Tuesday, September 11, 2007

San Fran Two Step

Sushi in the Foggy City….
By our roving Contributor

Hamano Sushi
1332 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 826-0825
hamanosushi.com (closed Monday for lunch)
2 1/2 out of 5 grains

SF has a million sushi restaurants on every block and in every neighborhood. For my SF weekend, I chose one in Noe Valley (a sentimental fav from my SF years) and one in the Castro (a newcomer that a friend told me about).

Hamano is where I had the best hamachi sashimi of my life back in 1995. It was buttery melt in your mouth goodness. Sadly, Hamano part deux did not live up to my memories. To start out with there were tons of empty tables at 8pm on a Sat nite. Unheard of back in the day. Still the hamachi sashimi was quite decent (better than the next nite at Eiji) and there was quite an assortment of interesting rolls (check out website menu). We had the Noe, the Silk Road (daikon is not a replacement for seaweed) and a special roll which was basically the Alaska with fried garlic. The spicy tofu special was yum (soft tofu covered with sauce), but not even close to the same league as Eiji. The hamachi kama was nothing to write home about. Sushi Taro's hamachi kama is still #1 in my book.

To sum up, good neighborhood place but I would not trek to Noe Valley just for this joint.

317 Sanchez Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 558-8149
Closed Monday
3 1/2 out of 5 grains

Eiji is a year old sushi place run by straight up Japanese people (all 4 employees spoke Japanese). The real treat at Eiji is not the fish but the artisanal tofu (only in Cali). I had the ankake tofu -- a bowl of creamy warm tofu topped with a sauce make of soy, mirin and daishi. Truly delish. I could have eaten 2 more bowls of this. I wanted to try the oboro tofu, which is tofu make to order, but the waiter advised that it was quite big for 1 person. Later, I saw the waitress make it for others. She heated a clay bowl of soy milk on a gas burner and added some clear liquid when it was the right temperature to create curds of tofu. The bowl really wasn't that big. I should have ordered it. Everyone says it is amazing.

The fish was fine but nothing life altering. [Caveat -- I did go on a Sun which is not the best nite for a sushi place but it was the only day that would work in my schedule. The fish is probably better on Tues when they get their new shipment.] I had hamachi sashimi, aja nigiri, tamago nigiri (this was really good!), california roll, and spicy white tuna roll.

Finally, drum roll please, I had the handmade strawberry mochi with red bean paste for dessert (ichigo daifuku). Yes, that's right folks. I ordered something with red bean paste on purpose. And, it was really, really good. Picture a whole fresh strawberry covered with a thin layer of red bean paste that was not too sweet or beanny tasting wrapped in the chewy goodness of fresh mochi. Each bite was filled with tart strawberry flavor and chewy mochi. There was only a hint of red bean and it was actually good with the strawberry and mochi, not like the red bean popsicle nightmare of my childhood. Yah!

The place is tiny (seating for 20) so expect a wait unless you eat dinner at 6:30pm like I did on Sun. By the time I left, the place was packed.