Within the last few years, San Francisco has seriously stepped up its game in high end quality sushi.
With all these top notch sushi restaurants in the city such as jū-ni, Hinata, Kusakabe, Omakase, and Wako, competition and expectations are high. Sasaki is a new restaurant in the Mission that has only been open for five months, has a tiny sushi counter (twelve seats), and serves only omakase style for $180 per person. Since the menu is slightly more expensive than other high end sushi restaurants in the city, I was curious what would be different in their prix fixe menu. Sasaki only serves one seating Tuesday-Thursday nights and two seatings on Friday and Saturday nights (Sunday/Monday closed) so when I arrived on a Tuesday night, I was actually shocked to see that we were the only ones dining that night.
Of course being the only people at the sushi counter allows you to engage with the sushi chef as much as possible.
The first few courses were appetizers and small bites before starting the seasonal nigiri.
Slightly chewy and crunchy, but in a good way, these pickled pieces of burdock were earthy and delicious.
Lean, meaty tuna was the first nigiri of the night.
The pea sauce as well as the fresh peas added a beautiful springiness to the dish. The hirame slices were on top of crunchy pieces of bamboo shoot.
This was one of my least favorite dishes of the night. While technically it was prepared well, I just wasn’t a fan of the flavor combinations. The conger eel was slightly cold and didn’t have much flavor. The okra aspic lacked seasoning and I don’t care for the jelly consistency. However, I loved the freshness of the pickled young ginger that added a necessary crunch to the dish.
This appetizer was clean, refreshing, and ultimately delicious. With just a hint of smokiness, the king mackerel was perfectly seasoned with white soy and a chiffonade of wasabi leaf which I had never tasted before.
I know shirako (milt, the seminal sack of fish) is a Japanese delicacy but I can’t seem to get into it. I’ve only tried cod shirako so this was my first time trying tai shirako and while it was prepared well, I still wasn’t a fan. While the flavor was good, umami and slightly pungent from the radish, the idea of eating shirako is just off putting to me.
The next four pieces of nigiri were scrumptious, each unique and delicious. What really stood out was the rice used in these nigiri which was seasoned with sake lees (the remnants after sake production) and red wine vinegar. My favorite always seems to be kinmedai/golden eye snapper.
Slightly salty yet warming, this clam juice “palate” cleanser was between the two sets of nigiri sushi.
It’s hard to go wrong with uni especially of this quality. Perfect succulent pieces of creamy oceany sea urchin lying on top of sushi rice. Simple yet sublime.
The next four pieces of nigiri were with normal sushi rice. I especially liked the tairagai/pen shell clam nigiri that had the flavor of mirugai/geoduck clam but the texture of hotate/scallop. I also liked the sakura masu/cherry trout nigiri.
This was a nice break between the nigiri sushi. Fresh, crisp, and light.
This is my second least favorite dish of the night. I felt like it lacked seasoning and the flavor was too delicate for my liking.
The next four sushi items were once again prepared with the sake lees rice. Without a doubt the temaki (handroll) was a standout. Incredibly luscious pieces of toro/fatty tuna mixed with pickled daikon radish was a perfect combination of flavors.
Since I’m not a fan of eggs in general, of course this dish isn’t for me. I sampled a small piece of the omelette and while it was technically cooked beautifully, I just don’t like the flavor of eggs. However, I did enjoy the sweet “spongecake” that had an airy light texture.
Every omakase ends with a soup. This red miso had clam as well as mitsuba.
A simple yet appropriate way to end the omakase.
While everything was meticulously prepared with pristine ingredients, Sasaki wasn’t my favorite high end sushi restaurant in the city. Many of the dishes were quite subdued and mellow in flavor which is a typical characteristic in Japanese cuisine. Perhaps my “Americanized” palate wants more intensity and punch. However for this price point, they served quite a few dishes (more than other omakase restaurants) and I was definitely satiated. Of course service and atmosphere were great so my overall rating is a 7.5-8/10.