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Restaurants & Bars 23

Hama-Ko: major disappointment

toro-papa | Oct 3, 200206:17 PM

I recently went to Hama-Ko and was very disappointed, having read such laudatory reviews on this board.

I should say coming in that I used to be a regular of Sawa Sushi until Steve Sawa pissed me off with rapidly escalating, unjustifiable prices and by not being there even when I had called ahead to be sure the restaurant would be open. Sawa is still my benchmark for sushi, but lately I've been exploring the Valley's other offerings and finding some real gems.

As previously described, it's a tiny hole-in-the-wall, with the only outside sign being "108B Carl", nothing about the name of the restaurant. Service was friendly but somewhat slow, and the sushi bar had a "reserved" sign. In the hour and a half we were there, no one sat at the sushi bar. Who was it reserved for?

With the server's suggestions in mind, we had the following:

Ankimo appetizer (not nigiri). The server highly recommended this, and it was good, but not as good as I'd had at Sushi Ran in Sausalito. It was also way more expensive than normal.

Moriawase sashimi appetizer. Included excellent tuna, very good halibut, and pretty good tako (octopus).

Edamame. Excellent quality, cooked and seasoned just right.

Then came the sushi:

Negi-hama roll: good, but not as good as the one I had at Tomokazu in Cupertino.

Burdock root roll: didn't taste like much. One of my dining companions described it as "like carrot, but with less flavor." This was our mistake in ordering it without really knowing what burdock is.

Hotate (scallop): Excellent. The scallop was fresh, well cut, and delicious.

Shiro-maguro toro (albacore): Excellent. This tasted just like the tonbo-maguro at Sawa, which was my favorite item there. Served cold, it's a true delight as it melts in your mouth.

Unagi: Quite good. Somewhat different from most unagi, possibly with a smokier flavor. The texture was perfect.

Halibut: good, served with shredded shiso leaf. Not generally my favorite raw fish.

Bluefin toro: terrible. The toro was shredded and served the way uni or ikura would be: rice wrapped in nori, with the toro put on top of the rice, held in by the nori. The toro had little or no tuna flavor; in fact, it really didn't taste like much at all. I know my toro, and this was crap. Of course, it was priced like the good stuff.

Saba (mackerel): OK. Saba is one of my favorites, but this didn't measure up to the saba at Seto or Sushi Maru. It was served with shredded ginger, which didn't quite work well with it, and was not as flavorful as most saba I'm used to.

Hamachi toro: a great way to finish. Soft, fatty, melts in your mouth.

The ginger was apparently sliced fresh ginger, not pickled the way most gari is. I wasn't a fan. The same ginger, only shredded, was served on the saba, and on several other nigiri items.

Prices were high for the quality. We spent $40 a person and left wanting more. Seto Sushi on El Camino in Sunnyvale is overall better quality at lower prices, and my discount sushi-in-a-hurry pick remains the outstanding Sushi Maru in Sunnyvale, particularly the hotate, saba, katsui, and takoyaki. Sushi o Sushi in Santa Clara is also worth a look.

Hama-Ko wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything like what I was expecting from the many laudatory reviews here.

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