After Sushi Monster's "humongsterous" (lol) list of reviewed Peninsula Sushi restaurants, I've been thinking about checking out what I think was #3, which is Higuma in Redwood City. Linked below is his full review on the restaurant.
This is my take on the place and after 2 visits one week apart from another during Friday lunch.
The place is small indeed, and what is even smaller is the # of parking spaces in the back. A little further back is a car repair shop, and there's definitely no parking there. The outside looks like someone's residence/small house, something very rarely seen up here. It reminds me instantly of Sushi Kuni in Cupertino which has a house/cottage like exterior.
Right outside the entrance is a sign in kanji that says "izakaya", so I'm not sure what to make of it. There were around 11 tables and exactly 5 seats at the sushi bar. If you get to the restaurant before noon you are definitely guaranteed one car spot (lol) and sushi bar should be ok. Today was busier than last week, with what appears to be Redwood Shores area high tech employees (Oracle, Sony etc) filling up tables.
The sushi bar experience was pretty interesting for me. It reminded me a little wee bit of Burlingame's Ramen Club's sister restaurant (whose name now escapes me), where the sushi chefs aren't dressed in traditional garb, but just the restaurant's own t-shirt.
The owner mans the bar and handles everything sushi and sashimi related. 95% of the sushi toppings items/neta/sushi fish are layed out in the counter in plain view. The bar is strangely elevated so you see the fish at eye level, and when you sit down you feel like a dwarf (and the chef seems fee fi fo fum tall).
It is preferred that you order sushi through the sheet/checklist, similar to non cart service dim sum. Nigiri is priced per piece, similar to Toshi-san of Toshi's sushiya and his new venture Kaygetsu (at the bar). Prices are reasonable and are close to most other median priced sushi restaurants.
I lost my notes on the first visit, but I ate till my stomach expanded almost 2.5 times the size of what it was before I came in. I ordered too liberally, as the chef was too busy the first time and I thought i had to wait a long time between my first and 2nd order.
I'll summarize what I had in the last 2 visits, and how some items fared the next time round:
tai - decent cut, but lacking that small hint of sweetness I've had at other places. Today he had a different cut that had skin on it, but I didn't see it until it was too late. doh....
aji - it was better last week. Was not served with any condiments on top (ie minced ginger and scallion).
I'm wondering if these are pre-sliced half bodies like Sushi Yoshi's.
umi masu (ocean trout) - Like Sushi Monster, I'd second this as a must have. Between Sushi Sam's and Sushi Tomi's versions, and Higuma's, I'd have to say this one is the best. Both visits were fantastic on this one, with the skin on the side of each piece. The skin seems to be seared, but the inside is better than any salmon. Served with a touch of slivered onions and a bit of scallion. One of Higuma's top sushi neta's.
Kani - I'm not sure if it is dungeoness crab, but this is one of few restaurants that serves it in battleship (gunkan) form (like uni, tobiko, ikura etc). First time it was fantastic. Basically no marination or sauce, just regular cooked crab done right. 2nd visit (today) seemed a bit dry, maybe it was stored too long. Sadly inconsistent.
Mirugai & Uni - Very nice the first time, but today seemed a little off. Recent times I've been having uni there's this weird white stuff on top. Doesn't taste foul, but certainly doesn't look pleasant.
Ama ebi - not impressed with theirs over here. Slimey but no flavor :-(. The fried heads were great though.
blue fin maguro - supposedly the akami cut, but I guess it was lower grade blue fin. Unfortunately it tasted more like regular maguro to me. Perhaps it would be better mixed in with something else (e.g. maguro natto which was touted as a special appetizer today)
scallops - it was nice the first visit but 2nd visit was semi decent texture and no flavor. Whoops hit an off day today! 2nd time in a row they did not have nama hotate/live scallops. That would have been swell.
Toro - did not have this today, but in full agreement with Sushi Monster that it looked less than appetizing but it was a melt in your mouth enriching experience. It was more fattening in texture than it was sweet. Great if you're out for a meal of gluttony :-) though I wonder how this will be seared (aburi style).
tamago - did not have this today, but I would not order it again. I didn't ask if it was made in house, but it did not taste anywhere close to those of Sushi Yoshi, Kitsho (lol no contest), Sushi Kuni, plus a few others.
anago - pretty decent, but not in the same taste/texture as Sam's or Sushi Kuni
kohada - I'm glad they have it, but it is a hard fish to get done right. Sadly hikarimono is not this restaurant's strengths. Kohada here was a little tad sour, and a wee bit chewy. Saba failed my silvery shiny fish test, as it was on the chewy side, not moist, soft and oily.
ikura (special) - Towards the end of my meal today I had room for one more item and asked the chef owner for a recommendation. He named many items which I ate already then mentioned ikura. I thought it was odd for him to recommend a common item, but a thought had occured to me. I asked him if it was marinated, to which he said yes. Then I got interested and asked "ikura no shoyu zuke"? And he said yes! He said this was a recipe originated from his hometown (Hokkaido). Wow, this is what you get for asking more questions :-). Other than Sushi Sam's, Kitsho in Cupertino, and Ino Sushi, I don't know of other places that would go this mile to make ikura this way. Basically a marination of soy sauce and some sake. Really brings out the flavor..... if done right. Unfortunately the marination was too light for me, and the ikura here ended up tasting more like regular ikura than ikura no shoyu zuke (shoyu = soy sauce, zuke = "marinated"). An off-day? We'll see.
Today's visit had heavier vinegar marination in the sushi rice, and bigger shari (sushi nirigi rice ball) which threw off the balance of the neta (fish topping) and the rice altogether. Purists might find this a little troublesome.
Bottom line is this place is still a nice, small, homey establishment for sushi if you order right. I did not see their lunch menu or dinner items/appetizers. For sushi it seems decent enough for the area. Hopefully if you try it, you catch them not on an off day, for the best experience.