wonderful too (and quiet) - but he's Korean - not sure where he was trained but he's a super nice guy.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MeredithR

          Puzzle was not on my list. Come to think of it, I have read some good things. I think the name has put me off, but I should look beyond that. Looking at their website, not sure that it's my speed, but perhaps.

          Ariake is on my radar. I have friends with young children who are semi-regulars. My impression is that it's an inexpensive place and child friendly, so thought I might try it as a lunch stop or similar. I understand that there is a relationship to the new Kabuto as well. I can't recall the name now, but there used to be a Korean owned sushi bar in the Marina that I enjoyed; think it was on Pierce or Steiner.

          1. re: jman1

            Yes, the Ariake owners bought Kabuto from Sachio Kojima.

        2. if you head down towards San Mateo, try Liquid on El Camino at hwy 92

          2 Replies
          1. re: ROCKLES

            What do you like at Liquid? All previous reports have been very negative; even Yelp is down on it. They've apparently gone to an AYCE format primarily, which doesn't bode well for quality.

            I don't think it's in the OP's target - OP seems interested in more classic japanese style, with his love of Kabuto and Fuki and such.

            In San Mateo, how does Liquid stack up against Sushi Sam's (which I would put much closer to the OP's profile)?

            1. re: bbulkow

              Based on my reading, it doesn't strike me as a likely target. But, would be interested in hearing why it was recommended. Maybe I'm wrong.

          2. Well there's also Sebo in SF....the only criteria not met is the Japanese trained chef bit, but the vibe and fish quality (very very very high) plus the fact those guys are serious hobbyists of the trade, may make up for this. The guys at Sebo told me one time they are also huge fans of Ino Sushi....whether you are willing to ignore his personality trait and just go there and do your own ordering and eat, is up to you, but if you are a fairly seasoned eater, don't let that deter you.

            Toshi is still at the 6 seater mini sushi bar at Kaygetsu in Menlo Park. Extremely small selection, but call ahead and find out what seasonal specials he has in.

            Roger Chong of Zushi Puzzle...well he's definitely not Japanese. Trained in Japan? I have no idea. But he does have lots of interesting exotic fish from what I've read.

            Sushi Ran in Sausalito definitely has some really upscale and regional Japanese seasonal fish that's quite rare elsewhere.

            Aka Tombo, also heard good things about them. Much better value than Ino for sure. Kazu on Irving might have some potential too for the basic stuff.

            The woman who bought Sushi-Ya from Toshi and had it for some years had to shut it down due to landlords reclaiming the building, which was rebuilt and something else is in its place. She moved somewhere to Cupertino, re-opened Sushi-Ya but is missing the sushi bar seating area (sushi is made in the kitchen).

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            Sebo
            517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            Kaygetsu Restaurant
            325 Sharon Park Dr Ste A2, Menlo Park, CA 94025

            Sushi Ran
            107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, CA 94965

            4 Replies
            1. re: K K

              Roger of Zushi Puzzle is Chinese but got his training from a Japanese masterchef. Great place, but you'd really want to make a reservation to sit at the counter.

              1. re: nocharge

                Even with a reservation for the counter at Zushi Puzzle, be prepared for a long wait.

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                Zushi Puzzle
                1910 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94123

              2. re: K K

                I've had truly great fish at Sebo, but it can be outrageously expensive, and service is never a strong point. It's only worth it if you can sit at the bar, but they don't take reservations except for the people they do--which means you walk in when they open but there are empty seats they won't give you.

                I've eaten there semi-regularly since they opened and barely gotten a glimmer of recognition since Danny left.

                It's just not an ideal "regular" place, when you drop $100+ at a time, and no one bothers to make you feel welcome.

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                Sebo
                517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1. re: K K

                  Sushi Ran has really gone downhill over the last few years. They used to be great with both their cooked dishes and their sushi being very good, but both have declined greatly in quality and I wouldn't exactly say its moderate to moderately high price point, I've never gotten out of there for under $100 a person when actually ordering a decent meal and some basic sake.

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                  Sushi Ran
                  107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, CA 94965

                2. Koo on Irving should probably be on this list too, if you make a reservation and sit at the (very small) bar. The rest of the restaurant is walk in.

                  Parking gets challenging after 7 or so.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Windy

                    I recently tried Koo. We sat at a table as walk-ins. Food was promising. Slightly dark atmosphere and slightly loud music was not exactly what I am looking for as a regular spot. But, I will definitely try a seat at the bar. I'll keep in mind the need for a reservation.