Since many of my friends and acquaintances know that I am a hardcore Sushi Geek™, I'm frequently asked for Bay Area sushi recommendations. So here is my current top 5 favorite SF Bay Area sushiya list! Bear in mind that the “cons” listed below for each restaurant are based on my personal preferences only. Example: I prefer rice that is strongly seasoned with akasu vinegar. Someone else might prefer rice that is lightly seasoned with Komézu. One preparation method is not necessarily more correct than the other. (Although akasu tends to be used in traditional Edomae-zushi).
Regarding the “typical price per person” field: I usually order omakase, plus a couple extra pieces of nigiri, + two drinks (beer or nihonshu) and tip in the 20 to 25% range. The amounts listed include all this, and taxes, per person.
Here's the list. Enjoy, and let me know what your list looks like.
1. Sushi Yoshizumi Typical price per person: $250+. Pros: By far my favorite sushiya in the Bay Area, no one else comes close to Yoshizumi’s mastery. Nearly flawless shari and overall execution. Incredibly skillful teate (prep work). Cons: Hard to book. I can’t list the high price as a “con” as I think it is completely justified. Ease of booking: Very difficult, requires booking 2 months in advance. Web: http://sushiyoshizumi.com/
2. Wako Typical price per person: $175. I order the $100 nigiri omakase and go from there. Pros: Even though Tomo-san uses Komézu instead of akasu, his rice is delicious and well-seasoned. Good attention to details such as temperature control. Cons: I love their rice, but still prefer akasu shari! Level of execution and attention to details, while very high, is not quite at Yoshizumi’s level. Ease of booking: Moderate. I recommend calling 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time to guarantee a spot at the bar. Web: http://www.sushiwakosf.com
3. Kusakabe Typical price per person: $175. Pros: High quality ingredients, some very original preparation techniques. Good overall attention to details. Cons: I’m not a huge fan of the flow of the meal as I prefer to have otsumami first, then straight nigiri courses. Shari, while very good, is not seasoned enough for my taste. Not traditional Edomae style. Restaurant size is a bit too large for an intimate experience. Ease of booking: Moderate. I recommend booking 4 weeks ahead of time minimum. web: http://kusakabe-sf.com/
4. An Japanese Restaurant Typical price per person: $150. Pros: Good quality ingredients, relaxed atmosphere, traditional Edo style preparation techniques. Cons: While seasoned with akasu, I would personally prefer for the shari to be more strongly vinegared, and warmer in temperature. Ease of booking: Easy. A spot at the sushi bar can usually be obtained within a day or two, often same day. Web: http://sushiansf.com/
5. Gintei Typical price per person: $130. Pros: Good ingredients prepared by experienced chefs. Typically offers impressive selection of neta. Cons: Fairly bland komézu shari, which can be a little on the cold side. Ingredients and technique are very good but not of the highest caliber, which is understandable at this price point. Ease of booking: Easy. A spot at the sushi bar can usually be obtained within a day or two. Web: http://gintei.co/