9 Essential Sushi Spots You Need to Know in San Francisco
From casual sushi counters to over-the-top omakase.
SF has a ton of great neighborhood sushi spots when it comes to satisfying your cravings for miso soup, shrimp tempura rolls, and hamachi nigiri. They’re perfect for that once-a-month (or week, as it were) sushi dinner, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little more exciting, elevated, or experimental, which, luckily, is also an area where SF excels.
In some cases that means omakase menus with a pretty hefty bill, but in other cases, it just means inventive chefs with expert knife skills or the greatest place to go when you want late-night sushi with a side of club hits from back in the day.
Whichever one appeals to you (or your wallet), you’ll find it on this list of SF sushi spots that consistently leave us happy, sated, and wishing we had just a little more money in our checking accounts.
This family-owned and operated sushi spot has been delighting SF diners for over 30 years with exceptional sushi (the fish arrives daily from local purveyors and Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market), warmth in every interaction, and “innovative culinary methods” mostly seen in the fried and grilled dishes, as well as the rolls (like the Negitoro roll with tuna belly, scallion, pickled daikon, and sesame). Not only is the food truly delicious, it’s also beautifully plated and presented. The space, which mixes textures like exposed brick walls, warm woods, and low lighting, is also inviting, which makes every meal at Akiko’s feel that much more special. (The sushi bar is, of course, the spot, but if you’re hoping for a romantic experience, opt for the tables in the cozy back room.)
How to book: Reservations for up to four are highly recommended and can be made online. Reservations for parties of more than four people cannot be accommodated.
Saru Sushi Bar
This tiny Noe Valley sushi bar is a popular date spot, but now that it has outdoor seating, it attracts the stroller set as well. Kids, no kids, married, single—what all of the patrons have in common here is an appreciation for the friendly staff, high-quality sushi, affordable prices, and its tasting spoons (two smaller portions of the chef’s creative appetizers). The watermelon roll (named because it looks like a watermelon, not because it includes it as an ingredient) is also a fun order as it makes for a great pic and tastes delicious.
How to book: Walk in or order pickup online.
Wako’s much-deserved one Michelin star is a result of the incredibly thoughtful and almost immaculate experience diners have from start to finish. The wood-filled space has a sushi bar and tables (you want the sushi bar) where you can order from the a la carte menu or do a tasting ($86). We recommend the tasting, which is ten pieces of sushi and a small bite dish (and if the Wagyu isn’t one of the pieces, do not walk out of there without adding it on).
How to book: online.
The eponymous sushi restaurant by owner and chef Mitsunori Kusakabe offers an omakase menu ($185) based on the kaiseki cuisine principle, which emphasizes seasonality, being present, and the “Goshoku, Gomi, Gokan, Gohou” (“Five Colors, Five Tastes, Five Senses, Five Methods”) tenet. Chef Kusakabe is known for showcasing his culinary talents that go beyond what we typically think of when we envision sushi, including Kyoto-style sushi, which uses mostly cured or cooked fish. The menu changes, of course, but favorite dishes aside from the nigiri and sashimi include the dashi egg custard with umami soy sauce, cured quail egg, uni, and caviar, and braised Alaskan black cod.
How to book: Make reservations online and order takeout online.
Ju-Ni means “twelve” in Japanese and not-at-all coincidentally, that’s precisely how many seats you’ll find in this one Michelin-starred omakase restaurant when the indoor dining area is open, which it is not at this exact moment. However, you can still dine outdoors in the heated parklet, which is set up just like a sushi bar with three seating areas and plexiglass partitions. That setup allows for every four guests to have a dedicated chef creating and guiding them through each of the 12 courses on the $147 menu that changes based on seasonality and fish availability from the Toyosu Market in Tokyo. Just be sure to put your reservation on your calendar—and maybe tattoo it on the back of your hand—because you can’t cancel or exchange your reservation for another night once it’s been made and paid for. Oh, and keep an eye out for the team’s new casual spot, the Handroll Project (self-explanatory), coming to the Mission sometime soon.
How to book: via Tock.
This Michelin-starred 14-seat omakase restaurant is known for its elevated Edomae-style sushi made with fish handpicked by experts and imported directly from Tokyo’s world-renowned Tsukiji Fish Market three times a week and its “classically Japanese” (read: refined and serene) ambiance. There are a few small tables, but the counter is where you want to sit so that you can interact with and watch the skills of chef Jackson Yu, a warm, engaging, and very talented master of his craft. Like the name suggests, there’s no set menu at Omakase; rather, diners pay $195 for around ten courses picked by the chef (with an optional $120 sake pairing).
How to book: Make reservations via Tock or order takeout online.
This sleek Japanese spot was once a go-to for Financial District diners with expense accounts, but don’t let the words “Financial District” and “expense account” put you off of this Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga (Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County) concept that consistently puts out delicious and high-quality sushi and sashimi, as well as grilled skewers and steaks. There’s also an omakase tasting menu (of course) and a really good happy hour with great prices and quality cocktails (especially if you enjoy Japanese whisky). Go for the latter when you’re paying and the former when it’s on someone’s company dime. Whichever it is, you’ll find that Pabu is actually more affordable than some of SF’s most high-end sushi places and is nearly, if not equally, as delicious.
How to book: Make reservations via SevenRooms or order takeout online.
In a town where sushi can often feel austere and serious (though usually in a good way), Robin is a breath of fresh air. Chef Adam Tortosa’s untraditional take on omakase ($89 to $189) is unlike anything else you’ll find in the city, with contemporary creations that focus heavily on local seafood and unexpected Northern California ingredients—take the salmon nigiri topped with confit tomato, for instance. Even the wasabi comes from nearby Half Moon Bay Wasabi Company, one of just a handful of wasabi farms in North America. The playful decor matches the unique cuisine with dripping rose gold metallic paint on the wall; bright, colorful recycled tile on the wall behind the sushi bar; and a bathroom floor tiled in pennies that you kind of want to Instagram…but maybe shouldn’t seeing as how it’s a bathroom floor and all.
How to book: online.
Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant & Bar
Ryoko’s is probably the most controversial addition to this list, but when you’re looking for late-night sushi in a lively space that feels more like a bar/club than a restaurant (there’s a piano player some nights and a DJ others), this is the place to go in SF. The subterranean (aka fancy basement) restaurant stays open late (Considering the times, that means until 11:30 pm Monday through Saturday, and until 10:30 pm on Sunday) and, as a result, draws in a mix of tourists and industry folks looking for legitimately good sushi that’s not too expensive. There’s almost always a line at peak hours, but the hostess will bring you drinks while you wait. There are plenty of over-the-top Frankenrolls with lots of ingredients, but the fish is fresh, so don’t shy away from the nigiri and sashimi.
How to order: Walk-ins only.