I remember driving by this restaurant several times and the outside struck me as what may have been an incarnation of some coffee shop or Marie Calendar's that didn't make the cut.
As I did not see any Japanese or kanji characters on the signage, I dismissed this place until a recent small picture ad in Bay Spo (free Japanese circulation available at most Japanese & Asian supermarkets and restaurants) pique my interest.
I went in pretty much on the dot when they opened for lunch earlier this week, and opted to sit at the counter. The interior is very spacious. I lost count of the tables but it could certainly hold a small sized banquet or party. There were two to three counter spaces available to hold a lot of sushi fish items, and the 14 or so chairs in front stretched across like a long line.
My heart sank when I saw the contents of the sushi/fish items in the counter. Most of the fish was still wrapped or in process of preparing (meaning they weren't terribly prepared when customers came in), not to mention what seemed to be a rather uninteresting/lackluster selection. I proceeded to ask what was recommended with one of the chefs and he had to defer me to the main chef to his right. He said Japanese tai, mirugai, and toro. I asked what else and either he didn't understand the question or that was it in terms of specials.
I was given a regular menu which seems to double as lunch and dinner (warning sign #2, meaning prices are just as high during lunch AND dinner), and a separate piece of paper with the sushi menu. Warning sign #3, sushi menu/piece of paper had NO prices on it.
So I proceeded to order with a little caution, and tried their saba sushi and red snapper. Looks like they have two varieties of snapper, one izumi dai (which you can get at most Asian supermarkets) and the sushi menu listed madai. I was happy to see that the nigiri portions were decent, and the sushi neta (fish) was touching both ends of the plate (and long). The saba unfortunately tasted a little over marinated, though luckily it was not chewy or dry. The red snapper was quite nice, though not as amazing as Sakae's, Sushi Sam's, or Fuki Sushi.
The regular menu had a variety of appetizers, though nothing really stood out. Entrees were single dish set meals or combos. The alarming thing was that none of the entrees were below $14 or so on the average.
I spotted two "interesting" items, which were kaiseki dinners (one California style and one Kyoto style). $65 each, and the California one had a whole steak and lobster.
From the appetizers section I ordered a clam miso soup ($3.75) and an agedashi tofu ($4.95). The clam soup was served in a really small bowl, with only 5 small clams in the shell. The clams were really chewy and didn't taste too fresh. Maybe this would have been acceptable for $1.50 but not at $3.75. Plus the small size was more like a children's bowl. The tofu was done fairly well, with generous chunks of tofu. There was some minced daikon on the side which went well with the tofu. Sadly they didn't put bonito flakes on top of the dish.
Tried a tekka maki after that, and at this point I noticed the sushi rice was really bland. As if no effort went into the marination to make good sumeshi. Then I tried a tempura roll just to see how they would fare in that. No luck either...the shrimp tempura was not interesting at all. They did a regular maki (not an uramaki with the rice outside) though they did cut fairly large chunks of cucumber to go inside, some avocado. But no sauce on top, no sesame seeds. Very straight up, plain and boring.
When the bill came I certainly wasn't smiling. The red snapper while decent, was $7. Doesn't Sakae charge this much for their quality red snapper (even if farmed and shipped in from Tsukiji). The tempura roll was at the same price too, sadly. What got me miffed the most was the $3.75 for a kiddy or airline sized (or kaiseki sample sized) bowl of clam miso soup.
Maybe this place does better with cooked food. They do have several entrees with American Wagyu beef (grilled or teriyaki). But with the amount they charge you might eat better elsewhere.
Bottom line, service was fine, but price to quality ratio was severely lacking. With the amount that was spent, Sushi Kuni up the street would have been a much better choice for Japanese/sushi. But sadly curiosity lead me to what I wrote.