I would never have walked into Sushi Gourmet unprodded. The name to me suggests one of those 24-hour Korean delis in NYC where the rolls are filled with carrots, and the location -- smack in the middle of that strip mall in Mill Valley off 101 (Strawberry Village, a few doors down from Starbucks) -- is less than inspiring.
Luckily I got prodded. Sushi Gourmet is now one of my top 3 sushi places in the Bay Area (with Kabuto and Murasaki, though when Funny Drunken Sushi Chef points are added, Saji moves up a few slots). It turns out "Gourmet" is a play on words, a combination of "Go" -- the onyomi, or Chinese reading, of sushi chef Tsuyoshi Endo's first-name character -- and "mi" -- the "aji" character, meaning flavor or taste. All the sushi is fantastic, and the cooked menu is great too. I recommend trying the BBQ baigai -- the snails cooked in their shells over a flaming bed of salt on your plate.
Be sure to take interest in the small cross-section of fish skeleton mounted in cotton and framed at the left of the sushi counter. It's the eye socket of a small red snapper -- tai in japanese, a fish associated with good luck (from the connection to the word "medetai," for those playing along in Japanese). Endo didn't have money to design a logo, so he traced that skeleton and used that. It's on all the chopstick sleeves and his business cards.
Strawberry Village, Mill Valley, CA
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