These is a certain kind of sushi restaurant that delights in hiding in plain sight. In San Francisco, they seem to compete on blandness for the most bland exteriors, only to show their true colors to the luck few who’s patience in out waiting their rivals is rewarded with a tasty repast. They are typically tiny with a handful of tables, at most, and the store front is so nondescript that they are almost a speak easy, but I have not heard of any passwords required to seek entry. They’ve been a topic of conversation on ChowHound and other food sites.
Practically every sushi lover that I talk to has their own favorite, a nondescript place that in the light of day, you would walk by and never know that this was a delights of sushi. But at night, its another story, with the lights on and the lanterns out and lit and the banners hung – all sushi restaurant accruement telling the diner to be ready for action. These owners prefer to let their work speak for itself, as clamoring crowds gather up and down the sidewalk resigned to wait their turn. They seem to pride themselves on making the entrance to their establishment as drab as possible, as if by contrast the food is that far superior to their showy counterparts.
I’ve lived in other cities around the country, and was never aware of these sorts of sorts of establishments. Although they may and been there, and I just walked right by them. So I must ask, are you aware of sushi restaurants like this, where you live?
There’s about a dozen or so of these restaurants in San Francisco that make the list. I offer up for your consideration:
I’ve been to a few of them, and found them delicious, but I confess that I do not eat sushi with the regularity that allows me to say one is better than the other. I can tell you it is an experience to eat here. You come to focus on the food, not the atmosphere, and the quality is of fish that I’ve encountered speaks to the concerted effort of the chefs to offer superior sushi. The proprietors were always very considerate and offered up some wonderful suggestions, but I had heard some folks call the chefs “difficult” or “sushi nazis”, “sushi bullies” as they have rules that are best to abide by, such as
- Dip their sushi in soy sauce at your peril. It is perfect the way it is, thank you very much.
- Do not make a heavy mix of wasabi paste and soy sauce. If you are caught doing so, your real washabi will be replaced with the fake stuff.
- Don’t ask what is good, its all good.
- Don’t try to make small talk, they want to focus on their craft.
- Do not order off the menu, these sushi chefs know their stuff and will serve you what’s best. Order, instead, “omakase” – a Japanese expression that loosely translates to “trust the chef”.
- DO NOT ask for California rolls.
Never having encountered a difficult sushi chef first hand, I may not appreciate the negative aspect. I do respect anyone that appreciates good quality food and its treatment, and wants to showcase the preparation as it was intended to be. I see them more as my guide to good sushi, they know what is good, they know how to prepare it and showcase its flavors.
I know that by dipping my sushi in the soy sauce, the subtly of ingredients that were applied to enhance the flavor of the fish is lost. To watch a patron dip first without even tasting, I can imagine is very frustrating from the chefs point of view. It must be akin to someone reaching for the Tobasco to douse my scrambled eggs to give it a bit of zing without even sampling them first – I’d not be too happy with that.
This recipe is my attempt to replicate a dessert I had years ago at Ebisu Sushi Restaurant ( a not so hidden gem in the Sunset District of San Francisco) and I was disappointed, ok devastated to learn they had removed from their menu. To me it was the perfect end to a wonderful sushi meal. I loved this treat and dreamed about it for years, until I finally decided, “enough with the moping already, try making it yourself”.
Here are my two attempts, and all I can say, is given the simple ingredients, each delicious in their own right, its really hard to go wrong. The first version is very refreshing and tastes more of the lemon, close but not exactly as I remembered this tasty treat. The second version tastes much more like what I remember, and is just darn good if I do say so myself. You may want to add a bit more of the simple syrup, I like my lemon desserts a bit on the tart side.
juice of 6 lemons ~ 1 c
2 c simple syrup (I use a 1:1 ration of sugar to water for my syrup)
3/4 c sake
juice of 6 lemons
3 c simple syrup
1 c sake
Follow the directions on your ice cream maker. Note: I have a standard Krup ice cream maker and the consistency never gets beyond slushy. If your aim is a boozy drink with the consistency of a frozen margarita, stop right here. If you want to have it more on the order of a sorbet. Stick it in the freezer a few hours prior to serving.