With the recent departure of Chef Takahashi-san from Anzu, I am feeling a little lost as to where to get my upscale sushi fix these days... I want the best diversity, best quality, and best sake selection. I am particularly difficult to please, since I am a delicate-and sweet-fish-sushi lover, and most Bay Area joints specialize on serving fat on rice and calling it good sushi.
I had a fairly decent meal last night at Ino Sushi in the SF Japantown yesterday. I've always loved the decor of this place, since it really looks like a little sushi restaurant in one of the high-rises in a Japanese city. Even the view of the darkening evening sky through the window, framed by sliding shoji doors, reminds me of places in Nagoya.
I had an assortment of sushi at Ino, omakase-style. I told him I didn't like Big Toro (the super fatty kind) and that I like clams, mollusks, and white-fish. The miru-gai was juicy and fresh, but the torigai and hokkigai were a bit on the limp side. What surprised me was the maguro. I am usually not a fan of maguro, because it is usually flavorless, watery, and disturbingly pink. Maguro at Ino was the real deal - true Hon-maguro. Full of sweetness and deeply nourishing, I haven't had a satisfying piece of maguro like that in a while. The egg was good too - a more traditional egg preparation with ground fish.
The thing is, although there is nothing bad about Ino Sushi, but it just doesn't have the warm feeling of a relaxing meal. Sake is served room temperature in big glasses (even the lusciously delicious Kubota Manju), the chef does not engage in small talk, and the lack of any music brings a somewhat hushed whisper to our conversation. This place would benefit significantly from the presence of Japanese businessmen letting it loose to make it a little bit more lively!
But then again, maybe that's just because I just finished reading five issues of Cooking Papa comic series, where Japanese businessmen cruise around the streets of Hakata for yummy eats and comradery. Comradery is another spice to make a meal more complete - and that's one thing I feel Anzu (under ex-chef Takahashi-san) had over Ino. With all things equal, the warmth of the restaurant is still important to me.
I am still on the search - next up, Kaygetsu in Menlo Park.