I had an odd foodie flashback today. Or rather, I should say, *all* my flashbacks are odd, but this one came in an odd place: I walked into Sushi Main Street in Half Moon Bay for lunch with an old friend and found myself in a sort of deja vu twilight zone. It was 1970-something and I was a wide-eyed pre-teen at the larger-than-life Juanita Musson's final restaurant in Port Costa, just in the shadow of the Carquinez Bridge. Elaborately carved dark wood everywhere, high ceilings and interesting bric-a-brac of a sort usually found in Berkeley home-salvage junkyards and other resting places for esoterica.
(If you don't know who Juanita Musson was, Google her or at least check out the old Chowhound references ... She's a chapter in California culinary history that every hound should know.)
Sushi Main Street's aesthetic isn't Japanese at all. It's much more Indonesian saloon-meets-Trader Vic's. Reportedly the co-owner has a second business selling Indonesian decorative items and she's made out the restaurant as a showcase of sorts. It's certainly unique in the realm of sushi parlors. (And, just by the way, it's no longer on Main Street, but rather just a half block off the main drag, at 696 Mill St.)
I had pretty high expectations going in, because Sushi Main Street carries a longstanding good rep among both Coastsiders and hounds who happen to be passing through. Given the glowing press it's garnered (from the Chron to Sunset to Via) and the big dinner crowds it attracts, Sushi Main Street seems to be positioning itself as a destination restaurant more than a local hang. But I only cared about the fish.
And as for the fish: Nigiri plates (and many of the rolls) run $3.25-$4.25, a price point just a couple clicks below par for the region. That's encouraging. Everything I had was of decent quality, however nothing stood out as a home run. As a matter of fact, nothing in my standard lunch lineup (sake, ebi, hotate, etc...) was particularly memorable. The only definite miss of the day was the New York roll, (with salmon of Chilean origin) which was very poorly constructed and just about impossible to eat. The nori was about as tough as a beer can. You need a pair of hashi and a pair of ViseGrips to deal with one of these.
As if the decor weren't enough to set Sushi Main Street apart, here's the other memorable factor: The Phantom Itamae. We were seated at a long bar with three glass cases for an hour and we never saw him. We ordered through the waiter and I have to believe the actual assembly took place offstage back in the kitchen. Not once did we see any action around our section of the bar. Not good. Not bad. Just strange.
Bottom line: Coastside residents have a solid sushi outlet here, with consistently decent nigiri at prices that represent good value. But aside from the decor, it's not particularly memorable and I couldn't discern anything that would merit a special trip.