Because we don't quite have the level of mercury poisoning necessary to make credible picks for the best sushi in SF, we found two people who (probably?) do: Tim and Erin Archuleta, the power couple behind ICHI Sushi + NI Bar in Bernal Heights -- one of SF's absolute best raw fisheries. Here're their picks for SF's seven best bets.
Koo (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "We always order omakase at the sushi bar with Tim’s sensei, Chef Kiyoshi Hayakawa. He always has a wide variety of specials, and with a combination of a few hot plates, it’s a perfect meal. His wife Ayumi will warmly greet you and your party and make you feel at home. Kiyoshi-San’s nigiri is not to be missed."
Eiji (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "This tiny, intimate place is great for dinner with a pal. It’s a good, affordable date spot where you can actually hear each other and catch up over its famous, table-side tofu and some solid sushi."
Kiss Seafood (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "This is a perfect combination of sushi and traditional Japanese food. You can order a la carte, but like the others, we’d recommend omakase. There are two pricing tiers; spend a little more, and you’ll land more specialty items that the chef is changing regularly. This is an itty-bitty space, so be sure to make a reservation."
Akiko's Restaurant (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "Akiko’s has an awesome selection of fish. While there’s a lot of sushi in their ‘hood, Akiko’s butchery and craft stands out. It’s also a family-owned place, with two generations running the business. Their Ikura Nigiri is a special truffle-marinated experience."
Ryoko's (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "Open late. Always a party. Remember, it’s up a hill, but it’s worth it. If you have to wait on the staircase, order a beer or some sake and relax. It’s gonna be great. This is the perfect place to go with a group of pals when you’re out late and looking for some skilled Japanese chefs."
Sushi Ran (address and info)
Tim & Erin: "While this longtime Bay Area sushi destination isn’t technically in San Francisco (shhhhhh), we drive up North almost every weekend to get away, and it’s a great stop in Sausalito on the way home for a lighter meal at the end of the weekend. The omakase features a lot of Japanese fish that they pair with sake recommendations."
Honorable Mentions: Saru Sushi ("It’s an intimate restaurant with a wide selection of Japanese fish."); Kusakabe ("We’re excited to see what their kaiseki menu is like."); Pabu ("We have some pals working there and we can’t wait to cheer them on."); and Maruya ("This traditional, Tokyo-style sushi is on our list of next eats. The chef/owner is good friends with one of our chefs, Tadashi-San, and we’re excited to eat there.").
Joe Starkey is Thrillist's San Francisco editor and maybe ate a lot of sushi while shooting photos for this. Follow him on Twitter and hit up ICHI Sushi + NI Bar. That place is seriously awesome.
1. Koo408 Irving St, San Francisco
2. Sushi Ran107 Caledonia St, Sausalito
3. Kiss Seafood1700 Laguna St, San Francisco
4. Eiji in the Castro317 Sanchez St, San Francisco
5. Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant & Bar619 Taylor St, San Francisco
6. Saru Sushi3856 24th St, San Francisco
7. Kusakabe584 Washington St, San Francisco
8. PABU101 California St, San Francisco
9. Maruya2931 16th St, San Francisco
10. Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar431 Bush St, San Francisco
One of the best restos for Omakase, Chef Kiyoshi Hiyakawa always features a wide variety of specials, and with a combination of a few hot plates, and a perfect Nigiri, it’s a perfect meal.
SF might have a great number of decent sushi restos, but this one is definitely worth heading up to Sausalito for, with its fresh Omakase that features a lot of Japanese fish that they pair with sake recommendations.
This small (and we mean small) mom-and-pop sushi restaurant in the heart of Japantown has the ability to get easily lost in the array of ramen, sushi, and izakaya spots in the neighborhood -- but it's truly not to be missed. Feel like you’re a guest in a local Japanese home as you’re served by a wife and husband duo in a cozy setting. As for food, order a la carte or get the always-preferred omakase, so you can enjoy some specialty items and chef favorites.
This intimate Castro sushi spot is great for a date and to chow down on fresh fish, but what Eiji is really known for is its house-made tofu. Get it cold and sprinkled with bonito flakes, hot and topped with a rich sauce, or -- the crowd-pleaser -- the oboro tofu, which is cooked to order and made from homemade soy milk, served in a bubbling pot. Chef Eiji will bring it to the table accompanied by an array of condiments to be added as desired. You’ll get sesame seeds, chili-laced grated daikon, chopped green onions, bonito flakes, ginger, and tamari.
Ryoko's, on the border of Nob Hill and Tenderloin, is a lively basement sushi spot helmed by high-skilled Japanese chefs. The sake and Sapporo flow like water, and on weekend nights, a live DJ turns up the party factor considerably. Last call for food and drink isn't until 1:30am, making it an awesome spot to hit when you're out late with a group of friends, or if your drinks date unexpectedly turns into dinner.
Just opened in the land of babies and their au pairs, this new sushi spot's run by a Hong Kong-repping chef, who's deep-frying any and all traditional raw fish fare in a surprisingly modern shell: there's a mix of blond wood coffered paneling and stained concrete walls, a black leather chair'd chef's counter, and Edison bulbs springing out of a matrix of metal pipes and directly into World 8.
For a Jiro Dreams of Sushi-esque experience, Chef-Owner Mitsunori Kusakabe designed a $95 prix fixe menu of 11 courses – mostly sushi with a soup course and an additional hot dish to balance the digestive system after raw food – for the total 29 patrons able to fit inside Kusakabe’s minimalist Jackson Square space. Although the menu is seasonal, it reflects the “kaiseki cuisine principle” that balances five colors, five tastes, five senses and five cooking methods. There are only two seatings per night, so reserve early.
When you think of Japanese whisky bars, you think of Nihon Whisky Lounge. But Pabu is a solid surprising contender: they have a secret Japanese cocktail menu, plus traditional Japanese whisky service. Each of the 14 Japanese whiskies offered are served with a complimentary food item that's blowtorched in front of you, meant to bring out the complex flavors of the drink.
Ordering at Maruya is simple -- the menu is broken down into two omakase options and two moriawase (combination sushi platter) options. Grab some friends to help with the bigger platters and enjoy the traditional, Tokyo-style sushi.
Whether you want to go full omakase or just experience some impossibly fresh, expertly prepared seafood at your own speed, Akiko's is among the best handful of places to experience sushi in SF. The robust wine list and deep-cut sake selections are almost as impressive as the fish, which is really saying something.