Sushi Quest ’07

“One day in mid-February, I awoke hungry. Very hungry,” explains Sushi Monster. And so he begins an odyssey, “a personal quest for a sushi lunch experience of transcendental, near-orgasmic quality.”

So he went to every sushi restaurant he could find from Burlingame to Mountain View—the entire San Francisco Peninsula. Why? “I can’t explain the hunger or why it seized me so powerfully. It is probably the same driving force that impelled me to eat barbecue for 22 consecutive days some years ago. The same force that led me to amass the largest collection of bottled hot sauces on the West Coast.”

Eventually he went to 25 sushi restaurants in a few short months. And he has ranked them all. Of the 25, 6 of them he puts in the top tier: Sakae, SushiYa, Higuma, Yuzu, Sushi Sam’s Edomata, and Naomi. Within the top tier, the rankings are almost arbitrary, says he—any single one of them is worthy of a special trip.

Interestingly, he found almost no correlation between price and quality. The last-placer on his list (the dreadful Liquid Sushi) cost him $39, higher than second-placer SushiYa ($35). The one insane outlier is Sakae—both the best sushi experience and the highest priced, at $113 (with 20 percent tip).

His top choice, in the end, is Sakae. It is almost without peer; only Sam’s is comparable. But for the orthodox, fully traditional sushi experience, there is nothing else. “Sakae’s top chef Jun Nozawa is the mack daddy.” There is a staggering selection of special fish on the whiteboard, too, most of which are FedEx’d from the two main fish markets in Tokyo.

Of the other top-tier places, SushiYa and Yuzu are both small, seven-seater, mom-and-pop-type places that offer top-quality nigiri at a very reasonable price. Higuma is not as small but has exceptional quality for the lowest per-piece price of the top-tier restaurants—it’s probably the best value on the list, says Sushi Monster. Naomi is also a midsize shop, with an indefinably homey vibe. It puts people at ease, which may explains the legions of fans.

And then there’s Sushi Sam’s Edomata, a wild ride through undeniably exceptional sushi, put forward in bold, innovative flavor combinations. But it loses on the value scale, at an average of $7 per nigiri order, as opposed to Higuma’s $4 per order.

Be sure to check out his staggeringly long post, with detailed tasting notes on all 25 restaurants.

Sakae [Peninsula]
240 Park Road, Burlingame
650-348-4064
Map

SushiYa [Peninsula]
380 University Avenue, Palo Alto
650-322-0330
Map

Higuma [Peninsula]
540 El Camino Real, Redwood City
650-369-3240
Map

Yuzu [Peninsula]
54 37th Avenue, San Mateo
650-358-0298
Map

Sushi Sam’s Edomata [Peninsula]
218 E. Third Avenue, San Mateo
650-344-0888
Map

Naomi [Peninsula]
1328 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
650-321-6902
Map

Board Links: Sushi Monster devours Peninsula: The Big List

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