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Sushi Tomi (Mountain View) updater

Sushi Monster | Mar 31, 200604:24 PM

Since most sushi devotees are well-aware of this downtown Mountain View mainstay, I'll keep my notes very brief.

Sushi Tomi, at 635 W. Dana, just south of the main drag, is very highly regarded by both chowhounds and Japanese ex-pats. It's partisans will probably disagree strongly with this report.

The lunch rush in this unpreposessing storefront is an elbow-to-elbow mob scene and it starts early. By 11:40 on a Friday when I took my seat at the bar, most of the tables were already occupied. By 12:15, the line spilled over out the door. Service is very fast and efficient. Green tea and miso soup appeared almost instantly and without my asking.

The three itamae behind the bar were doing big volume business in bento-box lunch specials and, quite understandably had no time for idle chat with sushi geeks. (The exception here is if you're one of their many Japanese-speaking regulars.) I did not find Tomi's bar to be unfriendly. (When it's packed – which is every day at lunch – there is some banter among the patrons). But the itamae serving me wasn't exactly warmth personified. He was just very busy. He did not have any time to answer questions about the provenance of his product or to even make recommendations.

Previous reviews had tagged Tomi as having small nigiri cuts. I felt the cuts I received were neither notably large nor small. One small irksome thing: Patrons seated at the bar can't see the specials white-board. So you have to take a quick look when you walk in the door. On this particular day all I noted on the specials board were cooked items. If there were any sushi specials, I didn't see them.

As for the fish, none of nigiri I ordered were particularly precious or exotic. The hamachi (best yellowtail) from Japan was just OK. The sake (salmon, from Scotland, farmed) was also just OK. The chu-toro (medium fatty tuna belly) was high on fat content but low on flavor. The hotate (scallop) had a lovely texture and sweet taste. The best picks were the ebi (prawn) – which had *much* more flavor than the tired, par-boiled standard offering and the crab. The latter, whole pieces of snow crab, was outstanding. Most, if not all, of the nigiri were marred by an itamae who went just two clicks too heavy on the wasabe for my taste.

It's a good thing I was in the mood for less than my standard lunch ration here. Because just six plates of nigiri averaged $6.50 a plate -- $2.50 above the average for the Peninsula. Total tab with tax, tip and no beverage was $46. Way too steep for a lunch that wasn't at all memorable.

Bottom line: Quality fish served in a cramped storefront at super-premium prices = a very poor value. Tomi is at the far southern edge of my range for lunch. And I wouldn't rate it worth a special trip back. It may be the best of the three sushi operations in downtown Mountain View, but several other small traditional shops (SushiYa in Palo Alto, Naomi in Menlo Park and Higuma in Redwood City) offer a comparably high quality product, with a better overall experience and better value.

On my Peninsula master-list I'm slotting Tomi as the No. 9 overall pick in the middle tier, just below Ganko in San Carlos and above Masa in Mountain View.

The Sushi Monster's long march of piscene devastation across the Peninsula now moves north to Sam's and Yuzu!

Sushi Monster

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