Mitsu Japanese Restaurant in Pacifica
My wife and I recently discovered Mitsu in Pacifica and fell in love with it. We heard about it from a few friends in Pacifica. It seems to be a bit of a local favorite. They have a sign inside celebrating 26 years in business.
I was looking on Chowhound for sushi advice earlier that same day, and read a few threads judging sushi by the quality of the sushi rice. They were fascinating discussions, and we’re anxious to try out some of the Chowhound recommendations. But this was a Saturday evening around 7:00pm, we were in Pacifica, we hadn’t eaten since around 6:30am, and we had a short window of opportunity to make use of some child care, so we tried Mitsu.
The location leaves a bit to be desired. It’s convenient enough, at 1301 Palmetto Ave which is just off the 1. It’s in a strip-mall directly adjacent to a Dominoes and across the street from an ocean-front trailer park. It’s small and mildly charming inside with about 10 tables inside.
It’s staffed by two wonderful Japanese women who I would guess to be in their mid to late 50s, (and I think one more person hidden away in the back for clean up and perhaps prep.) One of the women serves all the tables, and the other is the sushi chef.
Our taste in sushi is not really very sophisticated I must admit. I’m a big fan of fresh Salmon nigiri, and my wife likes her California rolls. We have traveled to Japan a couple times, gorged ourselves on sushi, and been treated to the favorite places of our Japanese friends, so we’re also not totally unexposed to good sushi. I’m very impressed by this place, and would love to hear from some of you with deeper sushi knowledge.
It took a LONG time to get our order in. It was probably 20 minutes before they managed to take our order. I was quite disappointed to hear that they don’t have fresh salmon nigiri, but that their salmon is slightly smoked. Anyway, we ordered the smoked salmon nigiri and California rolls. We overheard the waitress tell the next table to come in that they are out of sushi rice. Then, it probably took another hour to receive our food.
We both loved it. The nigiri cuts were thick and long like we’ve only had in Japan. The smoke flavor was distinct, but very slight. The California rolls were significant portions made with real crab. I had a heightened awareness of the rice after reading Chowhound that day, so my comparison to past experiences is unfair, but it had a soft texture and a slight sweetness that seemed to me to be the tipping point that really set the quality of this sushi apart.
Perhaps most impressive to us, was the approach of the two women who run the place. I’m not a big fan of the shaved ginger that I have always understood to be there to clean my palate between bites of sushi. When our waitress took the first sushi plate away, she moved the ginger over to a plate still on our table and told us we should eat it, that it’s good for the blood. I felt obligated to eat it, like a child visiting the grandmother of a friend. So I made a significant attempt at it until my lips started to puff up in a slight allergic reaction that I was previously unaware of and that perhaps explains why I never much liked ginger. Later the sushi chef came to our table and also told us to eat the ginger and that it was good for the blood.
As we left, the sushi chef apologized about the slow service and that they didn’t have enough sushi rice to fill our request for more. She explained that she hates throwing sushi rice away, so she only makes as much as she thinks she can sell out in an evening. She also told us that her regulars know to come early or to bring a deck of cards.
So here is my list of guidelines for Mitsu Sushi:
1. Get there by 6:00pm.
2. Don’t bring children.
3. Bring cards.
4. Arrive hungry but not famished.
5. Be patient.