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Sushi question [San Francisco]

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Hi - this is for a friend of mine, he's looking for sushi in SF, so 2 questions:
1) what do you think the best sushi place is in SF? (money is not an issue)
2) what do you think the best sushi place is in SF that is sort of fun? (its 4 people and 2 are not foodies and are the kind of people who like to have a cool atmosphere and sometimes top sushi places can be a bit stiff)

Thanks.

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  1. Ebisu, in the Inner Sunset, and Live Sushi in Potrero Hill. Either way, if you can, sit at the bar and say hi to the chefs. If money is not an issue, ask them what they recommend. Point to things in the case and say, "What's that?"

    At Live Sushi, when you order your drinks, ask the chefs what you can get them. They'll appreciate the gesture, and every so often they'll raise their glasses and everyone at the bar will raise their glasses and you'll all say whooo or something and take a drink. It's a civilized, fun, friendly thing, not drunk-frat-boy-ish.

    At Ebisu, you can offer, but the chefs aren't supposed to drink on the job. :-/

    For the non-foodies, there are plenty of safe options in both places, both sushi rolls and kitchen food.

    It'll set you back probably about $70 - $100 per person. But both places are totally worth it. I'm a sushi snob and I will go without sushi till I have enough to go to a really good place. I refuse to eat at a so-so place. I'm into sashimi, and I know the chefs at Live Sushi by name. All of which is to say, I'm serious about this. :)

    1. A few ideas in this thread

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/908188

      Bottom line:

      Ino Sushi (SF) - make a reservation. Do not go unless one has a understanding of Edo style nigiri and how to eat it (ie for experienced/seasoned eaters only). Not a fun place, since chef is moody and doesn't really warm up or chat unless you are a super regular (and even then he doesn't say much).

      Akiko's (the one on Bush between downtown/Chinatown) - make a reservation for the bar. Extremely pricey, but super high quality fish where the fish is on par with mid high tier places in Hong Kong. Edo style, although sushi rice receipe needs a little work, but will satisfy many foodies. Sushi chefs are not Japanese but they are creative in their approach to the classic Edo style sushi nonetheless. This can also be a fun place, but be prepared for wallet shock if you order from the exotic imported fish menu. To their credit, Akiko's gets fish that many places do not, including Russian sea urchin and even the high end non seafood item A5 Miyazaki beef with shaved black truffle. Definitely money no object kind of place.

      Zushi Puzzle (Marina) - chef owner is from Hong Kong but he sources a lot of exotic stuff. Pricey as well, but way friendlier than Ino and others.

      For a fine balance of Edo style sushi that's high end, Sushi Ran in Sausalito (sit at the bar with a reservation). Pricey and fish quality should be close to Akiko's.

      Ichi (Mission area) - chef is not Japanese but he trained with one of the best Japanese restaurant owners in town (Kiyoshi-san of Koo).

      Koo (Irving in the Sunset) - many people go there for sushi, but it's only a subset and shadow to what the restaurant is really good at, which is fusion and cooked food. Sit at the bar with a reservation, and do an omakase that includes cooked dishes. Double spoonfuls of happiness are fantastic for first timers (and fun), smoked ankimo excellent if available, and numerous cooked side dishes, and end with a mini nigiri course.

      Others will like Aka Tombo in J-town which is pretty good value, but for me I'd rather pay more and eat at Ino, even if the service and vibe are a bit cold.

      The only other money is no object kind of place, would be Sakae Sushi in Burlingame.

      If your friend is looking for American rolls, better specify, since most of the above won't apply (except for Koo).

      2 Replies
      1. re: K K

        +1 for this. i agree with all of it.

        I know it is a bit not exactly what you asked, but i'll also point out Sawa Sashimi in Sunnyvale.

        Steve Sawa is pretty animated / has a good (sometimes a bit crude) sense of humor imo, and their Sake selection is pretty amazing (ranging from $60 a bottle to $600 a bottle and up.)

        It is more expensive than any of the others mentioned for SF. prices start at ~$100usd per person, and can be a lot higher if you give the chef a budget when you make reservations (pref at least a week ahead.)

        This said, sushi ran or akiko's is probably your safest bet.

      2. Best sushi places that are sort of fun if money is not an object:
        I would consider Ozumo and Roka Akor, although Ryoko's probably deserves a mention. I thought the sushi at Roka Akor was very good (Mike, the head sushi chef, came from Morimoto and clearly knows his stuff), but the selection is somewhat limited and the bar/lounge is in the basement which is kind of dark and cave-like compared to Ozumo's lounge. (The sushi bar is upstairs, though, and perfectly nice, as is the dining room.) Both are reasonably conveniently located if you are in the downtown area of SF and have plenty of non-sushi options on their menus.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nocharge

          For Ozumo, a majority of what you are paying goes to the decor of the place. This is not to say their food is not up to par.

        2. 1) what do you think the best sushi place is in SF? (money is not an issue)

          Omakase with Kiyoshi Hayakawa at Koo. Bybass the over-hyped spoonful of hapiness, start with a course of sashimi, then ask for traditional nigiri.

          2) what do you think the best sushi place is in SF that is sort of fun? (its 4 people and 2 are not foodies and are the kind of people who like to have a cool atmosphere and sometimes top sushi places can be a bit stiff)

          I personally would not go to a "best sushi place" with two "non-foodies". "Best sushi" involves sitting at the bar and having omakase. Non-foodies will not enjoy this, and therefore everyone (chef included) will have a frustrating time. If you're going out to eat with two non-foodies, I would recommend something other than sushi.

          1. My answer for 1 and 2 is probably still Sebo. Not cheap and fairly traditional, but the chefs are talkative if you sit at the bar (though the politely ask that you not use cell phones inside). I've had fun there with small groups of friends, some of whom are not sushi aficionados.

            Not that I strongly disagree with the other suggestions, though.