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he likes ___. where do i take him for sushi in SF?

for years i've had many wonderful meals at koo in SF. unfortunately, i am not terribly familiar with other sushi restaurants in the city. i want to treat a friend to a sushi dinner for his birthday, but koo is closed until june 7th, which makes planning a dinner with a few more friends a bit more difficult around the birthday boy's actual birthday.

so i'm trying to think of alternatives. i've been throwing around sebo and sushi aka tombo in my head. maybe kiss, but its been so long since i've been there.

i want to tailor the meal to my friend's taste, while leaving room for my own. he loves mackerel. i think its delicious when it is fresh, and inedible when its less so. but recently when he tasted kohada, which i think is fairly similar (strongly flavored, oily, not unlike herring, anchovy, sardines), but to me, better, he just shrugged and said, "it's like mackerel." well yes, but...ok! he likes maguro, and i don't think he's had nice toro yet, but tuna in general is good. he likes scallops. he isn't terribly adventuresome but i think that given the option of nice fish for free on his birthday, he'd try a lot of things he usually wouldn't. he likes spicy tuna rolls. i don't. usually.

i think he would really like the aji sashimi prep at koo, which also comes with the skeleton deep fried into what should probably replace popcorn as the snack of choice in movie theaters worldwide (yes, korea, its even better than that toasted dried squid!).

i usually like really simple and fresh sashimi and nigiri. i'm not opposed to american style maki rolls, but they just don't really appeal when they have five kinds of fish, are deep-fried, slathered in spicy mayo with tiled avocado armor. i want a place in SF that has GOOD fish, but might also serve up more creative or outlandish preps.

i know i should just be diving into the threads, but i hope you all can help with suggestions for both a more or less traditional sushi experience and one with a bit more western flair without skimping on the quality for either approach.

right now i'm still looking at koo for an alternate date but also sebo, sushi aka tombo and...well that's it for right now. help? thanks! oh and places that consistently have really good saba.

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  1. I have been to sebo before but not to aka tombo. I find that sebo is very, very good and communication there is excellent. I would recommend sebo for sure.

    1. Sebo is the first place I had mackerel that I truly enjoyed. I believe they lightly pickle it or another oily fish which really enhances the taste. Another fave is their monkfish liver. They always offer several kinds of tuna too. Sushi counter it much preferable to a table bc you can chat with the chef about your prefs. No rolls.

      1. Korobuto has some nice, creative options and is well done. Can't speak to the mackerel.

        1 Reply
        1. re: goldangl95

          Oops! Sorry didn't realize until way later, I meant Kabuto here....

        2. Since you like Koo, Kazu Sushi just further down the street is your next best bet. They have menus and offerings that will appeal to both traditional sushi fans and those who prefer modern/fusion/fancy rolls (which look quite appealing even though I usually don't order those). The white board fish selection at Kazu can be quite good at times...had adult kohada (konoshiro) there last September, really good.

          1. you could always go to sushi ran in sausalito -- didn't the guys from koo used to work there?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Dustin_E

              yes, my understanding is that the current chef used to work at sushi ran. most of my meals at koo have been with a close friend's family, and they used to dine at sushi ran years ago when they lived in marin. its funny, the mother, who lives in japan, always encourages us to eat what we like, like ravenous teenagers, then she pokes at a couple things and orders a california roll. i asked her once why, and she said she couldn't get them in japan, but she DOES get better sushi there.

              1. re: augustiner

                that's hilarious -- love that story.

              2. re: Dustin_E

                Sushi Ran is fantastic and perfect as a birthday dinner -- however it's more expensive than most other places and by a lot. They have a more diverse offering of fish but have more things that are expensive.

                I wouldn't go to aka tombo. I know others really like it but from my two times there, I keep feeling like I must be going to a different restaurant. To me it's not any different from any random sushi dinner experience. Also I thought the rice was a bit off.

                Sebo is fantastic as well although I haven't been there in over a year.

                Kabuto is also very good, especially if you stay away from the exotic sweet things on the menu and get regular fish.

              3. Hama-ko marinates its own saba but it has been years since my last visit. Anyone been to Hamako recently?

                1. Sebo is excellent. Definitely the best sashimi I've had in SF. The chef's selection is always outstanding. Just to throw another one out there, I recently went to Kiji for the first time. It was quality.

                  1. My vote definitely goes to Aka Tombo. Ryoji-san in my opinion prepares the best saba in SF, hands down. Also offers an amazing deal with this omakase nigiri dinner for $30 per person.

                    Sushi Aka Tombo
                    1737 Buchanan St
                    San Francisco, CA 94115
                    (415) 674-1984

                    1. thanks everyone for your help. it looks like dinner has been postponed, so koo is back on. but i've had my eye on some of these places and its nice to have the feedback. i will be checking out sebo and aka tombo (especially for that $30 omakase). and i've been curious about hama-ko, as well. dinner report pending.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: augustiner

                        you might try okina too. his sushi style is vinegary=sour, so mackerel might be good there. the place is also a good value.

                      2. thanks again for all replies. we went to koo, where i originally wanted to go, mainly because of familiarity. there were seven of us and we ate widely through the menu. in terms of my original post, i believe the birthday boy was more than happy with his saba, as was another mackerel enthusiast. i had one bite of saba nigiri but late in the meal, and it doesn't stand out in my memory.

                        what did: "lightly smoked" and broiled salmon kama, wild caught. a nice departure from hamachi kama, and the smoky, rich flesh was delicious. my favorite, the aji sashimi with its deep fried skeleton. i guess this is not the way they usually prepare this, so i'm glad i asked when we ordered. although i think the rest of the table wouldn't have missed it. more for me. i enjoyed the ankimo, fresh and rich, and the oysters in their bracing ponzu sauce.

                        i can't comment on the special deep fried crawfish temaki as i didn't have any, or the two rolls, which in my notes ( i had to write out a note to order the food) were a king crab dynamite roll and a flying kamikaze roll. i don't know what was in these.

                        for sashimi we ordered that aforementioned aji, hotate, tombo, hirame, kinmedai. nigiri sushi we ordered saba, tai, kohada (another favorite. rich fish cut with a mild vinegar cure), toro, maguro, and kanpachi.

                        there was also a negligible shrimp dumpling, boring whole shrimp wrapped in a wonton wrapper with a semi-spicy miso dressing, a nice rendition of goma-ae, spinach and asparagus in a sweet, rich sesame dressing, a grilled young octopus salad, many beers and some sake. one good, one meh, but i can't remember the names.

                        birthday boy was happy, the rest of the party was well sated, and i felt i had done well. i'm sure that many of the options noted in this thread are equally if not more delicious, and i should definitely explore more. but thank you all for contributing.