Tsubasa Sushi

Ever since I moved back to the Bay Area there seems to be more and more sushi shops. I’m not talking about the serve-you-the-usual-assortment-of-fish places. These places are catering to the eager nigiri lovers looking for hard to get fish paired with creative flavors. The one we went today was a relatively new establishment in Hayes Valley, Tsubasa Sushi.

Worried that we couldn’t get seating, I made reservations. At first they told me they didn’t take any. Then they called me back and said they would and if I wanted to sit at the bar. Okay. Sure.

When we arrived I was a bit surprised that the place was empty for a Sunday night. About half the place was occupied. The large tables weren’t being used though most of the smaller two to four people tables were filled. Glancing over the menu and seeing the variety of rolls and the word “fusion” on the menu, I think the owners wanted to make this more of a lively setting. A place for large parties to come and sample their selection of food and spirits. The patrons tonight had a different idea. The parties tonight were either a pair like us or a small group of three or four. In my opinion, all they need to change was the length of the sushi bar. More seats please! However, this may have been due to the previous owners which also served sushi, but from what I gathered, not to this level of craftsmanship.

Anyways, we made it clear that we wanted to be wow’d by their omakase, which comes in at $60USD (up from $54 a month earlier) for 12 pieces of nigiri. And since we saw chawanmushi on the menu, we got that too.

The food came at a reasonable pace with a complimentary starter. The individual nigiri came out in three sets of three and one set of two, leaving the last for us to choose. Clever. The time in between the sets we occupied with general helpings of beer and sake. Don’t worry, we didn’t go overboard, even with the wait staff checking in every once in awhile. The food was up and down, but mostly on the up. There were memorable ones and only a few, I-wish-I-hadn’t. That’s the risk you take when you explore.  The meal took about an hour to complete and by the time we left, more people had rolled in. No lines outside though.

Tsubasa Sushi
429 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
+1 (415) 551-9688

Verdict: If you want high grade sushi without a ridiculous wait, give this place a try.


Finding Izakaya in Silicon Valley

There are many places around South Bay where you can go to enjoy some food and drinks with your co-workers. For starters, you have all those restaurants around downtown Mountain View on Castro street. Of course, most of them cater to the power lunch crowds. You can’t blame them since business rents in that area are as astronomical as residential rents. So to find a more down to earth comfort foods, you have to look elsewhere. For us, we had two requirements, close to the office and Japanese izakaya. Enter Tanto.

It’s located on El Camino and is a popular spot. So make sure you get reservations. Parking can be problematic too given the annoyed neighboring business who had to deal with the success of Tanto. Make sure you read the signs when you park.

Inside there are your tables and off to the side are booths, semi traditional ones where you can take off your shoes before sitting. It’s a very inviting atmosphere. Add in the wait staff and you’ll feel right at home. Our dishes came out quickly one after the other. And our waitress was helpful in making sure we weren’t over ordering, which we still ended up doing. But hey, she warned us. Sure, the food was classified as Japanese tapas, but the portions were more than what we expected. So glad we had a large enough group!

Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1063 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
+1 (408) 244-7311

Verdict: A must for those of you working in Mountain View or Sunnyvale who don’t want to travel too far for a great meal.


Friday Night DASH

Once again, not in San Francisco, but in San Mateo do we discover good sushi at I would add, very affordable prices. A 30 minute drive south of the city is DASH Japanese Tapas and Sushi. Located right across from the movie theater, you’d probably overlook it if it weren’t for the lines. We had reservations so that worked out perfectly.

We were seated right away and took a couple run throughs of the menu and went with their omakase. Here, they have two choices for omakase, a $20USD 5 piece or a $40USD 10 piece. You can do either sashimi or nigiri. We chose nigiri along with a couple appetizers. It was advertise as a tapas place as well, so why not.

The appetizers came out quickly and all were good except for the shooter. I’d forgo getting that and stick to sushi. Then it was prepping for our sushi courses. That meant passing time with beers, several actually. Service could use some more tuning. But to be fair, they were training a new member. We had to flag down our servers for orders and re-orders. Even though we could have gone through our sushi chef, he was busy preparing all the sushi for the restaurant. He does a fantastic job with the fish. All they need to do is train someone else to help scale the offering. I saw him prepare the ten piece nigiri set when we first came in. As the place got busy and it came to us, we got a serving of 5 and 5 (and eventually another 5). A good move by the chef to keep us from sitting without anything to eat.

I can tell this place has potential of going from good to great. Chef George was very personable and the selection of fish was perfect for those who want to expand their experiences in sushi.

DASH Japanese Tapas and Sushi
220 Main St
San Mateo, CA 94401
+1 (650) 340-1508

Verdict: An unpretentious place for sushi at a surprisingly low cost. This may become my neighborhood favorite.


New England Lobster Company

A little south of the San Francisco airport is where you can find the New England Lobster Company. A bit out of the way but when you’re craving a good lobster roll, you might want to make the hike. It’s not in a strip mall or near other restaurants. It’s just there, surrounded by warehouses and office buildings, ready to give you this mighty sea crustacean from the east coast. This place was a huge upgrade. I remember visiting their little food truck many years ago in a similar setting that left me with a “why are they all the way out here.” But like the saying goes, build it and they’ll come and we did.

This place was both a market and a restaurant which makes sense. The first time we visited them was to get some frozen lobster tails from the store. Now they got plenty of stock for all you seafood lovers. There’s dungeness crab, oysters, scallops, and many more. You can even take home some of their chowder. All that can be done on one side where the rest was dedicated to the restaurant. Plenty of seating. All you have to do was read the giant menu, order, get your number, find a seat, and wait for your food. Oh, you’ll want to pick up some utensils too. After the food came out, it was time to chow down. Great stuff. You can judge from the pictures below.

New England Lobster Company
824 Cowan Rd
Burlingame, CA 94080
+1 (650) 443-1559

Verdict: Not a bad way to upgrade your spot New England. When I return home from a trip and want a lobster roll, I’ll know where to go.


A Night At Sushi Sam’s Edomata

When it comes to lively sushi places, Sushi Sam’s Edomata nails it. This place had been on my dinner list for quite some time. Countless number of friends posting delectable pictures and raving about their times here was getting unbearable. Even with the number of good sushi restaurants opening up in the city, this restaurant still shined in their minds. And now I could see why.

You can tell it’s a local favorite given the amount of patrons walking in who knew the chefs by name. One by one, people came in a were shown to the bar. We stood there hoping our reservations would land us there too since we didn’t put down a preference. Low an behold, there were exactly three seats with our names on it, at the bar, next to the window. The stars were aligning my friends.

Inside the place was loud but manageable. It’s the energy level that’ll sweep you away. Servers are whisking by attending to basically everyone.

We went for their sushi omakase which was a two hour journey into their best selections filled with drinks and fun. Courses came out quickly one after another. Served on these little white plates, you’ll watch as they stack up after you finish each course. The nigiri was served in pairs. One complimenting the other. I’d say their creations with the yuzu salt was unique but a bit on the salty side. The others, are topped with nikiri. All were to be eaten as is, without any additional soy sauce. It’s not like we needed it. Each bite had enough flavor to feed our grins from ear to ear.

This visit will be one of many visits during my time here in San Mateo.

Sushi Sam’s Edomata
218 E 3rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
+1 (650) 344-0888

Verdict: A sushi omakase must visit for both the food and atmosphere.


Yakitori Koko

We took a chance coming to Yakitori Kokko without reservations. It’s usually filled with people waiting outside. But today, we got out of work early. So we headed there right when they opened to see if they had any seats. Luckily they did. And I have to stress that lucky part. They already had a long list of people for 5pm. Fortunately, it was only the two of us and there was a small table in a narrow area in the back of the restaurant.

There was a catch though. We had the table for an hour. Kinda tough if you wanted to enjoy the izakaya experience. But still doable.

Even though we weren’t seated in the main area, service was quick and attentive. Several of the wait staff were always coming by and making sure our beers were topped and our appetites were satisfied. As soon as we realized it was one skewer per order, we started piling on seconds and thirds. It’s actually a great way to sample their selection and it’s wasn’t too heavy on the wallet being just over two dollars a skewer. We were pigging out and kept the kitchen busy. Probably why they let us stay an extra half an hour beyond our limit. Thanks team Kokko!

Yakitori Kokko
509 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
+1 (650) 401-7008

Verdict: In the mood for yakitori, pay this place a visit. Just make sure to make reservations.


Toki Underground

Every major city has seen an influx of ramen restaurants. Washington D.C. was no different. However, in 2012, Toki Underground hit the scene. Not only did they bring ramen, but they brought their creativity along with some new takes on Taiwanese favorites. In my opinion, saying this stuff was fusion really takes away from their creations. It’s more like New Asian in my book. Something you’ll find in Taiwan or Japan, but refined for the critical foodies here in the city.

We showed up for lunch right when it opened and saw a few groups already lining up. Once the door opens you walk upstairs into a place that I’ll describe as hip. You got a good view into the kitchen, a bar, and decor that’s a cross between street art and Anime pop. That’s cool in my book.

There were surprisingly a lot of seats and they were set up bar style. That it, you’re either sitting at the bar where they serve alcohol or along the walls where you sat side by side with everyone. In the middle was the table where the servers hung out. Pretty simple to turn around to flag one of them down. So you can say they were pretty attentive given this layout. I can’t say much about speed since we were about the third order to hit the kitchen and yes, our food came out quick, very quick.

Overall, I think this would be a regular spot for me, especially for dinner, if I lived in the area. But either way, I will be back at some point to try out more bowls.

Toki Underground
1234 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
+1 (202) 388-3086

Verdict: Great bowl of ramen that’s full of taste, but don’t leave without trying their fried chicken gua bao.


Sushi Hiro

A friend once told me her favorite solo outing was going out and having sushi. I happen to agree. On my last day full day of Hong Kong I was alone. And while most think that’s unfortunate, I think it’s advantageous for securing a walk in seating at high demand sushi restaurants. Most of the time you’ll need a reservation. But as a party of one, all you need to do was to look for bar space. And that was the case at Sushi Hiro, a place upstairs from where we had lunch earlier in the week. One thing that I should mention was that it wasn’t easy finding a place with the party of one method. Although I started very early, at 5pm, I went to about 3 other places before deciding. And sure, I could have called, but I wanted to see the place, see the fish, and feel the ambiance.

Sushi Hiro’s sushi bar was very inviting. Two sushi chefs with a couple helpers stood behind the counter and the staff was attentive the whole time. Although the restaurant felt dark, I realized most of the lighting was illuminating the sushi bar while giving the private tables more intimacy. Of course, I took the bar and greeted the chef.

I took a deep breath and ordered the omakase set at $2800HKD.

Yes, this was expensive and I knew the price beforehand. But I wanted to experience and test what the locals say. “If you want good sushi, you might as well buy a ticket to Japan.” And sure, at these prices you might as well. Though it’s more than just finding the right fish. It’s about coming up with a good meal. Sushi Hiro does so with a huge selection of seafood sourced from Hokkaido. And by the end of the meal, I had sampled all of it and had to graciously turn down the chef for any more food. There were several memorable courses and I am happy to say, it was worth it. And that’s coming from a guy who frequents all the wonderful sushi places here in California. Sure, it’s a different style, but let’s focus on creativity over purists.

Sushi Hiro
42 Yun Ping Rd
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
+852 2882 8752

Verdict: If you can overlook the price tag, try their omakase.

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