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Restaurants & Bars 6

Excellent sushi at Hama-Ko in Cole Valley, San Francisco

Vincent Lo | Dec 7, 200405:13 AM

Hama-Ko is a small sushi house with about 8 tables and 5 seats at the sushi bar. I already read a lot online about how the old Kashiyama couple running the place seem to have certain "rules," and I witnessed first-hand how some people might consider them rude. They were very nice to me the entire evening, even though it was my first visit. I did call ahead, and Junko said the counter (sushi bar) wasn't available, and asked me if a table for one was fine. I said yes. I asked about the (famous) ankimo, and Junko said something like it wasn't available.

Well for the two hours I was there, no one sat at the sushi bar. They seated me at the bar, actually. And they did serve me the ankimo. The chef-owner served me 9 pairs of nigiri: scallop (east coast--he proudly told me he got them for $18 a pound), uni (Santa Barbara), tai snapper (New Zealand), oyster, hamachi toro, saba (Baja California), smoked salmon. I'm probably missing another one. You don't get a huge variety of fish at Hama-Ko, but what you get is stunning in quality, especially after you take into account that most nigiri sushi there only costs about $4-5 a pair.

The generally nice couple can appear to be downright rude. A lady walked in and asked for the takeout menu. She then waited in front of the sushi bar, and Tetsuo, the owner-chef, proceeded to tell her to wait at the door. She basically got ignored till she left. Another guy walked in and said he was early for his reservation, ahead of the rest of the party. He walked up to the sushi bar, and tried to strike up a conversation by asking what fish was good/fresh that day. Maybe Tetsuo didn't get that the customer was trying to be friendly, and he told him to get back to the table, and that everything was good and expensive(!). I took out my cell phone and tried to see if my friend could join me at Hama-Ko. Mind you, I used to work in Japan, plus I'm an extremely nice/considerate person, and I'll never talk on a cell phone in a restaurant louder than I would with a live person sitting next to me. They actually asked me (albeit very politely) to carry my conversation outside. I was annoyed but I didn't show it.

Back to the food, Hama-Ko is definitely one of the best sushi houses in the city. Don't miss this gem. Just don't try to compare it to places like Sakae, Kabuto A&S, Ebisu, Kyo-Ya, or Kaygetsu, because it's just a tiny sushi house. Also don't go if you don't like sushi, because there are virtually no other (cooked) dishes.


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