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May 16, 2014 11:25 AM

Kusakabe [San Francisco]

We seldom get into the city much any longer, but apparently Mitsunori Kusakabe is opening his namesake restaurant next week, for the folks who liked him at Sushi Ran. Tablehopper ran the article along with a sample omakase menu:

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  1. Nori's "omakase" menu is very high-end and unusual, even for Tokyo. It might be possible that the place will be just "too hip for the room" in San Francisco, but let's hope not. It seems the chef has put a very great deal of care into the menu and I really hope everyone who goes will get it and like it.

    1. Omakase was similar in structure to the menu listed on tablehopper but with some substitutions. Mostly very classical sushi, with a few creative twists and unusual ingredients/preparation in the first half of the meal. Favorite dish of the night was actually the duck dumpling miso soup which was a pause of perfect zen in the middle of the meal. Quality and presentation of the sushi was exquisite. Pacing was slow (over 1 1/2 hr from start to end). Seats were a bit too close together. Reasonably priced ($95) with option to order a la carte sushi or dessert afterwards. Doesn't strive to be as innovative as some places (outside the Bay area) but this is probably where I would go for omakase around here from now on.

      1 Reply
      1. re: barleywino

        Great report, Barleywino. Sounds like a pretty good place. I hope they get good clientele.

      2. I was there last weekend and it was fantastic. The quality of the fish was the best I've had in San Francisco.

        There is only option - the omakase menu. Ours was similar to the sample menu posted, with a couple changes. The sushi prelude was especially good -- the medium fatty bluefin tuna was the best piece of sushi I've had in a long time. The spring bonito was particularly smoky.

        The duck dumpling miso soup was very good - especially the broth. The dumplings were actually meatballs which were soft and flavorful. Our BBQ sushi course was a slightly torched A5 Wagyu beef.

        At $95 it's very reasonably-priced, given the quality.

        1. Those who've been, what are their a la carte prices like?

          Based on the sample menu, the courses that have "Sushi" in the name (except for "Sushi Salad") are individual pieces of nigiri, one piece per fish listed? So the Prelude is 4 pieces of nigiri, and the whole thing is ~10 pieces (plus the non-sushi courses, of course, of course)?

          (Don't misunderstand, I'm not judging quality by quantity, just curious how much food it is and how likely one might want or need to supplement with a la carte pieces.)

          7 Replies
          1. re: TheOffalo

            Yes, it's one piece per fish listed. I think I had 11 pieces but could be off by 1-2, plus two pieces of each fish type for the sashimi course. I can't remember, but I don't think I had a vegetable salad course -- it was a fish pairing with koji rice yeast.

            Once the omakase is done, they give you a menu from which you can order additional pieces a la carte. I was actually full so I didn't get anything extra. However, I didn't see all the fish types listed on the a la carte menu. You might be able to order whatever they have, but the menu only listed a subset. I remember the ala carte prices being generally around $10-14, but I didn't ask whether that was for one piece or two.

            1. re: TheOffalo

              I don't recall their ala carte prices. I was actually pretty full by the end and their fish selection was a bit sparse. Went back to Saru (closed june 6-11 for some remodelling) and by comparison they offered about twice as many types of fish at half the price, fwiw.

              1. re: TheOffalo

                Someone posted a yelp photo of the a la carte menu, dated May 22. Otoro, aji, saba, kohada, tai, kasugodai, ayu, hotaruika, uni, ikura, ankimo. $7.50 to $8.50 (guessing the prices are per piece) with otoro at $10.50.

                Definitely a far cry from the breadth at a place like Shunji in SoCal, but is already considered very good by SF standards.

                Maruya hits the 30 types of fish mark easily (well, so does Sushi Sam's in San Mateo, but the quality is not even close). But when Maruya first opened, they had maybe 15 selections. But whatever Kusakabe has based on those selections a la carte, Maruya will likely have them as well.

                The only difference is that Maruya doesn't serve A5 beef (Miyazaki Wagyu). That is more of a modern gimmick for wow factor. Then again, lots of high end hybrid kappo/sushi Japanese run eateries in Hong Kong are doing the same thing, up the wow factor, to get the crowds and social media experts through the door. They didn't serve me A5 at Ginza Iwa Hong Kong though, which was fine.

                1. re: K K

                  The A5 at Kusakabe was meh. Sliced too thin and seared too much to be noticeably different from any other beef tataki, imo. Any marbling it may have had was indiscernible. If it was A5, it was a waste of good beef.

                  1. re: barleywino

                    I thought the A5 was only ok too. I liked the sear, but it was actually served too cold, which I found strange.

                    I thought the bluefin tuna at Kusakabe was much better than at Maruya. If it is sourced from the same place at both restaurants, then there may be something else they are doing at Kusakabe.

                    1. re: calumin

                      Maybe they use a different or housemade soy. At Raku (vegas) they use a house daiginjo soy made with ume and other ingredients. I brought a bottle back but it leaked a bit in my luggage.

                  2. re: K K

                    I had the Hokkaido uni which was priced at $11 or $12 per piece, higher than the American uni. Worth it though.

                2. Wow. IMO the best omakase experience in San Francisco now, hands down. The problem with the omakase at Akiko or Maruya is that the quality is inconsistent. The sushi is amazing, but the filler stuff in between is mostly forgettable. Not so at Kusakabe. In fact dishes like the duck dumpling miso soup and the crispy tofu in dashi broth with ikura were some of the highlights of the night. Service was excellent and attentive. I can only dock it points for an inferior ambiance to Maruya.

                  I've posted some photos here: