I don't usually go out of my way to praise or criticise restaurants and I haven't posted very much here. But I have to say a word for Okoze (Hyde and Union- on Union, a few doors down the hill from Swensens). I have to tell everyone as it's so good. (If any of you look at craigslist food board I posted a similar message there a little wehile ago)
I've worked and lived in japan, even worked in restaurants there and in my (very humble) opinion it's the best sushi in the city by far. The chef worked at Ebisu for a few months just after arriving from Japan- where he *trained* sushi chefs. Then he opened his own place, designed the decor, everything.
I used to go to sushi groove a lot (3 times a week as it's the closest to my house) and other places all around the city.
After going here it's the only place I've gone back to, though I'm always interested in new places.
1/ The fish is super fresh for a start, he has a choice of things way beyond the usual American sushi staples.
It's better value overall than Sushi Groove (I know SG isn't the standard we compare sushi places to, but it's a few doors away so it's the obvious comparison in this ghood!)
Doesn't have that sardine can yuppie feel to it of Sushi Groove. You can hear yourself talk, unlike Sushi Groove where you have to shout over the heads of people 2 inches away, or hear the bungled pick-up lines and the details of your fellow diner's proctology exams..
It's a nice spacious area, the staff are friendly (I speak Japanese but I've seen them be nice to people who have never had sushi before- they really went out of their way to ignite or increase a passion for sushi!) )
Sit on the right side of the bar (where the spiky-haired owner stands) and ask what's good that day. Some places will take advantage of you this way, but not here. We ate like kings for 65 including bottle good Sake. There are tons of off the manu stuff and the staff practiclaly jump for joy if you do it the Japanese way.. letting the chef order/interspersed with your own choices
The Saganaki appetiser.. you'll never forget it. (I may have spelled it wrong but you'll recognize it on the menu)
Anyway that's it, I think this place isn't much discovered because
1/ the name is hard to remember for non Japanese and 2/ Sushi Groove does a much better job of marketing itself + it's more visible as it's right on the cable car tracks. Overall I think the fish at Sushi Groove, is fine if unexciting (tuna tartare, california roll) but it's nothing special and the negatives (cramped, noise, attitude) mean than once I tried Okoze I'll not go back to the groove.
3/ there's a bit of a cheesy lit red sign that says sushi in the window. The inside is very restful and simple but the sign kind of makes it look cheesy!
(no i don't work there!!)
You'll notice I've compared it to SG, I think Ebisu is good, but crowded and a little rushed. All the others I've tried have been unremarkable with the exception to the now closed K something near Union Square which had the yummiest chuo toro)