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Blowfish Sushi to Die For- Is the Fugu Experience worth it? [San Francisco]

Have always wanted to have a "Fugu Experience". Blowfish restaurant has a 5 fugu dish package, that also includes premium saki and dessert. The dinner for two package is $280.

Is Blowfish and the Fugu experience worth it?

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  1. If you're someone who would jump out of the plane & skydive, then go for it.

    It's no difference in my opinion.

    1. as to the 2nd part of your question, i don't know. as to the first, Blowfish is not worth it. At least, on my last visit, which was, granted, about 5 years ago. The food had gone downhill. Fish was mushy, some things were too cold, other things just tasted plain bad.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mariacarmen

        my general experience with blowfish is that if you stick to the more fusion-y items, you'll walk away with a good experience, but if you go for the more traditional sushi stuff, you'll be disappointed.

        1. re: vulber

          i agree with you 1/2 and 1/2. i was disappointed on both counts that last time, except for one fusion-y dish we did like. the one served in the martini glass. it was still ok.

      2. out of curiosity, i looked at the blowfish menu... i don't see anything about a fugu package.

        5 Replies
        1. re: mariacarmen

          The Fugu Package is off the menu. It was shared when I inquired about it and they order and ship the Fugu only when a request and need is there. It's overnighted from Japan to some lab that removes the poison and then next day aired to the restaurant (whole fish still in tacted)

          1. re: Jamie01

            Bourdain's bit on fugu eliminated whatever desire I had to spend big bucks to try it:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIbIBw...

            1. re: Jamie01

              The whole thing sounds a bit shady to me.

              I am guessing the chances of getting a farmed non toxic specimen in these parts are a lot higher given the strong yen and weak US dollar. Farmed Japanese fugu is bred to be non poisonous (so it doesn't eat starfish and other shellfish/creatures that would create the toxins it is known for). And even if it were somewhat toxic, the fish would have had its organs removed and interior cleaned and clear of blood contamination before the government would allow it to leave the country. Chances are it is already vacuum sealed and flash frozen on top from the processing factories in JP.

              Unless you know and can tell the difference between a wild specimen from Shimonoseki Japan (that is toxic and crazy expensive, maybe $400 to upwards of $700++ for a full multi course dinner in Japan), and can appreciate white fleshed Japanese fish in general, you might not like it as much. I'm not saying the restaurant is dishonest, but it is possible to use a substitute with a similar texture to pass it off...e.g. a distant cousin of the blowfish....e.g. kawahagi (filefish of some sort) where the liver is sweet and non poisonous. I'm almost convinced that at $280 for two, that fish is farmed and/or flash frozen with organs cleaned and/or toxin free to begin with. There was a place in the South Bay that offered something similar but with 3 courses...ditto with this sushi place in Seattle back in 2006 (who told me that they required 24 hours notice, primarily the time needed to defrost...)

              Also the Huffington post writeup about Ame serving "fugu tea" is a bit overkill and overblown....hirezake (sake with fugu fin, lit on fire to burn in the flavor of the fin) has been served in SF Bay Area before at certain places, and nobody died from it.

              1. re: K K

                where's the joint in south bay that served the fugue in three courses?

                thanks.

                1. re: kevin

                  Hoshi in Santa Clara.

          2. I also don't like Blowfish Sushi, and didn't like it years ago when it was at its prime.

            I've had fugu (hand carried from Tokyo), and it was okay. Not that exciting.

            1. The fish they will serve you is going to be farmed, and probably was never poisonous in the first place. i'd suggest the OP call blowfish and ask.

              the texture and taste of fugu is a bit like squid, but in fish-slice shape. a lot of the flavor comes from the ponzu sauce you dip it in. i think a lot of the appeal of a fugu feast is how they make many different courses from a single type of fish -- you'll probably experience some of that at Blowfish, so it might be worth trying for that aspect.

              But I'd strongly recommend trying actually awesome sashimi and sake at sawa in sunnyvale instead for the same price.

              we had crazy-expensive wild-caught tiger-fugu from shimonoseki at a famous place in tokyo a couple years ago. we liked it a lot and would go back, but decor / service / dishware / skill in preparing the side dishes was most of the appeal. i don't think fugu itself is more appealing / particularly different from a lot of other white-fish sashimi -- certainly not as drastic a difference as bad sashimi in the bay area and really good sashimi in the bay area.

              1. for comparison, here is a list of fugu courses they serve at one famous place in tokyo: http://www8.plala.or.jp/tsukijiyamamo...

                the shirako, or male sperm sac, is probably the most unique and expensive part of a blowfish. if you inquire further, you should ask them if that is a part they will be serving. If not, ask them what happened to it if they are shipping the whole fish?

                1. If:

                  1. you think blowfish is a good sushi restaurant (i don't.)
                  2. you aren't going to be in japan in the next 5 years.
                  3. you're curious about fugu.
                  4. you can't think of anywhere else really interesting or compelling to spend $280.

                  then go for it. a lot of places in japan also serve farmed probably flash frozen fugu, so i don't think that should be a deal breaker. actually, a lot of depachiku (department store basement-level grocery stores) in tokyo also sell pre-cut fugu on plates for $40-$100, depending on size / quality. I'd suspect at Blowfish in san francisco, you'll probably pay $280 for the equivalent of one of these plates, and some side dishes.

                  1. Throwing money down at a mediocre chain restaurant for a delicacy like that is a recipe for disappointment.

                    If you REALLY want to do this, do it correctly. Get on a plane and go to Seattle where you'll find the one itamae on the West Coast who knows fugu preparation. You'll want to give him 48 hours notice.

                    I'm blanking on the name of the sushi ya right now. A simple Googling of fugu, Seattle, Queen Ann (or First Avenue) should do it.

                    PS: He's a nice cat, too. Always a pleasure to sit at his bar.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Sushi Monster

                      I'm actually really curious about this -- how does high-end japanese food in seattle compare to the bay area or la?

                      it seems with the nintendo / mariner's japan/seattle connection there should be some really good high end places in seattle?

                      or maybe there were 25 years ago before the japan bubble burst? maybe one or two survived?

                      1. re: Sushi Monster

                        in all fairness, i don't know if having two locations makes a restaurant a chain

                        1. re: Sushi Monster

                          wHats the name of the sushi joint in Seattle that really knows his fugu and is a kook kat too?

                          thanks a bunch.

                          1. re: kevin

                            Shiki, but I have a feeling it is the same thing...given the quote I received, it is not going to be the wild kind and even if it were, it would already have its organs, blood, and as much toxins removed at the processing factory at Shimonoseki, shipped flash/frozen and vacuum packed, where I understand it is a requirement by the government prior to any attempts at exporting/leaving the country. Should be about $200+ for four courses.

                            The chef at Murasaki on Clement, supposedly or rumoredly has a fugu license when he was working in Japan, but I doubt he has ever served it in his restaurant or made attempts to.

                            1. re: K K

                              KK's right. Shiki.

                              I've eaten wonderful meals at his bar three times, but never tempted to do the fugu. I mention it because he's probably prepared more fugu than anyone else in the Western United States.

                              It's like with a surgeon: Do you want the guy who's doing his 10th heart transplant or his 1500th?

                              With that said, I have no idea whatsoever what the actual situation is with the toxins. If it were my liver that were going to take the hit, I'd go for the no-toxins option, ya know?

                              1. re: Sushi Monster

                                Your liver is not the problem.
                                Numbness appears in the mouth and tongue 20 minutes to three hours after eating the fish. Then, fingertips become numb and a headache and vomiting may follow.
                                Anesthesia, motor paralysis, speech disability and breathing difficulty occur and blood pressure decreases.
                                The entire body becomes paralyzed.
                                In the final stage, the person loses consciousness. The patient dies due to paralysis in the breathing center.

                            2. re: kevin

                              "A simple Googling of fugu, Seattle, Queen Ann "
                              Shiki Japanese Restaurant

                          2. Blowfish sushi was bad 12 years ago. Never heard a good reason to go back.

                            1. Fugu is really quite a bland and unexciting tasting fish. I'll leave it for the curious.

                              1. Fresh fugu is good. What Americans are likely to call "bland," Japanese are likely to call subtle. It's the really mild flavor and chewy texture, along with the tingly sensation, that makes blowfish interesting. But if your favorite sushi is toro or mackerel and you think red snapper sucks, then blowifsh may not be for you.

                                1. I started to ask Blowfish more questions before going to he bank for this experience and based on all of your great comments and insight. They say it is wild and not farmed, therefore only available Dec.-Feb. They overnight it from Japan to NY to a lab that removes the poison and then the whole fish to the restaurant the next day. Here is the detailed menu.

                                  FUGU Tasting Menu…This meal may be your last

                                  Teppi
                                  Blowfish Skin with Monk Fish liver & Uni Shuto

                                  Ushio Jiru
                                  Blowfish Stock Soup with lotus root cake

                                  Tessa
                                  Thinly sliced Blowfish sashimi with Chidori ponzu

                                  Karaage
                                  Fried Blowfish Collar & center bone served with Shishito peppers

                                  Fugu Nigiri
                                  Blowfish Sushi Nigiri served with Oh Toro nigiri

                                  Okuchinaoshi
                                  Green tea ice cream with Kuromitsu on top of French Toast

                                  Served with Premium Sake
                                  Yuki no Bosha - Junmai Ginjo

                                  Blowfish = Fugu
                                  Blowfish Sashimi = Tessa
                                  Blowfish Skin = Teppi
                                  Outside Skin (Black and White) = Samegawa
                                  Inside Skin (Black and White) = Toutoumi
                                  Momiji Oroshi = Chili Daikon Radish

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Jamie01

                                    HOw much is it again for the above meal, you listed, jamie?

                                    thanks.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      $280 for two people is the price tag

                                    2. re: Jamie01

                                      also, i thought blowfish sushi's to die for, claim to fame was that they don't even serve any blowfish on it's menu since it's inception.

                                      1. re: Jamie01

                                        "This meal may be your last."

                                        Really? They seem to have a bit of drama queen in them, no?

                                        Let me ask you this: If it really had the potential to be deadly, did they ask you to sign a waiver of subrogation prior to ingesting it, acknowledging that you completely understood the risks involved and agreed to absolve the company of any liability?

                                        Overall, it seems like kind of a silly game.

                                        If you wanted to risk your life and get a thrill in return for a memorable meal, you should have gone into East Palo Alto on a BBQ mission back in the '80s when it was the murder capitol of the United States. That, my friend, was living on the edge. Leave the engine running....

                                        1. re: Sushi Monster

                                          Well said. One should also consider Blowfish's target demographic first....this place does not strike me as a place where Japanese expats (or those with like minded tastebuds) who are really into traditional nigiri sushi would flock to first and foremost.

                                          The blowfish thing seems heavily marketed towards the "a destiny with death" theme, rather than for its unique texture and versatility.

                                          The multi course meal seems like a moderate bargain as an exotic import, with more courses offered than other places, with no other alternatives nearby to compare. Yes it is never a good idea to have the raw liver (unless from a very trusted source) and most internal organs, but if cleaned properly and fully detoxed (assuming so) and carefully prepped, some of these can be used in the courses, which are mising from Blowfish's lineup, but fish organs are not always enjoyed by everyone.

                                          Fugu nigiri? Honestly just the sashimi portion of the course should represent the raw, having the nigiri course is a bit redundant.

                                          Karaage is fine, but other bits can be used as tempura. Other chunkier portions can be in a hot pot/nabe (like a stew), or sliced thinner for shabu shabu.

                                          No hirezake (dried fugu fin torched sake) or something made with the milt?

                                          "Poison removed from a lab in NY"....I don't know about that one. How can a lab remove the toxins completely from a fish without taking it apart? Is there really a way to safely drain the blood out of a fish without any trace of it contaminating other parts? I suspect the FDA does some tests to it at JFK more so to check for presence of toxins perhaps, rather than having a lab that removes it entirely (and if so, it is probably done in Shimonoseki).

                                          BTW Shin-san and Frances and Shu say hi and miss you heaps.

                                          1. re: K K

                                            Found this:

                                            http://nocheapsushi.tribe.net/tribe/s...&

                                            The article is dated 2005 ish but...

                                            Of particular note:

                                            "U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules require that all imported torafugu first stop in New York City, where FDA inspectors make sure it has been certified in Japan as not poisonous. "

                                            "torafugu must be shipped from Japan already processed and prepared to Kennedy International Airport. There, it is inspected to make sure it has been certified by the Department of Health of Shimonoseki, Japan, the seaport where most fugu is processed."

                                            Either the rules have changed (which I doubt) or there is really a magic lab removing toxins posing as the FDA in NY...

                                            1. re: K K

                                              RE: Fugu nigiri?

                                              in tokyo we had fugu nirigiri as part of our set -- and it was very nice, as the rice flavored the fugu a little differently than the raw blowfish dipped in ponzu.

                                              i agree strongly with everything else you said.

                                            2. re: Sushi Monster

                                              Any meal could be your last. _some_ meal will end up being your last.

                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                The takeaway here:

                                                Eat EVERY meal as if it is your last.

                                          2. You only live once.