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dinner/ Japanese/ San Francisco

Ju-Ni: Serving Symphonies of Sushi

I’ve found one of my “ones”, and cannot wait to tell you about it.

Before going into the restaurant itself, I’d like to clarify what it takes to be a “one”. It’s not just about the food. The institution needs to be more than that: the environment – space, decor, lighting, plating – all play a role in establishing a harmonious experience; the sequencing of the meal itself; interactions and explanations from the chef and/or waitstaff weave in and out of conversation. Without sounding too out-of-the-world here, it’s about the orchestration of it all.

Ju-Ni is sushi restaurant and located in San Francisco (frankly, way more accessible to me than some other places in the area). It’s not the cheapest meal, starting at $95 for 12 piece nigiri omakase, and with a $35 three-piece supplement you are getting at $130 out of your pocket. Logistically, it’s gotten much more difficult to get reservations over the past few months with only 14 seats and two seatings per night – 6:00pm and 8:30pm.

Still totally worth it.

The traditional sushi dining experience is challenged at Ju-Ni, and updated to suit a new generation of sushi chefs in the Bay Area. The dialogue that happens between you and their staff is welcomed and encouraged, going against the notion of placing a sushi chef onto a pedestal and marveling him from afar (think Jiro from “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“). Chefs, including the owner, don’t need to be Japanese as it has no bearing at all to the quality of food they are able to produce.

They still stick to purist ideals for the way nigiri is served. Each wooden board in front of you is carefully wiped after each piece to ensure you’re able to isolate flavors between each taste. Fish and ingredients are carefully picked, and prepared in a way that is mindful of flavor and texture at the same time.

Without giving too much away, enjoy the photos of some pieces that have been my favorites in the times I’ve dined there (the menu does vary based on what’s in season, etc.)

Mackerel (Aji) with Ginger and Scallion

Soy-cured Tuna

Shima Aji

Bluefin Tuna (Sustainable)

Ikura with Ankimo Snow

Kaisui Uni

So make that reservation – wait a few weeks – and get ready to meet one of my “ones”. If you go, enjoy their delectable symphony and tell me about it.

1335 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117

dinner/ Japanese/ Seafood/ Uncategorized

Kusakabe: A Deliciously Harmonious Omakase

I want to be a regular. This may be aspirational, since it seems as though everyone also feels the same way. With one Michelin star under the belt, Kusakabe seems to churn out fans – not only with its high-quality fish but its natural and comforting service. Nothing seems to be out of place, and all is harmonious with the extra focus on what’s most important – the fish.

There is only one menu – the omakase (chef’s menu) – where eight central courses are all centered around fish, and several sushi pieces sewn throughout the meal.

Sushi Prelude

The first piece was a great opener and set the tone for the rest of the meal. The Zuke Chutoro – a lightly seared bluefin medium fatty tuna cured in soy sauce – was awfully delicious. The tuna was flavorful; the saltiness from the soy with tuna melded harmoniously and ended with a faint char at the end. Chef Ken mentioned this was their signature piece, and I can totally understand why.

Unlike its previous counterpart, the hirame (fluke) served with shiso was light and refreshing. Nice way to follow the zuke chutoro.

The katsuo (skipjack tuna) followed suit. Served with some green onion, it was delicious as it encapsulated umami flavor.


Tuna and hotate (scallop) sashimi served on top of shaved ice with fresh wasabi and yuzu onion sauce. Each piece was definitely very fresh. Surprisingly I also enjoyed eating the radish as it provided a complementary refreshing taste and crispy texture against the fish.


The Ushio-jiru (seafood soup) was made from Japanese tai snapper, and had somen noodles with fresh yuba. At first I wasn’t expecting much, but after the first slurp I was under a food trance. All I could keep doing was slurp to much of my pleasure. The soup had depth, with meshing umami and citrus flavors, and lightened with dashes of cilantro.


The beautiful plate of the chef’s petit fours and a Shiguko oyster served with French Daurenki caviar well represents what’s in season. What I got was, not surprisingly, all very tasty – some examples include a shrimp with a dusting of freeze-dried egg yolk or a crab claw with a puffed rice cracker.

Warm Dish

The Sansho Teriyaki Monkfish and its liver with “Soba” buckwheat and Nameko mushroom risotto was finely cooked. There wasn’t much risotto and I would say, mainly focused on the monkfish. Nothing wrong with that in my book!

Sushi Chic

The shima aji (striped jack) was nice, with some good fattiness to it.

Kamasu (Japanese Barracuda) was so delicious too. It was lightly torched which brought out the light char flavor but went so well with the fish itself.

I easily gulped down the buri (yellowtail) – it was very fresh and had some good fattiness to it. Yum.

Sushi Finale

The omakase officially ends with your choice of toro or wagyu beef sushi, which I chose the former. You can never go wrong with toro (fatty tuna). After all, it’s meant to melt in your mouth and that it did.

Obviously I couldn’t stop there so I ordered two more pieces to see what was on the a la carte menu.

I decided to pick a piece where it required a bit of preparation versus being a fresh piece of fish, so this was the Ji Kinmedai (Golden Eye Snapper) that has been lightly smoked with cherry wood. It was delicious, though I think I tasted more of the smoke from the char than the cherry wood.

Last, but certainly one of the more memorable pieces of sushi to me, was the Gyoku. It was made from fresh lobster and organic eggs. Essentially it was a fluffy egg cake, and provided a perfect sweet savory ending to the meal.

I found my entire meal to be nicely paced. Chef Ken was incredible and knowledgeable about his craft and fish. Nothing there felt pretentious and just a restaurant that aims to serve delicious sushi and dishes. Good thing I’ve already made my next reservation.

584 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 757-0155

dinner/ Japanese/ nyc

Sushi Nakazawa: Looking Beyond His Tutelage

Chef Nakazawa, apprentice of the famous Jiro from “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, has touched down to New York’s West Village and opened up a sushi restaurant. You have the freshest fish being served here alongside a fine sake selection. The decor inside is simple and elegant.

In my opinion, the biggest differentiator within high-end sushi omakases comes down to how each chef decides to prepare the fish – not just raw with rice, but use of various approaches like torching, marination or aging with the fish itself. Sushi Nakazawa definitely has  interesting ways of seafood preparation in additon to housing the famous tamago (egg omelet) that required Jiro’s stamp of approval, so come and seek it out (yes it has a $150 price tag).

Unforunately I can’t identify all the fish here, but as you can tell there are a number of different delicious pieces.

More and more fish!

This series of sushi pieces resonated with me because they had an interesting texture or were just very fresh.

Uni. Enough said.

Tuna hand roll – delicious and easy to eat, despite being at the tail end of the omakase.

The famous tamago that takes months to perfect. It was almost cake-like and sweet, a good way to end the meal as almost like a dessert.

It’s an expensive meal but a very good one. I would happily go again, and eat some more well prepared and thought out sushi. Something is said to having a great meal where everything is tasty, simple and well-balanced, just the way the Japanese do it.

Sushi Nakazawa
23 Commerce St
New York, 10014
Phone:(212) 924-2212

Japanese/ lunch/ nyc/ Seafood

15 East: Treating Myself to High-End Sushi

As a celebration of my new job, I decided to take myself to 15 East for some delicious sushi. It has been a while since I’ve been to a nice restaurant (I know it’s a bit shocking) so this was a nice way of celebrating with myself. Needless to say, there’s a reason why 15 East has a Michelin star – they serve very fresh sushi in a very clean and comfortable atmosphere. I got their lunch omakase:

You start off with edamame, and looks like it’s covered with some matcha powder.

Octopus – clean and not too chewy.

Above are all my sushi pieces I got dealt with. For all the sushi experts out there, I can’t remember which each one was but I would have to say the highlight for me was the marinated tuna (3rd from the top).

The uni from Hokkaido was also another highlight of my meal. It was a great piece of uni, providing the richness of the sea in one bite – it was perfectly creamy and rich, and didn’t make you feel like you were eating innards. SO DELICIOUS!

After the plate of sashimi and raw prawn (as shown in the first picture), they fry the prawn head for you to eat further. Nothing goes to waste and proved to be something not wasted. It wasn’t oily and had a great shrimp / prawn flavor.

I’ve managed to squeeze in one more addition to my lunch omakase – an ikura uni soba. It was well made – the soba was cooked perfectly – and the fish roe and uni made it unbelievably tasty. Would I have it again? YES please.

Lastly I was served this strawberry panna cotta-like dessert – it was light and had a good taste of strawberry. It was a great way to end the great meal.

For those who are looking for some fresh sushi served with an attentive waitstaff, this is the place to go. If you’re going to sit at the sushi bar, make sure you say hi to the sushi chef Masato. He definitely knows his fish!

15 East
15 E 15th St (btw Union Square West and 5th Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 647-0015