Gintei has been open for a couple of years now, and yet it continues to fly under some people's radars. I'm guessing that a big part of that is due to the restaurant's location in a rather nondescript part of San Bruno, very near SFO. And yet Gintei delivers a good Edomae sushi meal at very reasonable prices. It even made my recent "Top 5 best Bay Area Sushi Restaurants" list.
I just revisited the shop (4th visit in the past 12 months or so) and was surprised to see chef Masa Sasaki, formerly of Maruya, behind the counter. Chefs Osamu "Sam" Ito and Masa Yamasaki are still there, along with a new, younger chef whose name I didn't catch. They still season the shari with komesu (rice vinegar) but the vinegar seasoning was more pronounced than before, which was nice. The shari was also a bit warmer than I remembered from previous visits - although I don't know if this was done on purpose or was simply due to me being the first customer at the bar at 17:30. It would be interesting to visit the shop later at night to see if the warmer shari temperature is purposefully maintained throughout the night. I also noticed a more liberal use of wasabi in the nigiri, but again I'm not sure if this is deliberate or not. These small changes in the rice preparation (stronger seasoning and warmer temperature) made this meal my most enjoyable yet out of my four visits.
Gintei is well known amongst Bay Area sushi aficionados for sourcing a lot of neta, and indeed this was the case again, with probably 25 to 30 different sushi toppings listed on the "specials" board, including a few esoteric selections. Pricing, as mentioned above, is very reasonable, with a ten piece nigiri omakase offered at only $45. On this visit, I ordered the omakase and four additional pieces "a la carte" (including a $13 piece of Hokkaido murasaki uni) and the total with tip and tax was still under a hundred dollars. The neta, although not of the very highest grade, is of very good quality, so one has to wonder how the shop can turn a profit at those prices. It really is an amazing deal.
Highlights on this particular visit included hobo, suzuki, sagoshi, and aji, along with really fatty saba, buri and chu-toro. The uni and anago were good, but not particularly memorable.I found the kohada to be a little over-marinated, with the vinegar slightly overpowering the other flavors. The weakest piece of the evening was the tamago which was rather bland and had no umami flavors - I could only taste egg, and didn't detect any shrimp, eel, or fish paste flavors.
All in all, though, Gintei once again delivered a fine meal at an affordable price. Bookings at the bar remain easily obtainable; a phone call a day or two in advance usually does the trick.
Below you will find images of most of the evening's pieces.
Gintei 235 El Camino Real San Bruno, CA 94066 http://gintei.co/