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Japantown sushi: Kiss, Takara and Ino Sushi

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Japantown sushi: Kiss, Takara and Ino Sushi

Malik | May 10, 2005 05:22 PM

In part due to the SF Film festival going on at Kabuki, I ended up eating three meals in Japan town over the last few weeks.

The first meal was at Kiss, where I had the omakase as usual. The omakase there is a set meal for that night for something like $42, though Naka-san will make adjustments as required based on any particular preferences you tell him about. The omakase includes a sashimi and a nigiri course, along with chawan mushi, soup, an amuse and a cooked fish dish. As usual, the raw fish was excellent, the highlight being kohada (shad), which was a first for me. The only fish I didn't like was saba (mackerel), but then again I've found saba everywhere too oily for my taste other than one time I had it at Hamako. Next time I go to Kiss, I'll try to have sushi only in order to have a better comparison to the other spots in town.

Then one night we tried to go to Ino sushi, but they were closed for the week vacationing in Japan, so we headed next door to Takara instead. We sat down at the sushi bar, at the station of the older of the two chefs behind the bar (Yuki-san?). The first thing we got was a complimentary amuse consisting of marinated Tombo tuna and some root vegetable. That was just OK, though I guess we shouldn't complain much since it was complimentary. We then had an order of albacore tataki, which was served with ponzu sauce. This dish tasted like the albacore had been seared a long time earlier, and was on the fishy side.

We moved on to sushi after that disappointing start, and that's when the restaurant started to shine. The first nice touch is that we were given real wasabi. I'm not sure if everyone at Takara gets that (everyone at Kiss gets fresh wasabi), or if he figured we were serious about our sushi. Everything we had was at least good (including toro, hamachi, suzuki, anago, tekka maki, plus others that I forget). The aji and the hirame were delicious, we had to order seconds of both of those. But the highlight of the night had to be the amaebi, which were live spot prawns picked from the tank in front of the restaurant. Amazingly fresh and sweet tasting, plus the nice added touch of serving us the heads deep fried afterwards. The only disappointment with the sushi was that they had just run out of kohada and didn't have ankimo, so I wasn't able to judge them on that front. The total with a small bottle of sake and a large beer, plus tax and tip, came out to a little over $60 per person, which we felt was money well spent. Will definitely go back.

Finally, last week I went to Ino sushi as they had reopened. We sat at the sushi bar, and other than a miso soup and some sunomono, we stuck to sushi. The meal was very good, though not quite at the level of my previous visit a year earlier. In particular, the ankimo was merely good this time. It was still better than any I've had elsewhere San Francisco, but not as magical as the one I had on my prior visit. The highlights this time were the bluefin toro, which was really great, the hamachi and the kampachi. The kohada was good, but a little over vinegared, I definitely prefered the version at Kiss. The aji, anago, maguro and suzuki were all good. I didn't care for the hirame as it was served like any plain nigiri, whereas I prefer it with a little ponzu sauce, shiso leaf and ginger. No wasabi on the side, as there's plenty already in the nigiri, he uses the paste rather than the fresh stuff. At times we had the same complaint as has been reported on this board of too much wasabi in some pieces. We didn't have any alcohol, so the total with tax and tip came out to $50 per person.

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