Every foodie in San Francisco has their favorite sushi restaurant, and my friends and I are no different. My friend, Michael, took me to his favorite spot last week, and it was no surprise that it was in Japan town. Ino Sushi, located in the mall near Hotel Kabuki, is a tiny place with a long wooden bar that seats about 10 and a row of tables that seats about the same amount. One step inside and it felt like stepping into Japan. A small Japanese woman in kimono greeted us at the door and sat us at the bar, while her husband stood behind the sushi bar assisting the other patrons. The husband-and-wife team have been holding this place down since 1978; an amazing feat especially since the wife handles the room all by herself and he is the only sushi chef behind the bar.
With all the nuances of Japanese sushi bar etiquette and persnickety house rules, I felt it was best to follow Michael’s lead in getting the Omakase (all-you can-eat chef’s choice), and I was not disappointed. The chef plopped two large balls of ginger on the wooden bar in front of us, one for Mike and one for me, followed by our nigiri—yes, no plates. My initial reaction of disbelief quickly disappeared and I enjoyed some of the most buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, fish that I have ever had. Each new nigiri surpassed the last and before I knew it, we had finished about 20 pieces of nigiri each.
True to Japanese authenticity, no wasabi was served on the side, but the chef has a heavy hand, placing a plentiful swipe of wasabi in the nigiri, nearly bringing tears to my eyes with the first few pieces of nigiri. Their homemade soy sauce was flavorful and rich. My favorites of the night were the amber jack (Kanpachi), Spanish mackeral (Aji) and the monkfish liver (Ankimo). The monkfish liver, which I’ve heard was some of the best in the city, was creamy, meaty and hard to imagine that it came from a fish; it really is the foie gras of the sea. The rest of our meal included tuna (Maguro), flounder (Hirame), yellowtail (Hiro), sea urchin (Uni), sea bass (Suzuki), fatty tuna (Toro), and salmon (Sake).
Like in most good sushi places, the bill can climb up dramatically, but it is a worthy indulgence. Now, let’s try to keep this place a secret between you and me so it doesn’t get too crowded!