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sushi in SF for out-of-towners

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ShanDeez Jul 27, 2011 02:49 PM

My boyfriend and I are coming to San Francisco (from NYC) on Monday and we're looking for a great sushi meal. We count Yasuda as our favorite place for sushi. Though we are willing to try more "inventive" sushi, what really helps Yasuda stand out for me is the quality of rice. In other words, if the sushi I am eating happens to be creative, as opposed to traditional, but has excellent rice, it can be just as good in my eyes. We also love Japanese Kitchen and Sushi preparations - especially Uni and Ankimo.

Based on that, do you have a recommendation for a stand out sushi meal in SF? Money is no object. We will be in town from Monday - Thursday, and are planning this outing for Tues or Wed. We would really like to stay in the city for this experience. From my research, it appears as though Sebo, Ino, Aka Tombo, and Koo are possible options. Am I on the right track? Do you have any words of wisdom or guidance? Are there specialty local fishes to make sure to taste?

Your help is much appreciated, as we want our sushi experience in SF to be a memorable one!

-----
Sebo
517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Ino Restaurant
25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

  1. CarrieWas218 Jul 27, 2011 03:16 PM

    You are on the right track and I would immediately dismiss Ino as mediocre and Sebo as too inconsistent (with service and whatnot).

    That leaves Koo and Sushi Aka Tombo; if you want more inventive, than I would suggest Koo and their Spoonfuls of Happiness. If you want more classic, exceptional sushi, than I would go with Sushi Aka Tombo.

    -----
    Sebo
    517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

    23 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218
      Windy Jul 27, 2011 03:48 PM

      Thank you for reading recent threads! Agree with Carrie's assessment.

      The only thing I'd add is if you want more cooked options, you'll do best to go to a second Japanese restaurant for it--whether it's inventive home-cooked organic (Minako) or izakaya (Kappou Gomi) or robata (Nojo).

      Very few San Francisco sushi bars serve local fish. Tataki does, but I was less than impressed with their sushi. You can enjoy cooked local fish at many other restaurants: look for pan fried sand dabs and maybe fresh grilled sardines or halibut.

      Skool is a good spot for cooked sustainable fish and their famous uni flan. You can get a drink at the bar and a snack if you don't have time for a whole meal.

      1. re: Windy
        j
        jman1 Jul 28, 2011 12:49 PM

        I really need to visit Kappou Gomi; I've been negligent. But, I never have heard it described as an izakaya.

        I tried Skool last evening for the first time. Nice seafood restaurant, but wanted to make clear to the OP that it's not a Japanese restaurant (the above already makes clear that it's not a sushi restaurant). It's an innovative seafood restaurant with a minimal amount of Japanese influence (maybe 10% or 20%, if such things can be quantified).

        -----
        Kappou Gomi
        5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

        Skool
        1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: jman1
          Windy Jul 28, 2011 01:08 PM

          Here's the menu for Skool. With two Japanese chefs and many of the preparations, it has a significant Japanese influence. And yes, lots of other influences.
          http://skoolsf.com/menu/dinner/

          But I was noting them as a place for local and/or sustainable fish.

          -----
          Skool
          1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          1. re: Windy
            j
            jman1 Jul 28, 2011 01:23 PM

            To be fair, I haven't been to Japan in many years. I guess I should have said not traditional Japanese. I suppose that it could be related to what restaurants in Japan are serving now. Perhaps I should up the % Japanese to 30 or 40. The menu does make it appear more Japanese than it did to me while eating.

            I ate oysters, chef's crudo, shishito and Squid Ink Spaghettina. Also sampled the uni flan, roasted sardines and spiced salmon as well as two deserts.

            By the way, it was quite loud inside at 8:45 pm (85 - 90 db). Quieted down to 75 db after about 1.5 hours.

            1. re: jman1
              Windy Jul 28, 2011 01:27 PM

              I have no idea what modern restaurants in Japan are like either; I just like what Skool is doing with mushroom fries and interesting fish. And flat breads.

              Hope the uni flan and roasted sardines were good. Last time I went for happy hour, and we stayed nearly until closing.

              -----
              Skool
              1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      2. re: CarrieWas218
        osho Jul 28, 2011 12:35 PM

        Ino - mediocre? Really? Since when?

        1. re: osho
          CarrieWas218 Jul 28, 2011 01:02 PM

          Osho, up until six months ago, I lived in Japantown for six years. So, for me, Ino has been mediocre for the last six-and-a-half years...

          I never appreciated his attitude at solo diners, his over-use of wasabi, and his inconsistent fish.

          -----
          Ino Restaurant
          25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

          1. re: CarrieWas218
            osho Jul 29, 2011 01:16 PM

            Inconsistent fish, Yes. But that's the nature of the market, no?

            Brilliant o-toro, chu-toro, ama ebi and Uni. Superlative ankimo - not the abominable sliced kind either.

            Rude - I have never been treated badly. But then I've never been by myself.

            Isn't it like a slice of Japan though? I have not been in a couple of years, but I was a regular until 2009. I have eaten like a potentate for $75 per person incl. tax and tip.

            -----
            Ino Sushi
            22 Peace Plz # 510, San Francisco, CA

            1. re: osho
              CarrieWas218 Jul 29, 2011 01:29 PM

              With so many great sushi restaurants with affable chefs (like the guy at Sushi Aka Tombo), and MANY RECURRING complaints about Ino's attitude, I don't know why he continually gets recommendations.

              Mine is certainly not the first complaint about his attitude and while I will grant you that fish can be inconsistent, courtesy and manners should never be so.

              -----
              Ino Restaurant
              25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

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

              1. re: CarrieWas218
                osho Jul 29, 2011 02:22 PM

                Completely concur about courtesy and manners. Just that I have not experienced any treatment of this sort at Ino.

                OT - but this is the very reason I swore off any place owned by the man who ran Sozai in the Inner Sunset.

                -----
                Ino Restaurant
                25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

                1. re: osho
                  j
                  jman1 Jul 29, 2011 02:30 PM

                  Current or former owner of Sozai?

                  1. re: jman1
                    osho Jul 29, 2011 02:53 PM

                    His initials are GP.

                    1. re: osho
                      vincentlo Jan 16, 2013 08:16 AM

                      I've never received any rude treatment from GP at either Sozai or Nombe. My complaint is the food quality at his restaurants has never been a solid A.

                  2. re: osho
                    j
                    jman1 Jul 29, 2011 02:36 PM

                    Isn't finicky, idiosyncratic service pretty much par for the course at Japanese run sushi bars? I sympathize that it's no fun to be treated poorly and would not want to return to such a place; especially if it's essentially something that would be considered discrimination in the US.

                    However, one of the early rules of sushi that my Japanese friends explained was that one needed to become a regular and friendly with the chef before they could expect the good stuff. She explained that her (half Japanese) husband was frustrated with the ritual whenever the moved or visited a new city, but that it couldn't be avoided.

                    1. re: jman1
                      Windy Jul 29, 2011 02:53 PM

                      I've eaten in hundreds of sushi bars and traditional Japanese restaurants, including in Japan.

                      The service I received at Ino was poor, and the last time I left. I prefer to spend my discretionary income at businesses that treat me as a welcome guest.

                      I agree that some places of all ethnicities give much better food and service to regulars and big spenders. Many of them make it impossible to want to become regulars. Those chefs should open private clubs and get out of the service industry.

                      1. re: Windy
                        j
                        jman1 Jul 29, 2011 03:24 PM

                        I think that you've hit on one of the essentials. Many of the Japanese chefs do seem to treat their establishments as very private clubs. Might be a cultural thing (there is similar cross cultural friction at some Italian, French or Spanish places). However, it does sound like you are a quite experienced sushi bar goer.

                        Reminds me of the first time I was taken to Tekka (a decade ago). No, it's not a great sushi bar, but it's a fun place for a number of reasons.

                        First thing that Nobu said to me was, "Don't tell anyone else about my restaurant." More recently, I've seen him suggest to regulars that they not visit on certain nights of the week. I know that I'm off topic here, but it seems that Nobu might prefer non-Japanese customers (one rarely sees a Japanese there). One Japanese expat that I met there told me that he was too likely to argue politics with Japanese customers.

                      2. re: jman1
                        osho Jul 29, 2011 02:56 PM

                        jman - I completely agree and I have experienced this as well.

                        Most people I know just don't have the patience for this courting-like ritual and therefore miss out on numerous positive aspects of having that relationship with the itamae.

                        I can sense the mods are going to step in now :-)

                        1. re: osho
                          Windy Jul 29, 2011 03:25 PM

                          As they should. Because your comments are blaming those of us who received poor service for that service. I don't appreciate the implications.

                          1. re: Windy
                            osho Jul 29, 2011 03:54 PM

                            I'm not implying anything or blaming anyone - just stating a fact that Ino San has been good to me. Your experience may be different and that's fine with me.

                            Maybe a dissenting opinion is too much for you to handle?

              2. re: osho
                Windy Jul 28, 2011 01:10 PM

                Maybe they're ruder to women.

                I've eaten there twice and tried to eat there a third time, when Mrs. Ino rudely tried to talk me out of entering, citing minimums which I would have spent easily. The sushi bar was empty, and I'm hardly homeless. Neither time did I eat anything exceptional, and service was barely acceptable (ignored, gruff, rude). There is absolutely nothing there to warrant that kind of reception.

                1. re: Windy
                  K K Jul 29, 2011 04:31 PM

                  I've seen quite a few regular female customers (some solo diners) at Ino in the last 10 years. In observing one, she told me she had been eating at Ino's since the around the corner from the defunct bowling alley days, think she was Chinese expat but lived in SF for ages. Their interaction with each other was no more than a thumbs up, or "this is delicious as usual" with a smile/nod from the chef, not a whole lot else going on. Since then I've also read a female blogger who can't stop loving Ino and his sushi, every review has been nothing but praise. So perhaps he is not rude to all women, and certainly those female regulars know Ino's demeanor/temperament and/or put up with it if they see it as a problem.

                  It is probably the same thing with Sawa Sushi. Some females complain he cracks off color adult jokes, and yet at the same time some female customers who may be regulars think he is a charming culinary genius and think the jokes are a bonus entertainment. Two completely different sushi chefs and styles, and examples of "clearly not an establishment for everyone" kind of places.

                  There are places that require a sushi bar minimum, and I experienced one recently in the Peninsula, and was made clear of it after I requested to be seated at the bar....said "no problem" and that was the end of the obstacle. From a business perspective, I bet this place (and others) get a lot of drop-in's from people who are looking to spend no more than the teens and twenties for a dinner.

              3. re: CarrieWas218
                osho Jan 9, 2013 04:41 PM

                Carrie, I just want to acknowledge that in terms of value and service, Sushi AKA Tombo is truly excellent. I have been there many times since 2011, and I have always been happy with the selection of fish and the stellar $30-something omakase.

                The only odd thing is the sushi bar - with this weird barrier. Nevertheless, I hope the place stays open for years to come.

                1. re: osho
                  CarrieWas218 Jan 9, 2013 04:49 PM

                  When I lived near J-Town, Sushi Aka Tombo was my local favorite (never sure why folks liked Ino so much). I completely agree and chef's omakase can't be beat!

              4. j
                jman1 Jul 27, 2011 05:33 PM

                Sounds like you are looking for a traditional sushi bar with a good selection of cooked dishes. Does "Japanese Kitchen" mean something specific?

                SF doesn't have the same size of upper income expat community to support a lot of places like Yasuda. There are more if you consider the entire area (esp. into Silicon Valley). Instead, you are likely to find smaller, neighborhood places.

                I've only been to one of the four places you mentioned, but I'll offer my thoughts and impressions (mostly because I've had my regular spots … but am now trying new, to me, places).

                Sebo: Non-Japanese (Euro-American) sushi-affeciando owned. Might be closer in experience to Blue Ribbon Sushi than to Yasuda.

                Ino: Very small, intimate place with Japanese trained sushi chef (one of a handful in SF). Considered to be a bit overly serious. Used to be a semi-hidden spot in former location before wide spread internet food discussion groups. Serious and intimate spot.

                Aka Tombo: Was recently recommended to me as a moderate to moderate/high sushi spot that I might want to make my regular. Seems like a neighborhood spot (in Japantown outdoor mall). Judging by appearance (and I do do that), it looks good with a real Japanese vibe. On my list to try next.

                Koo: Tried recently. High quality neighborhood spot. Atmosphere is a bit Americanized (darker lights, louder music), but still comfortable. Some creative rolls, but also more traditional offerings. I ate at a table the first time; I'll go back and sit at the bar.

                -----
                Sebo
                517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Ino Restaurant
                25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

                1 Reply
                1. re: jman1
                  Tripeler Jul 27, 2011 05:38 PM

                  I wouldn't exactly call Sebo "Euro-American" owned. Michael Black is from Japan and is half-Japanese and is from Japan.

                  -----
                  Sebo
                  517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                2. w
                  whiner Jul 28, 2011 02:01 PM

                  You could go to Ame and get the "taste of the sashimi bar" -- not really sushi, but definitely inventive, truly excellent, and close enough.

                  1. K K Jul 28, 2011 02:27 PM

                    If this is a quest for best sushi rice in SF, and using Yasuda as your golden standard (and an extremely high one at that) when Yasuda himself was still manning the counter, then you won't find anything that will compare....unless you drive 8+ hours south to Los Angeles at Mori Sushi (assuming Mori is still working part time there, he recently sold the shop to an assistant chef).

                    In SF, I'd say the best sushi rice out of the places already mentioned is Ino. Sorry for those who protest against Ino...but it is the truth...he is the most experienced and his rice surpasses Sebo's, Koo's...and I'm guessing Aka Tombo's as well. He is definitely not like Yasuda personality-wise...and isn't the kind of interactive jovial educational chatty sushi chef, unless you are fluent in Japanese, and even then the chats may be brisk. Perhaps this place suits those who prefer being by themselves and only care to enjoy the food and nothing else. Either way, Ino has a large legion of followers who have been going to his place for 20+ years. There will be inconsistencies as with many places, but go in with an open mind on the right days, and if you do and it can be above average.

                    I don't know if you have been to 15 East in NY, but judging from pictures I've seen online, the only restaurant that might come close at least visually to 15 East's nigiri as well as fish selection/presentation, would be Sushi Ran in Sausalito....make reservations ahead of time and get a seat in front of the main chef by the bar, or so they say.

                    While there's a recent downhill reporting, this 4 year old photo album I found online does showcase when they are at their best

                    https://picasaweb.google.com/vintners...

                    -----
                    Sebo
                    517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    Sushi Ran
                    107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, CA 94965

                    26 Replies
                    1. re: K K
                      ankimo Jul 29, 2011 09:57 AM

                      I have eaten at yasuda, mori, and ino, and I agree with Ken. Ino is SF good, sushi chef is gruff, and heavy handed with wasabi. I like the ankimo at Ino.

                      1. re: ankimo
                        osho Jul 31, 2011 09:33 AM

                        Have you had such excellent ankimo on the peninsula anywhere ?

                        1. re: ankimo
                          d
                          Dustin_E Aug 1, 2011 12:14 PM

                          i've been to yasuda, masa, urasawa, japan a couple times, and i'd agree ino is great. the service is brisk at best, but there is one (pretty old) guy making sushi for a lot of people, and one (pretty old) lady bringing everyone drinks. i actually get much more annoyed with some of the other customers who take forever to order a few california rolls -- if you want a couple rolls and "normal" service, ino wouldn't be the best place for that.

                          i suggest ordering the ankimo appetizer plate that isn't on the menu. and the wasabi definitely may take some getting used to (or make you hate the place.)

                          1. re: Dustin_E
                            K K Aug 1, 2011 12:24 PM

                            Thanks Dustin and ankimo for their worldly inputs and for framing Ino amongst those listed greats (even though Ino is more of a neighborhood pricey place, but with a gruff personality of a chef compared to others).

                            As for myself I've only been to Sushi Zo in LA, supposed Michelin star restaurant. While it is several steps above even Sebo in SF, Zo's ankimo isn't anywhere close to Ino's receipe. Sebo's ankimo is probably 2nd best in the city, and overall I'd say Ino then Sebo for ankimo in all of SF Bay Area is my guess (even though I haven't been to the other famous or well liked places). The rest (including South Bay and the Peninsula) more or less taste the same.

                            Also...Ino's shoyu + sake marinated ikura is one of the best, even better than Zo's (which was a lot milder and smaller eggs).

                            -----
                            Sebo
                            517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                            Ino Restaurant
                            25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

                            1. re: K K
                              CarrieWas218 Aug 1, 2011 12:52 PM

                              I have also been to Urasawa and Masa and still don't think Ino is "all that and a bag of chips."

                              I'd take Sushi Aka Tombo over Ino any day of the week.

                              Why settle for the potential of gruff service when there quality of the fish at either Ino or Sushi Aka Tombo is the same and the service as SAT is exceptionally better?

                              -----
                              Masa's Restaurant
                              648 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

                              Ino Restaurant
                              25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

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

                              1. re: CarrieWas218
                                d
                                Dustin_E Aug 1, 2011 01:17 PM

                                well, i think we can all agree that ino is certainly a divisive place.

                                i've never been to SAT, sebo, or koo (but need to try them now), which i'm sure are far more relevant comparables than urasawa or masa.

                                i do love ino, but agree it is hit or miss -- especially with the omakase and set combinations. and the service at ino is certainly not for everyone. i hate it when i don't get a water refill for the entire meal, or have to stare at the chef for 20 minutes before getting to order anything. but i hate a lot of things in life, and for me the fish quality more than makes up for ino's shortcomings. but i've been going there somewhat regularly for several years, so some of the details (the soy sauce, the wasabi ratio, the cramped interior, getting used to the service etc) might be acquired tastes.

                                1. re: Dustin_E
                                  osho Aug 1, 2011 04:45 PM

                                  Dustin, my point exactly. They are all acquired tastes.

                                  To begin with, it's not like we rank anywhere among the sushi capitals of the world and Ino is still one of the best sushi-ya's in SF and I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks.

                                  Also, I won't stand by when someone tries to label a place 'mediocre', esp to someone from out of town.

                                  1. re: osho
                                    ankimo Aug 2, 2011 12:17 AM

                                    no one is saying Ino is the best, but it's among the places I go back to.
                                    (SF is not LA or NYC when it comes to Japanese)
                                    Yasuda, Mori, Zo, have been defining meals for me in terms of sushi, so having eaten at Ino, Kiss, Koo, Kabuto (too bad they keep shrinking the foie gras sushi), Tombo, Okina, Kaygetsu, Sam's, Tomi, Kitsho, etc. each can have it's own strengths and weaknesses, and it's not the same league as the Yasuda, Mori, Zo, etc but they are all fine for this area.

                                    1. re: ankimo
                                      K K Aug 2, 2011 09:19 AM

                                      I think the ultimate question I want to ask is, where does Ino's ankimo (and only ankimo) rank amongst all those places you had? I've only had Zo's ankimo...did not think it was that great. Sebo's is very very good, but still not quite as good as Ino's but better than anything I've had elsewhere.

                                      1. re: K K
                                        osho Aug 2, 2011 09:23 AM

                                        Sebo's ankimo used to be decent - not as good as Ino.

                                        I was wondering if there was excellent ankimo in the SF Peninsula anywhere since I no longer have the luxury of late evening visits to J Town.

                                        -----
                                        Sebo
                                        517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                        1. re: K K
                                          osho Aug 2, 2011 09:24 AM

                                          KK, wasn't there a high end place in Palo Alto that opened in 2008? Some ex-chefs from Nobu or someplace?

                                          1. re: osho
                                            m
                                            mhuang Aug 2, 2011 03:56 PM

                                            That is Jin Sho on California Ave in Palo Alto. I haven't been recently, but as I recall, the two chefs are from Nobu NY. I have had some great quality fish there and some rather interesting dishes, but I have not tried the ankimo there. They do have fish that you normally don't see on sushi menus; the prices for their nigiri was priced for each individual piece (as is traditionally done in Japan), but was priced at $1-2 more than the average price for a pair at other sushi bars.

                                            The food there is very much torn from the menus of Nobu and Morimoto's with some very familar dishes being presented there such as the toro tartar and the rock shrimp tempura.

                                            The reason I haven't been to Jin Sho much these days is because there are a number of great options for high quality sushi all along the Peninsula, including Sam's in San Mateo, Higuma in Redwood City, Kaygetsu in Menlo Park and Sushi Tomi and Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View.

                                            -----
                                            Kappo Nami Nami
                                            240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

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

                                            Jin Sho
                                            454 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

                                            Sushi Tomi
                                            635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                            Morimoto
                                            610 Main Street, Napa, CA

                                          2. re: K K
                                            p
                                            pauliface Aug 2, 2011 09:31 AM

                                            Ino has the only ankimo I like.
                                            Also the best ikura.

                                            Much of the criticism leveled at Ino here is fair. And I have not been to sebo or sushi aka tombo. But of the places I've tried in SF, Ino is my favorite, and Yume (east bay) is #2.

                                            -----
                                            Ino Restaurant
                                            25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

                                            1. re: K K
                                              d
                                              Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 09:42 AM

                                              i'm curious how much ankimo one can eat before feeling sick. a whole appetizer-sized portion at ino for one person is really a lot. i wonder if two or three with some sake would be delicious or disgusting.

                                              i believe i read that some restaurants in japan specialize in serving only monkfish, its liver, and lots of sake. anyone know anything about this?

                                              1. re: Dustin_E
                                                osho Aug 2, 2011 09:52 AM

                                                Is there such a thing as too much ankimo or too much foie gras? :)

                                                I vote for delicious.

                                                1. re: osho
                                                  K K Aug 2, 2011 10:13 AM

                                                  Ino's monkfish liver is extremely addictive but too much can also give a very filling feeling. I do taste some sake marination (could be mirin) in his prep that is absent or nowhere near as prominent from other receipes. Even on an off day at Ino, the ankimo is better than the best goose foie gras anyday.

                                                  Okina, that's a strange place to be mentioned, but is still an interesting SF fixture. Limited business hours (dinner only like 3 ish days a week), sushi and basic rolls only (and very basic fish selection), cheap omakase (like $30 or so), the sushi rice is not seasoned much, and the chef owner is very friendly old guy (Hiroshima atom bomb survivor too), uses pre-sliced fish, and overall not super stellar by any means, but still a good experience. The most exotic thing they have is uni, and no mirugai no ankimo. Cheapest/best valued sushi for sure.

                                                  Maybe someone can answer on the Japan board, but yeah there are places that cook the monkfish (anko) as a multiple course meal. One of them being nabe (hotpot) and as seen with Morimoto at his former restaurant in Tokyo on No Reservations: Tokyo episode, Anthony Bourdain had a multi course that included deep fried, stewed/braised monkfish, hotpot, and some of the innards too I think. As to whether SF Bay Area has anko nabe...I'd say call Kappou Gomi (SF) and Ha Ju Hatchi (Saratoga) and see if they will stock it when in season and make a nabe out of it.

                                                  In the Peninsula, there's decent ankimo at the likes of Sushi Sam's, Sakae, and the usual suspects etc. Just don't use Ino's ankimo as your standard to compare to avoid disappointment.

                                                  Yes osho, Jin Sho in Palo Alto opened by two ex Nobu NY chefs, porting over some familiar looking receipes like their toro tartare with yamamomo (mountain peach) on the side and of course gindara saikyomizozuke (kyoto/white miso marinated grilled black cod) that is not a Nobu invention but popularlized by them. Their nigiri is indeed stellar and they carry a good selection of exotic seasonal imports. The cooked dishes are also great (provided you don't order the stuff directly from the menu... the chefs are fantastic at coming up with stuff on the fly) The lawyers, doctors, and corporate execs and nostalgic fans can flock to Kaygetsu's sushi bar for their humble quaint reduced space and small selection of fish (albeit decent quality) but for the same price, better run for the $ at JS, especially when an inconsistent not on the mark visit at Kaygetsu can be very costly.

                                                  Sushi is overrated anyway, yakitori is the way to go! :-D

                                                  1. re: K K
                                                    d
                                                    Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 10:24 AM

                                                    trying a special order at Kappou Gomi (SF) or Ha Ju Hatchi (Saratoga) is a great idea. i'll do that.

                                                    do you really rate yakitori highly? the real deal focuses on less common parts of the chicken, right? i think it sounds disgusting, but i'm probably just wrong.

                                                    -----
                                                    Kappou Gomi
                                                    5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                    1. re: K K
                                                      osho Aug 2, 2011 11:59 AM

                                                      All this talk ! Should we have a sushi 'at the counter' chowdown ? Any interest ?

                                                      If so - I will send an invite to the list.

                                                      1. re: osho
                                                        d
                                                        Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 12:15 PM

                                                        i'd be down.

                                                        1. re: Dustin_E
                                                          osho Aug 2, 2011 01:02 PM

                                                          Done. I'll send the invite today. KK, ankimo et al I presume you are on the list.

                                                          Cheers

                                                          1. re: osho
                                                            d
                                                            Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 01:35 PM

                                                            >> Is there such a thing as too much ankimo or too much foie gras? :) I vote for delicious.

                                                            i plan on holding you to this. :-)

                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                              osho Aug 2, 2011 01:43 PM

                                                              Only if we settle on Ino! Otherwise ankimo is off the list, mate.

                                                              1. re: osho
                                                                j
                                                                jman1 Aug 2, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                                Don't eat too much. It's on the "watch" list. :-(

                                                                http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=260

                                                                I've personally always thought of ankimo as an occasional treat and not something that I'm always in the mood for (so I guess that I'm not one to speak since many of you obviously love it).

                                                                Saw an old SF Chron article that describes it as a winter dish in Japan.

                                                                http://articles.sfgate.com/2004-10-06...

                                                                1. re: jman1
                                                                  osho Aug 2, 2011 03:14 PM

                                                                  jman - thanks for letting us know. I am a bit fanatical about the MBA list so I suppose it's off the table then.

                                                                  1. re: osho
                                                                    j
                                                                    jman1 Aug 2, 2011 03:41 PM

                                                                    Sorry for the bad news. Unfortunately, that list changes fairly frequently and can also be quite specific (species, location, method of catch). There is a smart phone app that might help keep up to date.

                                                                2. re: osho
                                                                  d
                                                                  Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 02:13 PM

                                                                  i generally don't dare to try it elsewhere... had too many bad experiences. i'm down for anywhere. would love to try somewhere new.

                                2. v
                                  vulber Aug 1, 2011 07:27 PM

                                  haven't tried all the places mentioned yet, but the best sushi i've had is at kaygetsu (and yes, i realize it's not a sushi restaurant)

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: vulber
                                    j
                                    jman1 Aug 1, 2011 08:06 PM

                                    There was a time when Kyo-ya was always mentioned. However, not lately. I confess that I haven't been there in years. When I did go in the past, the experience was good even if the sushi bar seemed more focused on Japanese expense accounts. A Japanese friend explained that the menu included comments like, "This is a sake that Americans like."

                                    And, while I know that it's not firstly a sushi restaurant, I'm a bit surprised that no one has mentioned Kiss Seafood.

                                    -----
                                    Kiss Seafood
                                    1700 Laguna St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                    1. re: jman1
                                      p
                                      pauliface Aug 2, 2011 09:32 AM

                                      Kiss seafood's omakase menu has absolutely perfect little bits of sashimi in one course, and truly excellent sushi in another. Well worth mentioning here.

                                      1. re: jman1
                                        s
                                        Shibi Jan 9, 2013 05:43 PM

                                        Yes, Kyo-ya was very good in it's time. I think that their quality faded during their last few years. They have been closed for several months now.

                                        ------
                                        Kyo-ya
                                        Palace Hotel/New Montgomery SF

                                      2. re: vulber
                                        bbulkow Aug 1, 2011 10:38 PM

                                        Kaygetsu is oft forgotten. Let's keep it a secret; otherwise folks will pour down the 280 and make a mess of our quiet oasis.

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

                                      3. k
                                        Keesey Aug 1, 2011 11:20 PM

                                        Try Kabuto. Definitely inventive sushi. Hamachi pear, jalapeno yellowtail, 1849 Oysters are my favs! They have several cooked dishes too.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Keesey
                                          d
                                          Dustin_E Aug 2, 2011 09:31 AM

                                          i haven't been to kabuto in many years, but i liked it the one time i went back in '04. i'm also surprised no one mentioned kiss. to my tastes, ino is more comfortable and enjoyable than kiss, but the sushi at kiss seems more refined. i've also seen people order omakase piece-by-piece at kiss and eat with their hands, though i've never tried that. and if we're talking kaiseki, i actually prefer kappa to kaygetsu, though most would disagree i'm sure.

                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                            Robert Lauriston Aug 2, 2011 09:40 AM

                                            2004 was before Sachio Kojima sold the place.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              v
                                              vulber Aug 2, 2011 09:59 AM

                                              kabuto is definitely inventive and creative, but the rice doesn't stand out (not that it's bad, just not memorable). then again, the amount of high-fat items they use in their sushi (lobster, foie gras, lamb) might have something to do with why i don't remember the rice

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                Windy Aug 15, 2011 05:54 PM

                                                Sachio now owns Vivify in Mt. Shasta, where you can enjoy his sushi and macrombiotic dishes. Still wonderful.

                                          2. s
                                            ShanDeez Aug 15, 2011 03:40 PM

                                            San Fran was great. We had a great time sight-seeing, and, quite importantly, eating. Among the list of places we made it to to dine and drink: The Galley at Clooney's Bar, In n Out Burger, Swan's Oyster Depot, Burma Superstar, El Farolito, Tommy's Mexican, 21st Amendment Bar, La Taqueria, Hog's and Rocks, Skool, Tartine, Shotwells AND we finally decided on Ino Sushi.

                                            We were on a race against time by bicycle to get to an 8:30 reservation. That was the latest rez we could snag, as they shut down earlier than we are used to dining. We had a heck of a time finding the place - Ms. Ino gave us horrible directions/address by phone. Looking back, I have no clue why she just did not mention that it is located in the Kabuki Hotel. So we were already frazzled when we arrived.

                                            Small, unspectacular digs. But whatever, we were there for the food. Plus, there was something kind cool about looking out the lone window in the place, we felt like we could be anywhere in the world. My boyfriend was ready to leave the place when he read that crap on the menu about minimum orders and right of refusal to serve. How tacky and lame! Ino San hardly looked at us, but I could feel his icy coldness. He was not happy we were there.
                                            We placed a few orders. We were surprised one order encompassed two pieces. We are used to eating sushi with our hands and already dressed with wasabi - so that was no big deal. Of course, Ino still had to chime in, in a snide way, about how to eat it. When the fish hit the mouth, I have to admit, it was good. How anyone could qualify this food as mediocre is beyond me. It's stunning fish: uni, ankimo (naturally), tuna roll, toro, amaebi, unagi, anago, tamago, ikura, salmon/avo roll, not to mention a few others. All delicious. Excellent rice. Hard to imagine what more better you could want, in terms of the quality of food. They were out of a lot of things we wanted to try - squid legs, scallop. And when we asked his suggestion of what would be a not-to-miss item, he denied us. In the end, the meal was a huge bargain, compared to what we are used to. Under $100 for a full meal for two plus drinks!
                                            However, coming from NYC, this kind of service would warrant a place going under. In Manhattan (though not Brooklyn, by any means), service has to be impeccable to compete with all the other high standard institutions. Otherwise, a high end place simply would not survive. It would do Ino San some good to loosen up, if not for business, for his own mental, physical, and emotional well being.
                                            He did warm up to us and our NY attitudes in the end - I don't think he will ever forget our inquiries about the giant clam shell behind him, which turned out to be a 100-year-old mushroom. I think I actually saw him crack a smile.

                                            -----
                                            Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
                                            5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                            La Taqueria
                                            2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                            Ino Sushi
                                            22 Peace Plz # 510, San Francisco, CA

                                            Burma Superstar
                                            4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                                            Ino Restaurant
                                            25 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

                                            Skool
                                            1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: ShanDeez
                                              j
                                              jman1 Aug 15, 2011 05:23 PM

                                              Thanks for the follow-up and for the NYer take.

                                              1. re: ShanDeez
                                                Windy Aug 15, 2011 05:56 PM

                                                Yes, this kind of service does warrant a place going under--in NY or Japan.

                                                Service is a matter of a lot more than loosening up. Glad you enjoyed the fish and the rest of your visit.

                                                1. re: ShanDeez
                                                  K K Aug 15, 2011 10:38 PM

                                                  Thanks for braving the adventure at Ino and sharing your report, and adding your perspective. Now you know why he's such a controversial pick when discussing "best nigiri sushi in SF".

                                                  Glad you liked the excellent rice, and I doubt you would have found a place that did better locally, even if you might find slightly better fish at a few other places in town.

                                                  As far as Inoue-san's demeanor...guess it is partly hormones and chemical changes, the duration and stress on the job (well career actually as a sushi shokunin), and many other little tiny factors. Call it post-manopause if you want, but it really doesn't last the entire meal, especially if you are determined not to let any mini-episodes ruin the experience, which you didn't because you obviously focused on the food and enjoyed it. The same thing happened to me 2 years ago, he seemed pretty grumpy when I put in my order (could have been I mispronounced a syllable) but after he picked up on what I wanted, he eventually warmed up. He wasn't like this in 2002 when I first went there quite frequently. Maybe the internet reviews, the flood of review sites and the likes of Yelp and blogs just increased business and traffic (including the kinds of customers he thinks would need to spend time to "educate") and he couldn't come to terms with it entirely, who knows.

                                                  For some reason I never noticed the mushroom but always marveled at the Japanese calligraphy piece behind him in the center....apparently was given to him and done by former Iron Chef Japan Roksaburo Michiba that says something like "a lifetime wielder of the knife". Sure beats the calligraphy that says "Phoenix" (Chinese character) brushed/signed by new age Japanese musician Kitaro that hangs on the wall of Murasaki on Clement :-)

                                                2. c
                                                  calumin Jan 9, 2013 08:11 PM

                                                  The only place in SF where I see the sushi chefs treat the rice with the same level of care as one would find at Yasuda or 15 East is Akiko's on Bush St.

                                                  I know what the OP means and I wish more restaurants in SF prepared sushi with that level of quality.

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