Sitting and wasting away in boring seminar sessions, I strated thinking of where I could blow my dinner allowance, and I did some surfing for sushi options in SF (I am from LA). Searches on Google and Chowhound yielded old threads of years past where sushi options and faves have been debated, defended, and attacked - all at the same time (akin to the LA board). Realizing that a sushi bar is really only good if you're a regular and have a repoire with the chef, I needed a place that had consistent buzz about overall quality and value. A fifty dollar per diem limited my selection to places that could qualify as "everyday" sushi joints, Ebisu and Masa need not apply.
I stumbled across an old review of INO by M. Wong. Intrigued, I decided I would take a shot there. With umbrella in tow, I took off through the annoying mist/rain and walked a few miles to INO. Tucked away in the Peace Plaza (within one of the malls - I cannot recall the name), it is a very cute and intimate space. Nicely decorated and beautiful blond wood tables, chairs and the sushi bar. Melanie had mentioned something about the bar and how the fish is served DIRECTLY on the bar, which I didn't realize until I sat down. I was pretty impressed.
Ino-san works by himself behind the bar, fielding requests from the 8-9 odd chairs in front of him. There are about 4 tables behind the chairs and the overall space is pretty cramped so I assume there could be a wait on the weekends. I was greeted with a smile and a wave to the bar and I took a seat. A woman who I assumed was Ino-sans wife provided me with a menu and a green tea (by request). I gave the menu an obligatory glance (enoki dake miso soup intriguing!) but there would be no further need tonight I would place my meal in Ino-sans hands and go omakase.
Ino-san is a nice man, exchanging giggles and words with all of his patrons. The man was gracious in his pours of sake as I saw the other party at the end of the bar having a pretty good time (e.g. Ino-san, this sake is business class, give me first class!) I assumed that they had a relationship with Ino-san already, because Ino-san laughed along and kept the good times arollin. All in good fun right?
Before I started the omakase, I ordered some tamago (egg). I have been trying to grow an appreciation for tamago, because my friends tell me it is a good way to gage a chefs skill. They didnt go into more detail than that, so I guess I just go on taste (I assume its so simple that a good chef should prepare it really well and not royally screw it up). The tamago was served out of the fridge, had a nutty/sweet flavor and did not overpower the palette. Very nice starter, as it complimented the rice. I looked over and requested the omakase, and away I went -
Maguro (Tuna) standard tuna, nothing to write home about but I liked the overall texture.
Tai (Snapper) same with the maguro no accompaniment I usually see with Tai (a squeeze of lemon juice at some other sushi spots I have been to).
Ankimo (monk fish liver) I never order this at sushi bars. My first experience was pretty lackluster and I thought the comparisons to foie gras were misplaced. I had read that Inos version was a revelation so I decided to give it a shot HOLY MOTHER OF GOD it was THAT good. I enjoy foie gras, and it was basically like eating that on sushi rice. I guess I am not too original in my explanation of how this ankimo was so great - so I apologize. It had this really rich buttery and nutty flavor to it that was not overwhelming in the slightest and was so smooth. I was hard pressed not to double up on this.
Tako basic tako.
Squid sushi a bit disappointing. I felt there was a sort of ammonia like taste in each piece that I could not shake.
Saba (Mackrel) my pieces of saba came with a leaf or piece of ginger over each piece. I did not know what it was, but it helped give the saba a kick. I normally dont like saba, but Inos version was bearable not so heavy on the vinegar.
At this point, Ino asks if theres anything else I want I ask for Aji. Two pieces of Aji with scallions and a bit of ginger (no ponzu which I thought to be odd) and I was wowed. After the Ankimo, Inos AJI was excellent and probably the best I have ever tried. Light and not impacted by any sauce (normally ponzu), the fish really stood out with slight hints of oniony flavor from the scallions. Very good.
I ended the meal with some basic pieces of hamachi (yellowtail), which I enjoyed.
A few things ..
He really is heavy handed with the wasabi I did not mind, but I am sure it would impact a few people.
I appreciated the fact that his omakase deviated a bit from tuna, yellowtail, salmon, albacore, et al. The fact that he went saba and squid really impressed me. Often for first time patrons who ask for omakase, the chef will play it conservative. He did not, which I appreciated.
Overall I enjoyed my meal. Next time I will look to ask about some of the cooked items (broiled yellowtail collar). I think I have a spot to go to whenever I am in the city now, so that makes me happy. Thanks for reading.
22 Peace Plz Ste 510
San Francisco, CA 94115-3647