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Sep 15, 2013 09:54 PM

Best sushi and japanese food in San Jose?

I love japanese food and I live in San Jose. Whe I do go out for Japanese food, I usualky drive up to Sushi Aka Tombo in San Francisco. They have the best Japanese food I have ever tasted! But I am hoping to find something a little more local as well. As in places in San Jose. Also, in the Japantown in SF, they have some small markets that sell fresh sushi to go. Are there any of those in the San Jose Japantown? Thanks

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  1. Since you've mentioned Tombo, would you mind also saying what you like to order there? That might help us point you in the right direction.

    18 Replies
    1. re: stravaigint

      I enjoy gyoza, tempura, tonkatsu, anything miso, udon, sushi, etc.

      1. re: Kvavava

        With one notable exception (cue flame war), sushi south of Los Altos is pretty miserable. But these two places have a variety of dishes and will at least keep you from starving:

        Yuki Sushi: technically in Santa Clara, but close enough. A solid place that could hold its own against some of the fancier ones further up the peninsula. They cover the entire spectrum, from appetizers to sushi to udon to combos. You'll find everything you list here, and it's decent, if not Tombo quality. I vaguely recall the beef tataki being a standout, but maybe that's cos it's pretty. I've only been to the one on Pruneridge, but they have a sister restaurant in Willow Glen. Gets really busy.

        Gombei: There are at least four of these, but the one in SJ J-Town is the best (and busiest). The focus is teriyaki/katsu/udon. The combinations come with soup, salad and rice, and they're good portions; add a side of potato croquettes and you'll be stuffed. Crazy busy at peek hours. Cash only!

        If you're willing to branch out into ramen, then Orenchi, Halu and Santouka aren't that far a drive from DTSJ (ten minutes), and they're all very good. Worth considering.


        Yuki Sushi
        1827 Pruneridge Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

        Gombei Japanese Restaurant
        193 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112

        1. re: stravaigint

          Certainly not to take up stravaigint on any "flame war," I merely point out that one diner's "is pretty miserable" coresponds to another's "varies in quality and your tastes."

          I have not seen mentioned here, for instance, Sush Tomi (the longtime one in downtown Mountain View that had quite a well-known chef), nor the eccentric but capable omakase-only Sawa Sushi in Santa Clara or Sunnyvale (it's near the border of the two), recognized by the Michelin Guide recently although its proprietor, Sreve Sawa, avowedly disdained both publicity and online chatter for 10 years. (Sawa isn't for everyone, especially mainstream US sushi fans; he likes to tailor meals to each customer, the pricing is somewhat vague -- no menus of course; and it's almost vital to go with someone experienced. As his place has gotten better known it has attracted people who wander in without reservations, expecting menus and California rolls; they never really experience or understand what Sawa is about, and they vent these misunderstandings online.)

          1. re: eatzalot

            The "notable exception" I referred to *is* Sawa :-)

            But that's not even vaguely in the same price range as Tombo (my last visit at Sawa was north of $250), and poor Kvavava is going to get forcibly ejected when he asks for a tonkatsu...

            1. re: stravaigint

              Well then given Kvavava's stated preferences -- rather than stratospheric destination omakase -- surely there are many options S. of Los Altos to meet the request.

              For offhand instance, since 2010 three various Japanese restaurants (two, quite consistently) have offered _exceptional_ freshly made gyoza just in downtown MV, but many online pundits would have no clue of this because gyoza is a low-key starter dish on those menus (i.e. none if them advertises itself specifically for gyoza), or because they've not returned often enough to notice the consistency angle.

              Thus I find the geographical exclusion S. of Los Altos unnecessarily restrictive for this particular inquiry. I and sushi-loving friends (some being Japanese) have enjoyed sushi over the years at several scrupulous local restaurants in Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View.

              Where is "Sushi Monster" with his famous comprehensive lists??

              Answer: Here

              1. re: eatzalot

                v4 is still up, but sadly it's a bit out of date now, probably because he's too busy eating Mexican food :)


                Howard left Kitsho, and KK's report on y*lp of the new chef doesn't exactly ignite any burning desire. Fuki Sushi is an abomination. I'm not sure Kuni was ever particularly good to begin with, never mind in its current state. And list aside, some of the other places mentioned in other threads have been on a downward slide recently. Hoshi, much beloved years ago, is now utterly dreadful. And don't get me started on the ECR joints east of Lawrence.

                What might be more helpful at this point is for you to mention the wonderful gyoza places by name, so that Kvavava can get over there forthwith.

                1. re: stravaigint

                  Yes, that's the same link I posted. (Whatever its faults, Sushi Monster was still citing it less than a year ago.)

                  My point on gyoza was simply not to dismiss all Japanese restaurants S. of Los Altos; Kvavava's preferences can likely be served somehwhere closer to home, like San Jose, if the right experienced people see this and post. (And most of ECR east of Lawrence is Korean, isn't it? That's what that neighborhood is famous for, anyway.)

                  The two downtown-MV gyoza references were at Bushido Izakaya (which is going strong, the OP might well like its menu anyway -- independent place, small-plates meals which I've tried several times, maybe slightly less emphasis on drinks than at izakayas in Japan; popular happy-hour menu I haven't tried); and gyoza at the longtime modest ramen house Ryowa, near Bushido. The much less consistent but still fresh gyoza in several tries were at Shalala, a younger/hipper ramen house a block or so from the others.

                  1. re: stravaigint

                    KK, what I referred to above must have been a "tip" by you, because I just saw your full report. Thanks for taking one for the team. It's promising enough that I'll stop by tonight, and may have to redraw my line in the sand...

                    1. re: stravaigint

                      It sure would help if you introduced yourself on the other site :-o since you've given me way too much exposure than I would like.

                    2. re: stravaigint

                      Why is Fuki Sushi "an abomination"? I haven't been back for years, and I know it's never been the greatest value. Poor food? Service? Or else?

                  2. re: stravaigint

                    Cool I never knew about omakase places in the south bay! I've always wanted to try Wakuriya. How does Sawa compare to Wakuriya?

                    On another note, are there any sushi places around here that use torches? I like the occasional rolls, but it's annoying how almost all sushi bars here emphasize rolls [drenched in sauces]. Torches are a great way to add lots of savoriness to decent quality fish.

                    1. re: daymare

                      I think plenty of places do aburi (grilled) fish with a torch for roll filling (including the Tomi empire mentioned in this thread), but since you explicitly called out those dreadful rolls, I'll assume you mean the good stuff: nigiri.

                      In which case, if we stretch south bay a little, then Akane in Los Altos and Jin Sho in Palo Alto will serve your needs. They both do aburi, with toro and engawa being popular candidates. Expect to pay handsomely for the privilege.

                      Wakuriya and Sawa are *very* different experiences. The former is kaiseki and sticks to that formula with a set menu for everyone. Whereas Sawa will vary for each party of diners, and can run the spectrum from a sashimi extravaganza (my experience) to WTFBBQ, judging by other reports on here...


                      250 Third St. Los Altos, (650) 941-8150

                      Jin Sho
                      454 California Ave. Palo Alto, (650) 321-3454

                      1. re: daymare

                        At the risk of offending Sawa fans, I'll say this. Sawa basically takes good to very high quality fish, makes big giant untextured cuts and splashes sauces over them, and in some cases the sauces are overpowering and ruins the fish flavor. He used to do nigiri, but they too were really big humongous cuts (I guess he will if you ask and if you are "in" there).

                        Let's just say some people in the business don't like the guy, but he is a good businessman in the end in that he figured out the business model that works best for him, and is essentially picking and choosing the customers he wants, and kicking out the ones he doesn't care for (which is interpreted by others as "those who don't understand him").

                        Maybe you'll get some nicely arranged fusion style dishes (by fusion, it's basically using Japanese ingredients to give some western/Euro plating), but it's more his style. This approach works for those who aren't seeking an entirely traditional experience.

                        To be honest, with the amount of money that Sawa charges for a dinner, I'd rather go to Shunji in LA, and have money left over for other tasty Japanese treats elsewhere in SoCal.

                        Wakuriya is closer to a traditional kaiseki experience, but with California touches (using local ingredients for certain things I guess, but for things like the sashimi course, Japanese fish is used). The other California thing is perhaps the open kitchen where you can also sit at the counter. This is in contrast to say Ryugin in Tokyo or Hong Kong where you sit in a somewhat modernized looking dining area (the HK location décor seems a tad stale from what I've seen), where the food looks a lot more interesting than the décor. But it's all relative...personally I'd rather take the plunge and after going to Wakuriya once, go straight to L'Atelier Crenn instead next time.

                        If you are looking for a really nice grilled fish experience outside of sushi, try to hit up Sumika in Los Altos. It is first and foremost a yakitori specialist restaurant where they import the charcoal (binchotan) from Japan....well most places do that, but these guys have the grilling technique down. And lately they've been sourcing whole (smaller) Japanese fish, and just putting on some salt then grilling it carefully over the charcoals. Ayu (sweet river fish) season might be almost over so I suggest going as quickly as you can. But if that's missed, sanma (pike mackerel) is in season and might be offered soon....if not, try a salt grilled white fish like isaki (chicken grunt), or kodai (a variety of sea bream). The exterior is crispy, yet the insides are moist and juicy, all the way down to the bone. Lately I've found the grilled fish and cooked appetizer/side dishes to be way more fulfilling than the yakitori.

                        1. re: K K

                          i'm a sawa fan, and agree with everything you said here. (and am certainly not offended :-)

                          to me sawa feels like a korean approach to sashimi -- lots of protein, with spice+sauce (at the risk of offending those who know far more about korean food than i do...)

                          i actually think l'atelier crenn is very similar to ryugin in tokyo.

                          i never spend time in la -- i'm sure that influences my perception of the value of sawa.

                          1. re: K K

                            Even granting what you say about Sawa, KK, I assure you the 'net is indeed full of comments about Sawa from customers who demonstrably do NOT understand him, and anyone can verify that. It isn't an interpretation, but a summary from many public comments by people who are explicit about their complaints, making clear that part of the problem was their own expectations -- from California Rolls or cheap lunch specials, on up.

                          2. re: daymare

                            Wakuriya is wonderful. Just had dinner there last month. It's a kaiseki place though, not a sushi restaurant.

                            I've had torched stuff at both Sushi Tomi and Sushi Kuni. Sushi Kuni doesn't get a lot of love on this board but I think it's great. The preparation is basic and traditional, which is my style. But you won't find a lot variety there, which is fine by me.

                      2. re: stravaigint

                        I like Kaita quite a bit more than Gombei in San Jose Japantown. In fact it's my default Japan restaurant when I'm in the area. Kubota is the fanciest restaurant in Japantown, my choice if someone else is paying. ;-)

                        1. re: vincentlo

                          Thanks for the tip on Kaita. From the whiteboard it looks like you could be well fed for fifteen bucks! I'll give it a shot.

                  3. Sushi Tomi's been mentioned once, but it's worth noting that they have a second branch in the Mitsuwa plaza on Saratoga Ave.

                    To add to the discussion, yakitori places worth mentioning are Sumiya and Gaku in San Jose (same owner), if you're into grilled skewers.

                    There's also Gochi in Mountain View and Cupertino if you're into small plates. It's fusiony but rather good at what it does.

                    If you're looking for market takeout sushi, Nijiya in Mountain View is your best bet. If you like taking stuff home to slice, they stock reliable salmon, hamachi and the usuals as well as better stuff like amberjack, shima aji, sometimes (chu/o)toro if it's in season. They've got an SJ Japantown location, but for whatever reason, the quality and selection there is far inferior.

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