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Anybody know good sushi places south of San Francisco?

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  • mmmjv Jun 13, 2014 02:39 PM
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I'm going out there next month to visit my brother in Sunnyvale.

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  1. Do you mean "south of san francisco" or do you mean "greater sunnyvale" ?

    Sushi Sam's is south of san francisco. Greater sunnyvale - no, not really.

    7 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      Sushi Tomi in Mountain View is pretty good, I'd say as good as Sushi Sam's.

      1. re: calumin

        Where are you coming from? If it's LA or NY - prepare to be underwhelmed. Also, if you are from LA or NY - do NOT trust the Yelp ratings in the Bay Area for sushi.

        I agree with bbulkow that Sushi Sam's (San Mateo) is the best consistent quality not only south of San Francisco - but probably in the Bay Area generally. It is, however, no better than a solid neighborhood restaurant in LA. The fish is fresh, they never give out anything but good quality cuts, it's a little over-sauced but not too bad. Every once in awhile they have an interesting type of fish on special. No atmosphere to speak of.

        In Palo Alto, Jin Sho is just as good some nights of the week - but not always - I've had some pretty mediocre fish there. It's more expensive than Sushi Sam's. But it isn't as crowded and has a slight better atmosphere. Also, offers more variety of cooked dishes.

        In Los Altos, Akane delivers solid sushi - maybe half a step below Sushi Sam's. I think their general supply/what they purchase is probably just as good as Sushi Sam's - they're just a little less meticulous with choosing what to serve. Still good quality fish. Nothing really adventurous in variety. A little more restrained on the sauces. Better consistency than Jin Sho, but a little more casual.

        Sushi Tomi (Mountain View) looks and feels like a good cheap sushi place - but it isn't cheap. It's a little less pricey than the other options listed, but the waits are long - and it's not THAT much cheaper. It's noticeably (for me) a distinct step below the rest in fish quality (unless you hit Jin Sho on a bad day). Fish is pretty good quality, but at least 1 out of 10 nigiri is a bit off. I don't bother getting Uni or Oysters here. It can be a decent lunch spot.

        1. re: goldangl95

          Solid overview.

          Sushi Tomi is my go-to in that area. They have a solid whiteboard, but the one time I went for the Tsukiji special selection I ended up with some pretty old-tasting fish. Given the waits there, one gets discouraged.

          There's a whole tier of places that are pretty good - would impress people from many parts of the world but disliked by a japanese, NYC, LA-er. In my neck of the woods, I like Naomi, which Sushi Monster put off because of the itame's trickster ways and lack of classical clean preps - they have a massive sake selection for the VC drinker types. Akane is considered to have better fish, but I just never took to the atmosphere. Kampai in PA I like the grilled objects more than I like the Sushi, it's not great but I would eat their sushi. I've been meaning to re-try Yakko in MV, which was a favorite in the 90's and is still there but doesn't get talked about.

          Frankly, when it comes to japanese, the great yakitori places in San Mateo have my custom these days. I'll get my sushi fix in LA, NYC, Tokyo.

          There have to be places in Saratoga / Los Gatos. That demographic craves sushi.

          One of the "hidden treasures" of sushi was the cuts at the places that became Mitsunobu. They used to do just a little sushi / sashimi at lunch, and was always uber first quality. They do lunch, still, and the kaseki menu includes a little sashimi, so one wonders if the tradition continues.

          My new theory is the supply of good fish just doesn't exist here. Maybe prices are rising, maybe the lack of big fish is starting to hit. Jin Sho would serve good fish if it was available.

          1. re: bbulkow

            I agree about the supply. There seems a low upper bound on quality with some chefs being pickier about what to serve than others, but it doesn't appear we get the same premium sources that show up in LA & NYC.

            Considering the eaters here, I'm surprised someone just hasn't started flying all their fish in and charge $$$$.

            1. re: bbulkow

              how is Yakko nowadays? I used to go there at least once a week in the early 90's, when I was living down there

        2. re: bbulkow

          I'd prefer greater Sunnyvale but we usually make a trip to San Francisco too

          1. re: mmmjv

            No need to go up to SF. Nothing markedly better there (some hope for Kusakabe but haven't been yet)

        3. Has it really been that long ago (6 years?) since Sushi Monster list 4. Check out up places by search for those still open and still good.
          http://www.emeraldlake.com/sushilist....

          1 Reply
          1. re: wolfe

            I would say (IMHO) of the "top tier" that dramatically changed since the list (or may have changed) (Sushi Monster list was my sushi guide when I moved back to the Bay Area):
            I had a very disappointing sushi experience at Sakae a couple months ago - didn't sit at the bar, so that may explain things, but the fish was so so - maybe Tomi level or lower for more money. Non-fishy varieties tasted fishy, was lacking in presentation, all around mediocre experience.

            Yuzu was about Sushi Sam's level the last time I was there (definitely top tier for the Bay Area), but that was a few years back - not sure how they are now. It's not easy walking distance from the "downtown" area - so we never make it there.

            Fuki Sushi had a dramatic downhill slide about two years ago. I was so traumatized by my last experience there that I haven't been back. Fish was actively below Tomi level. Not sure if it has righted itself.

          2. Thank you
            When I was there last year I went to a place called Seto for lunch, within walking distance of the house. I sat at the bar and when the chef asked me what I wanted I said you decide. So he did. He'd take some rice, mold it, put a piece of fish on top and then hand it to me and tell me what kind of fish it was, about 1 second after he made it. I loved that and I'll probably go back too but I also want to try different places.

            Also the chef didn't wear gloves

            1 Reply
            1. re: mmmjv

              If you sit at a sushi bar here at a slow time at any of the places we recommended you will have that experience. When it's busy, it is hard to have lots of interaction with the chefs as they are in a "zone" .

              But serving a fee pieces at a time is how they serve at all bars. If doing dinner make a reservation before hand for the bar.

            2. You mention Seto (on Borregas -- I know that neighborhood). Longtime sushi place, I was going there even in the 80s. Japanese service, mostly rather non-Japanese clientele.

              If your interest is in what sushi is available around greater Sunnyvale, there must be 50 restaurants within five miles of Seto. From mundane chains to high-end omakase (Sawa Sushi, "no rolls / no prices / no menu," expensive like if-you-have-to-ask-forget-it, run by a rather fanatic Korean-born chef who makes zero concession to popular prejudices and brings out many strong opinions; I've done well there, but it's best to go with someone experienced). Whatever anyone may say about Sawa Sushi (or comparisons to LA, NYC, etc.) it's a "destination" restaurant frequented by visitors from Japan -- the original clientele that Steve Sawa catered to when he opened it 12(?) years ago. For years, Sawa succeeded in staying low-profile, until the Michelin recommended him. (He doesn't think much of either journalists or food bloggers.)

              I've also done very well at Sushi Tomi (mentioned by others) in 30-40 meals. It's the nearest place to you in the venerable Sushi Monster's "Top Tier" via link Wolfe posted. Many daily specials, also offers fancy omakase meals at different prices. I'm assuming the "waits" some people've mentioned mean the queueing outside to be seated -- a phenomenon of the most popular times -- well known to people who live nearby, so locals avoid Tomi then (Sushi Monster had the same advice). Go for lunch 11:30 or 11:45, or dinner early (and midweek) -- I've done so for 15 years (mostly lunches) and never, not once, waited (besides, if you drive, the area is "imparkable" anyway at peak lunch times like 12:10-1:10 -- hordes arrive starting noon weekdays, filling the lots and garages, and are gone by 1:15 -- but Tomi's lunch service ends 2:00 and the specials tend to run out; keep that in mind if considering late lunch).

              If you like Seto, you'll probably also like a few other, very Japanese, places I like, N. of Sunnyvale but nearer to your n'hood than any in Los Altos, Palo Alto, or Menlo Park. These are all well established, and all in Sushi Monster's "Middle Tier" list:

              Momoya Sushi on Shoreline (slightly north of Sunnyvale, between Central and 101) -- easy parking, hardworking Japanese-run modest place in a little restaurant row near a supermarket. Sura Sushi on El Camino. Masa's Sushi on San Antonio.

              Masa's recently also opened a small mostly-takeout annex at 650 Castro in downtown Mountain View. Even just in _downtown_ Mountain View (about four miles by road from Seto Sushi's neighborhood) are several sushi places, but if you go there, strong consensus favors Sushi Tomi already mentioned (its best nearby competitor IMO, Sushi Tei -- a small place most people never even tried -- closed last year). However, more unusual gastronomically are a couple of related, not strictly sushi, but classy unusual nearby Japanese restaurants you may enjoy:

              Nami Nami, a kappo-style place doing fancy multicourse seafood-centric meals; and Gochi, an upscale izakaya (Castro just beyond El Camino, opened middle 2013). Gochi is an expansion from an original in Cupertino. Quite unusual and worth knowing, heavily Japanese clientele, a little pricey, but huge range of creative à-la-carte small plates reflecting newer restaurants of that style in Japan. (Generous parking available for Gochi in multiple lots off an alley parallel to El Camino, if the lot right near the restaurant fills up.)

              2 Replies
              1. re: eatzalot

                A little more info that may be useful. And I hope mmmjv will follow up with some feedback about experiences (I gather the visit will be in July).

                1. I like Jin Sho on PA's Ca. Ave. a lot for quality and creativity (only tried for lunch). It also was EXTREMELY LOUD -- we could not hear each other in a compact table of 4, one of my friends refuses to return for that reason -- and the priciest lunch of recent memory. Jin Sho (whose founders started in NYC) has a particular angle of creative or Western-inspired variants on Japanese sushi traditions.

                2. A very handy feature to be aware of, linking any restaurant in "downtown" Sunnyvale, downtown MV, California Ave. in PA, much of downtown PA, and downtown Menlo Park near El Camino: Not only are all of these five restaurant-rich neighborhoods right at Caltrain stations, with most restaurants within 5-10 minutes' walk from the stations, but also, those downtowns are all within one Caltrain zone, so the cheapest ticket fares apply, and they are within a few minutes train travel of each other, scarcely beatable by car. If you can get yourself to any of the Caltrain stations, you have rather convenient access to all of these downtowns, and between Sunnyvale and Menlo Park specifically, it's all at the minimum Caltrain fare. (NOT Sunnyvale's Lawrence Station, south of the Murphy Ave. downtown -- a further zone south -- so if starting in S'vale, choose the downtown station if possible, which I believe is the one nearest to the OP here anyway.)

                1. re: eatzalot

                  I leave July 2 and come back July 11, I'll be posting about the sushi and about other places I eat at. We usually go to some nice places out there.

              2. If you're willing to make the drive to San Carlos, I'm a big fan of Seiya.

                2 Replies
                1. re: vis

                  What do you like there, and how would you compare it to a sushi sam's or another place that gets a lot of board reviews?

                  The menu seems non-traditionals, lots of rolls and such, but clearly above most "roll shops".

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    They serve escolar, which is not a good sign.

                2. I'm back. Went to Seto for lunch and loved it. Went to Sushi Tomi for dinner (different night) and didn't like it. At Seto I sat at the bar and told the chef I wanted omakase and I had one of my best sushi experiences ever. He gave me the sushi one piece at a time and told me what it was and also if it was something that I shouldn't put soy sauce on it he told me that as well. The food was very good with a few pieces being amazing. I ended up having 16 pieces of all sorts of fish before finally ending it. The last piece he gave me he said was called "sunrise" and it had a little tiny hen egg on it that looked like a sunrise. When it's served one piece at a time like that then you get to it it seconds after it was made which I've heard you're supposed to do to experience it at it's freshest.

                  A couple of times he put 2 pieces on the same plate, anybody know the idea behind that? The first time it was the same fish but one cooked and the other raw and the second time it was a salmon and a halibut.

                  I was expecting kind of the same at Sushi Tomi but there all he did was put a plate of 10 sushi in front of me and didn't even say what kind they were. I had to ask, then after I had eaten the first few pieces I totally forgot what the others were. I do know that the last one was uni because my brother asked him. Also the octopus, that one kind of stuck in my mind.

                  Not sushi but I had 2 other nice meals when we went up to Gold Country and stayed in the historic section of Columbia. We went to Christophers Ristorante for dinner and the next dasy went to the Diamondback Grill for lunch. I had the crab ravioli for dinner and the affogato for dessert. That was my first time having affogato and I liked it but I would have liked less espresso. The menu described it as vinalla ice cream drowned in espresso and they did mean drown. At the Diamondback Grill I had the BLT and for dessert I had their dessert special of the day which was pound cake topped with strawberries and peaches and fresh whipped cream. The french toast with strawberries I had at the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company at the San Jose airport the morning I came home was good too.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mmmjv

                    Sushi Tomi isn't about omakase. They run a breakneck pace there, and the fish quality / selection is pretty good, but that's it. Sorry you got your expectations up.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Sushi Tomi did acquire its reputation in part for omakase meals -- various options described on the chef's board and some of them quite pricey, generally special-occasion dinners and sometimes booked explicitly in advance. The earlier local review linked below mentions a "basic" sampler of that type, $25 in 2003, from Chef Kitamura.

                      I do not recall the sashimi selections being automatically explained in my experiences at the bar. Possibly many of the customers for them are repeats, or know the genre personally. I also will say I have not seen much fast pace there, but per earlier postings am accustomed to going at relaxed, uncrowded times, and avoiding the peak times (when lines routinely stretch out the door), hence I also am not accustomed to waiting for a seat or a table much at all.

                      http://www.mv-voice.com/morgue/2003/2...

                    2. re: mmmjv

                      mmmjv, if you're from Boston (judging by another post of yours), you should go to Cafe Sushi if you haven't already been. Alumni of Sushi Ran run it and it compares favorably with anything in San Fran (sit at the counter of course and order from the blackboard). Or splurge at O-Ya.

                      1. re: barleywino

                        I've been to Cafe Sushi and I love it. I live nearby in Cambridgeport which is near there. I haven't gone to O Ya but intend to. Cafe Sushi and Seto are the two best sushi places I've been to