Friday, November 18, 2005

an izakaya stateside

So by now you know what I don't like in a sushi spot. But what do I like?
I like a friendly staff who aren't fake-friendly, affordable sushi that isn't the equivalent of day-old doughnuts, flowing saké and or beer, clean tables and silverware, and generosity.



I am so jazzed about this place I found randomly while on my way to north beach a couple of months ago. It has the best (read: friendliest) atmosphere I've seen in a soosh joint stateside, and really makes me feel like I'm eating at an Izakaya/Nomiya without having to shell out like you do at Kisu sushi. The name in Japanese says "Izakaya and Sushi"; in English, "Yokohama Japan LuLu Sushi". It's at 901 Kearney, phone number 415-398-4598. I would advise calling ahead because the hours sometimes change. This is the kind of place that really, really needs to stay in business. I think one thing that might hurt them is that they have no liquor license. But, they are next door to a liquor shop, several bars, and other restaurants, and will let you bring any booze you want with no corkage. Menu items, you ask? I have had many excellent things there. Their Izakaya food is just as good as their sushi; most of it robata/yakiniku style suff. One of the best things they make is the lamb ribs (4 or more if I remember for like 8 bucks); they're delicious. They always have good fish and if their fish isn't up to the task they tell you so. Last night E and I went there for an Omakase meal (if you're not familiar with this, it's just a blanket term for "send me a bunch of stuff that you choose". You can of course tell them what you don't want to eat up front). We had:

salmon shioyaki (2) (!!!)
maguro ~tataki (2) (!!)
salmon 'soup' (1) (!!) (you pour beer in it)
shiro maguro soosh (4) (!!!)
hirame sashimi (~10) (!!!)
gyoza (6) (!)
yakisoba (huge) (!)

We brought a coupla beers in with us, so the whole bill was under fifty bucks. It helps to speak Japanese, but they also speak English and Chinese. The owner is from (duh) Yokohama, Japan's second largest city and home of its best Chinatowns. Do yourself a favor and check them out...and tell them five pints recommended it to you!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

yuuuuzin'

There is a place on the El Cerrito/Richmond border that claims it invented the California roll. It's called YuSan Sushi (yes, that is Japanese for 'Mr. (or Mrs.)Yu'). It is the stronghold of the mortal enemy of our favorite sushi chef, Endo-San of Sugata sushi, so we usually don't go there, or if we do we don't tell Endo. Among the funnier things that have happened at YuSan were: having my birthday there and having YuSan almost fall, drunk, onto our table while telling dirty jokes; the female employees supplicating and apologizing all over the place for his behavior (this is a regular occurrence), and American patrons calling him "Mr. Yuzin".

I've been going to YuSan for about a decade I guess. It has always been a pretty great place for sushi. Not flashy like blue fin (of San Francisco), but very generous cuts of very good fish. Not so any more. The dodgy codger that runs it has let it slip into poofullness. Last night we went in for a light soosh meal and were shocked by how awful it's become. Yu-San can still cut a good fish, but the flopper he's buying these days is well crappy. Not a single cut was even cold (we were three feet from the bar). On a refreshing note, the Kani-Age (soft shell crab app) was quite good. Much better than most places'. The fried/noodle fare there seems to still be good. Just not the raw fish. >sigh<
We have had to add this to the list of places that have recently gone to hell. We even had a bad meal at Yuet Foo last week; I think the woman who really runs the show was out ill and her tiny husband had to waitserve and cook. He burned everything as a result, but still served it to us (which was OK, we love them and will be back). Then, as I mentioned in another post, Taqueria Del Palmar has gone straight into the toitey. Most surprising of all, Juan's Place Mexican Food in Berkeley seems to have gone to shit! E and I went there for a leisurely Friday afternoon lunch (they have Mezcal!!!) and I ordered the carnitas for the first time. Big mistake. They were silly wet, and had not been fried at all it seemed. Gotta stick with the dang "A La Jesus" kaysuh-dilluhs. Our experience at Juan's was truly laughable; not only did we get served chips from someone else's table (they dumped them into our bowl), but a guy poured water into my beer glass. Good times.
We are now on the hunt for new haunts. We have blown up Little Hong Kong on San Pablo for reasons that would fill a whole post. Anyone got any good suggestions for around here?