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Sushi Sam's - My First Time, But Not My Last [San Mateo]

I couldn't find a review within the last 6 years of Sushi Sam's, and maybe that's because everyone else already knows about it. I had to be taken there by fellow Chowhounder Gretchen S, from MA, about a place only 20 minutes from me!

We went last night and had the omakase - GS' sans shellfish, so hopefully she'll add her pics as well.

From Gretchen's notes (all nigiri except where indicated):

1. Butterfish and Artic Char for her; Butterfish and Sweet Shrimp (Malaysian? for me (included the fried shrimp head, of course);
2. Ankimo sashimi for each of us;
3. Amberjack/Copper River Salmon for both of us;
4. Bonito/Torched Ocean Trout with mild onions for both of us;
5. Barramundi/Torched Toro for her/ Torched Toro/Baby Lobster for me;
That was all on the omakase - Chef's choice. From there, the greedy girls ordered:
6. Two pieces each of Alfonsino (aka Golden Red Snapper);
7. Two each of the Copper River Salmon
9. A hand roll each of crispy Copper River Salmon skin

we didn't intend to eat this much, truly, but i'm so glad we got everything we did.

Everything was beautifully & lightly dressed, either with a very tart citrusy juice - yuzu, maybe?, or other accoutrements - grated radish, shiso, sliced & toasted almonds, scallions, flavored salt, or the aforementioned mild onions (I believe they're either soaked or maybe quickly blanched to remove any bitterness). The salmon is apparently only available a couple of weeks out of the year, so I felt very lucky. I've never tasted anything so buttery, ever. It was guaranteed we were going to order more of it after the omakase. The ankimo was great too - too many San Francisco places have stopped making it. The butterfish had a wonderful smokiness. My torched toro and lobster combo were maybe my favorite pairing of the night. i'd never had toro torched before - fantastic. the baby lobster had the almonds and a tobiko mayonnaise. I could have eaten 4 of those. The Alfonsino was new to both of us - very delicate, with beautiful coloring. The only thing I think I didn't love was the trout - I normally do, but I think it was a bit mushy for me. I've been dreaming of the salmon skin hand roll all day - it was ultra-meaty and the best rendition of this roll I've ever had. GS pointed out the uber-crispy nori - it was super dark, and she thought maybe toasted more than at other places? it never lost it's crispiness.

I'm not super-well-versed (have had a ton of sushi, but mostly here in CA) but I can definitely say that this is the best sushi I've ever had, period. I'd read complaints about the service, but we got in maybe 10 minutes after our reservation, sat at the sushi bar, and everyone was super friendly. Our server especially took the time to describe each dish. Sushi Chef Sam was in the house, though I'm not sure if he made any of our dishes. We didn't end up getting the dessert that comes with the omakase, as we were too full. I really, really can't wait to go back.

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  1. Nom! Nice pix, mc. Can you give us a ballpark on the cost of this divine repast?

    3 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      Can't speak for the OP. But we usually spend at or under 50 pp.

      1. re: goldangl95

        I have a feeling this was more. We meant to order only one piece each of the last two nigiri, but they misunderstood and brought us two each.

      2. re: grayelf

        You know, I was generously treated to this wonderful meal, so I'm not sure. I do know we asked for eight pieces to start, and then added on, but I'm not sure if there are set prices for so many pieces or if it's per piece.

      3. Wowzah. Super-jelly. Makes me crave some good quality sushi.......

          1. Did you get to take the dessert home? I love their (Japanese) desserts that always bring me back the fond memory of my life in Japan. Also, you can special order cakes in advance for birthday, etc., which are quite good as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yuko

              no, I didn't even think of it, as we were full, and i'm not usually a dessert person anyway - but then when I got home and looked at the menu and realized they were homemade, I kicked myself for not having it! next time...

            2. Were you at at the bar, and how did you order the omakase? Did they ask what you generally ate?

              3 Replies
              1. re: bbulkow

                we were at the bar. as mentioned above, we told the server we wanted 8 pieces to start, chef's choice, and that we would add onto that if desired after. they didn't ask and we didn't tell them what we usually eat, we just let them make us whatever they wanted. i was open to anything - GretchenS is allergic to shellfish and they happily accommodated her.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  Interesting. One thing I like about Naomi in MP is the head itame takes time to ask what you like.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    that would be nice, but I didn't mind not being asked. if people were pickier or had more restrictions I could see really wanting to be asked.

              2. Have typically frequented Sushi Tomi as my default sushi, but tried Sushi Sam today. Was pleasantly surprised. Light lunch but everything was spot on. The rice is better executed than Tomi, which can sometimes be a bit al dente and was also in the right proportion, i.e. not too much rice.

                Anago - i realize i'm just not an anago fan. have had it at a number of high end places in NYC and just was meh on the texture. This piece was no better or worse than those.

                Blue Shrimp - delicious. super fresh, crisp and none of the slimy mouthfeel you somtimes get. these were big fat shrimp and the fried heads were perfectly executed, i.e. not too much batter / coating

                Japanese Snow Crab with dollop of crab guts - i never get kani, but wanted to try it. I'm a convert and the dollop of crab guts added a bit of fish-iness that i really enjoyed

                Baby Lobster - i didn't need the mayo on top, but the lobster it self was perfectly cooked.

                Crab / unagi hand roll - my only somewhat disappointment in that by the time the roll got to me the nori and lost its crispness. We were at table service though so i suppose the bar would be different.

                overall, i'd make the trek here over any other place in the bay area right now ex SF and north.

                1. I went back last night (sadly without CH mariacarmen who is travelling in Europe, lucky thing). Once again the omakase was outstanding. No ankimo this time (I believe it is out of season) but had amberjack, butterfish, artic char, bonito and torched toro, among other things I have forgotten. Sat at the sushi bar and both the sushi chefs and the waiters were friendly and welcoming. I feel very lucky to be out here in business 4 times a year and able to get to Sushi Sam's every time. What a fabulous place!