Timothy DeLaGhetto and David So Hit Up the Taste of Little Italy Food Festival
You’ll find high-end sushi, service, and well, prices at this Michelin star gem
Hashiri’s SF location is its second; the first is in Tokyo and the high quality fish for both comes from the latter’s renowned Tsukiji fish market. But that’s only one reason this is one of the most expensive restaurants in San Francisco and one of the most expensive Japanese restaurants in the country. The entire experience exudes luxury and refinement from start to finish, including impeccable service, a kaiseki-style menu of elaborate and artistic dishes, and a large selection of rare wines, whisky, and sake, all in a sleek, modern dining room with a few playful touches (like prints of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon grabbing their crotches). Of course, this kind of luxury comes with a price: $250 for the nine-course “kaiseki and sushi” experience, and $500 for “omakase at the chef’s table.”
Friendly service and quality sushi are front and center at this bustling spot
ICHI Sushi is a go-to for sushi lovers: The fish is fresh and sustainably sourced, the vibe is laid-back, and the service is great. Request the bar when you make your reservation (which you’ll most likely need since there are just 21 seats, including nine at the bar, which is where you want to be to watch and engage with the chef). You can’t go wrong with the reasonably priced individual dishes, but if you’re feeling adventurous and have a little more to spend, the omakase is consistently excellent.
A Japanese gastropub with a full bar and awamori cocktails
Sushi Ran in Sausalito has always been a popular spot to get sushi, but now you don’t have to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy its most popular sashimi and maki rolls thanks to the opening of its sister restaurant in the Castro. The restaurant bills itself as a Japanese gastropub and though the menu isn’t as big as Sushi Ran’s, dishes like rafute (braised pork belly, shiraga negi, karashi miso) and soki (BBQ pork back rib, pickled red ginger, and karashi miso) are so flavorful and filling you won’t mind. Plus, unlike its Marin counterpart, Izakaya Sushi Ran has a full bar, which you’ll want to partake in since it includes a cocktail program featuring Awamori, a very strong and very smooth traditional Okinawan liquor that you won’t find in many cocktails in the US.
A luxurious and personalized dining experience with a focus on nigiri
Ju-Ni means “twelve” in Japanese and not-at-all coincidentally, that’s precisely how many seats there are in this Michelin-starred omakase restaurant. As if that weren’t intimate enough, the sushi bar is designed so that every four guests have a dedicated chef creating and guiding them through each of the 18 (with the opportunity to indulge in more) courses. On the $165 menu that changes based on seasonality and fish availability from the Toyosu Market in Tokyo. There are two seatings each night (6pm and 8:30pm) and they tend to sell out a month or two in advance. Just be sure to put your reservation on your calendar -- and maybe tattoo it on the back of your hand -- because any cancellations made within 48 hours of your dining time will incur the entire $165 charge.
Omakase is the way to go at this tiny husband-and-wife owned restaurant
A kiss is just a kiss, unless it’s Kiss Seafood, in which case you’re definitely going to want a second date. Here’s the thing: if you want to dine at this intimate Japanese restaurant (and you do), you’re going to need a reservation. That’s just the way it goes when there are only 12 places to sit and enjoy the thoughtful and savory sashimi and sushi the chef is masterfully creating. There is an a la carte menu, but for the best experience, you’re going to want to go with one of the omakase menus ($70 and $89).
One of the best spots for omakase in San Francisco
This Michelin-starred 14-seat omakase restaurant is known for its elevated Edomae-style sushi and “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 choose from a $150 or $200 chef’s choice menu. The second includes a few more pieces of sushi and nigiri, which you’ll probably want considering the fish is handpicked by experts and imported directly from Tokyo’s world-renowned Tsukiji Fish Market three times a week.
A sleek Japanese spot that’s a go-to for FiDi diners with an expense account
The words “Financial District” and “expense account” may initially put you off of this Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga (Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County), but don’t let them. Pabu 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.
California-inspired omakase in a playful and inviting space
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 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 though it’s a bathroom floor and all.
The only sushi spot in SF with a bouncer outside
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 club than a restaurant (there’s a DJ), this is THE place to go in SF. The subterranean (a.k.a. fancy basement) restaurant stays open until 2am every night -- you can order food until 1:30am -- 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.