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
Bluefin Tuna (Sustainable)
Ikura with Ankimo Snow
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.