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Favorite sushi in SF right now?

Kusakabe and Maruya are both very good.

For those who are pure traditionalists that pay attention to the rice, Kusakabe has the edge (excellent texture, vinegar flavor/acidity, fluffiness, taste, balance etc), although their nigiri dressing techniques are not exactly traditional nor do they follow Tokyo Ginza style high end sushi in that regard. The way some nigiri are dressed, are similar to Akiko's (in fact Akiko's chefs copied/cloned/iterated some of what they learned from Nori-san, they eat out at all the newest sushi places to study the competition, and in some cases are quite blatant in the emulation).

Maruya's rice is a tad inconsistent at times (some friends outright detest the rice), but the breadth of fish available is excellent for the city and even SF Bay Area (they started off with maybe 15 to 20 kinds, now have upwards of 30). For me it is not just about the variety from Japan, USA, Canada etc, but also some of the lesser sought after more subtle items like marinated Scottish salmon or chutoro (the receipe is sublime and probably the best I've had). If you really know how to appreciate, Masa-san may have some other preparations, whether it be pickles or some special vegetable preparation/mini side dish (using traditional Japanese techniques for prepping/curing) with surprising results. Now Sushi Sam's also has 30 kinds of fish, but the quality is nowhere close (and Sam's fusion nigiri omakase applies way too many funky condiments, easy to mask the flavor and quality of fish and shellfish), but you get what you pay for.

The "Masa omakase" at Maruya which is $80 ish that is essentially a sampler/tasting menu with various cooked side dishes, some nigiri, and an akadashi (red miso soup, lately added with clams). This is a good starting point for first timers or perhaps slightly less adventurous types. You could do the Hide omakase where you just get nigiri sushi, and you tell them when to stop (charged by the piece). Once you go often enough, it may just be a hybrid customized to your likes and what is available from the daily selection, with a few side dishes to start (kobachi) before the nigiri action starts. I've been a few times where I've seen Japanese expat customers get off menu items, obviously catered and customized to their tastes, preferences, and expectations.

In terms of fish variety, it is pretty obvious neither of them have the level of variety (or quality) like Shunji in LA or those other top places being discussed in the LA boards.

Side note: Has anyone actually seen Sushi Sam's private ride, not the one he uses to transport fish? It's a Maserati. He probably has two.

Trendy, good food for out of town guest from Hong Kong

For sure the Vietnamese food scene is lacking in Hong Kong, most of what they have is modified for Hong Kong tastes, or variations on Northern. Anything in Westminster will for sure be better. Authentic southern style pho is virtually non existant over there (the noodles in some places look more like thinner Northern style/ho fun).

I have Korean expat friends that I grew up with living in HK and they think Korean food scene is also very lacking (and dumbed down for the locals). Based on my research you won't find many places that offer really solid non KBBQ type places.

Mexican cuisine is starting to take root in Hong Kong but still very far behind and scattered.

Japanese....let's just say that if you have money, the sky is the limit over there. Good solid restaurants in HK receive daily shipments and in some cases direct from their distributors and suppliers, same day from Japan to HK. High turnover, high volume, they have us beat. Sase, Yoshitake (now rebranded as Shikon), Ginza Iwa, Ta-Ke, and a bunch of others out there.

Probably not a bad idea to focus on American/Nouveau/locavore with a fantastic wine selection (good California wine is priced at quite the markup in HK for the most part or even a Bordeaux for that matter), good Italian (I'm under the impression that Italian is not super stellar in HK and the 3 Michelin star place gets mixed reviews, and who wants to pay $80 for linguine vongole with ingredients shipped from Italy), Vietnamese, Mexican, Korean or even fusion unique to LA that is good.

Sep 11, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

There are some levels of sophistication in the Bay Area, it is just that the #s in those camps are probably far fewer in between compared to LA and NY.

The best most places around these parts can get for toro are Spanish (farmed) bluefin, otherwise it is too cost prohibitive. Having had farmed Japanese bluefin and I think a wild lesser known wild variety off Hokkaido area (in Hong Kong), I would say they are enjoyable in their own unique way, and in some cases better. But all subjective. A properly aged bluefin is not something every restaurant can offer (let alone process), most places are just happy to get the block of fish, slice it up and serve.

Definitely true about the level of sophistication (and willingness to pay) for the good stuff, whether Japan, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. Then again HK/TW are much closer to Japan and restaurants can afford to get in shipments daily, often within the same day. Not the same over here. So in terms of time, frequency, variety, quality, availability, and cost we are already at a huge disadvantage.

And it is not just fish for sushi, but also whole fish for salt grilling and other JP culinary applications. I don't see many people in SF Bay Area willing to splurge on a whole kinki or nodoguro. But if you don't have it in Hong Kong, you are not being competitive.

Sep 05, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

Let me say this....most of these high end restaurants, their sources of fish/distributors are more or less the same.

Michael Black and Danny Dunham back in the Sebo days once told me that they used IMP (wholesaler) and they pay for essentially boxes of "mystery fish", think "fruit of the month" or your mail order organic grocery box delivered to your door. These are kind of like bulk discounts, and usually lots of seasonal delights but sometimes you would see other things. Quality could vary but they should not be that far off. Without saying too much, it is very likely most of the restaurants out there (the good ones) are going this route as it is likely more economical, despite the risk of not necessarily knowing what is inside. The really really really good places would not just rely on one source for seafood and get them elsewhere. The rest is up to the relationship of the restaurant with the supplier to determine the quality. The remainder of the equation is skill, service, experience, and what the chefs are allowed to (or not allowed) to do if they are not part or full owners.

For the really top notch premium stuff available in NY and LA sushi places, if a restaurant is willing to pay, they can procure the good stuff (and if there is demand for it). The prices they pay may differ if in LA or NY...of course the more you buy (wholesale) the better. They just have to balance the books at the end of the day and see if it is worth it. Would you as a customer pay $60 to $70 for two pieces of wild Oma Japanese bluefin for a restaurant to just break even? Perhaps if you had a 3 Michelin Tokyo sushi restaurant in SF, but will you fork out $400 to $500 for a dinner with no drinks.

Not sure if this partly explains some of the madness and differences.

Sep 05, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

Maruya may be expensive but sometime in the last year I spent a similar amount at Sakae and was even more disappointed (despite the fact that I got bigger cuts at Sakae, but I wish I went to Maruya that night instead).

Sep 05, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Dinner Omakase at Sushi Tsujita (A Photo Story)

The poses speak of:

"Aint' nutin' but an "O" thang (Omakase)"

"I've got 99 problems but an omakase ain't one"

Great thread, great pics, and fantastic discussion on disclosure, integrity in the writeup. It's way better than in Hong Kong where openrice.com members are being accused of writing positive reviews in exchange for free invites to taste the food (or they demand free stuff because they are openrice elites). Kind of like yelp but way way way worse. Social media sigh.

What is omakase?

Oh yes the lovely 2008 thread.

Various definitions in the J-restaurant world:

1) marketing buzz word designed to get more people interested and perhaps feel that they are getting an exclusive "tasting menu". Again it depends on the restaurant and perspective
2) chef's choice based on inventory, seasonality, and your personal preferences
3) "I leave it up to you" "I entrust in you"
4) presliced fish behind the counter made into nigiri sushi, piece by piece, until you finish at the blue crab salad handroll
5) Another means for you to spend $$$ and for restaurants to make more money
6) mandatory "tasting menu" which is the de facto for all high end sushi restaurants in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan. Likely offered at 2 to 3 different price levels. Urasawa and Masa of course fall into that category. Not a definition but interpreted by others like it.
Kaiseki meals are not omakase either....it is just part of kappo ryori thus the arrangement of a meal progression, balance, sensibility, and seasonality. File under "washoku".

Aug 26, 2014
K K in General Topics

Dinner Omakase at Mori Sushi: A Pictorial Essay

Given the fact that $195 won't even get you the kind of quality, variety, and style/execution of San Francisco's top high end nigiri joints (you can pay that much but you won't get anything like it), I would say that is priced very accordingly and right. The same meal may cost $250 - $300 or more in Hong Kong, but they might throw in A5 wagyu, fresh kinki (if in winter), kegani (small portion)....and $400 ish may get you Hokkaido Bluefin, chef shipped in from Japan who trained with the flagship branch master, at a satellite location (e.g. Ginza Iwa/Sushi Iwa).

Is that Himalayan Pink salt on top of the kisu?

The knifework on #20/33 (aori ika?) is insane.

(Ahh I miss having sazae).

So Mori vs Shunji, is it safe to say that Mori has the edge on rice and overall Edo style approach, but Shunji has more versatility and variety? Trying to decide which of the two to hit as a trip to LA may be possible in the near future.

Aug 25, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

Hong Kong - Yung Kee Roast Goose re-visited

http://www.epochtimes.com.tw/n99306/%...

says skyrocketing rents are causing Hung to shutter NP location. The exact same reason why a few other iconic (to locals) smaller food shops shuttered in NP, along with 13 stall. You would be surprised at how expensive real estate is becoming in that area.

Aug 13, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong - Yung Kee Roast Goose re-visited

There is an alarming trend of family owned traditionalist shops and eateries just closing shop, not just over rising rents, but family conflicts/ego/$ etc.

Was very sad to read that back in April, the family that owns Shu Kee, that supplies artisan bean curd products to locals as well as The Chairman, shuttered in Sham Shui Po (one of the siblings relocated to Tai Po I think?). And to think I visited them and bought some bean curd rolls (to smuggle into a hot pot restaurant to consume), just a few days after dining at The Chairman and savoring that bean curd dish with friends!

Ball Kee...they don't even roast their own roasties, it's all outsourced, but it's good quality. At this rate, whether overhyped and overrated, still nice to get a capture of the good stuff before whatever reason takes over and it becomes just another distant memory.

My friend is going to be upset about Hung's North Point...he recently relocated recently near there from Wanchai. 13 stall is gone (ethereal marinated braised beef innards) and now Hung's!

Aug 13, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Breakfast places in Hong Kong and Kowloon

I got extremely lucky then. Back in Dec/Jan I managed to go twice and both times were stellar. Not only was the dad working at the time, but Ah Mui's ex-business partner who actually did the hand slicing of fish and innards, as well as the cooking!

Junior served me his milk tea pours, which were average by HK standards, but certainly better than the crap I can get in California! :-)

But I have to say, even if junior is doing the grunt labor as seen in some youtube videos (pan frying wild boney fishermen fish and making that as the stock basis for fish congee) it has got to be better than anything that is not in Toronto/Vancouver.

Aug 12, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong - Yung Kee Roast Goose re-visited

Yup I actually took a photo outside Tin Hung in January when I took friends from San Francisco there. Unfortunately we had prefilled our stomach quota at Happy Seafood at Lau Fau Shan, but it was worth the splurge, otherwise that would have been a good contender for goose.

The other options would be the Chiu Chow marinade versions, of which Chong Fat in Kowloon City does some killer goose livers.
The marinade at Hung's Delicacies (North Point) is very intense and complex, at least it was still good for me in January when we had the sliced goose breast.

The other option would be Bor Kee in Western District, but you have to be first in line (lunch hour) and order a whole goose drumstick uncut, so when you bite into it, you let the lard drip into the noodles. The skin is super crispy. The duck drumstick is also very good.

Aug 12, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Breakfast places in Hong Kong and Kowloon

Mui Kee Congee

http://www.openrice.com/english/resta...

The menu is in Chinese, English, and Japanese. Fantastic old school style congee, anything with fish, or even the pork organ congee is excellent. Grass carp skin appetizer is also very good.

Hong Kong - Yung Kee Roast Goose re-visited

They say Yung Kee has not returned to its former glory after Kinson Kam passed away, who was monumental in introducing very interesting banquet dishes and had a wealth of knowledge.

Apparently Kinson's two sons branched out on their own and opened up two roast goose themed restaurants that are far more downscale, in tribute to their late father, and as a result of being pushed out by the other siblings of the Kam family of any involvement in Yung Kee.

甘牌燒鵝 Kam's Roast Goose in Wanchai

and

甘飯館 at Tin Hau

One of them (can't remember which) does roast goose with charcoal roasting, the other does not.

Guess they need more time to ramp up from the reviews of many netizens, but at least there are alternatives to Yung Kee.

Aug 01, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong - Breakfast at the Mido Cafe

I have yet to actually order food here, but been three times in the last 2 years and the red bean lotus seed ice drink has been consistently excellent 紅豆蓮子冰. It meets the minimum order $ alone and the ice is nice to the bite (brittle but not hard, and not soft like shaved ice). My Vietnamese friend who came along with me also enjoyed this drink very much as it has similar characteristics to Chè.

Aug 01, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

favorite sushi right now ????? price no object, natch.

That is very true. Not to mention excellent knifework. Quite a few hipstery popular NorCal sushi restaurants where chefs worked with nicer fish and serve it with fusion touches, but pay very little attention to the rice, where knifework is also replaced by larger/longer/thicker cuts = good value to the target demographic.

But the other irony is that sushi is also written as 鮨. Left side, fish, right side delicious. :-)

Jul 31, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

Q's on ordering suckling pig dinner in SGV restaurants

I'm not a SoCal resident, nor have I had any roasties from those famous high end Cantonese seafood SGV restaurants, but from general experience I would advise the following

- call the restaurant and ask away all your questions. First find out the cost, as well as the size of the piglet. Find out what is their smallest size and focus on that. Let them know ahead of time there are only two of you, and that you will still the whole pig and take home leftovers (and you have no problem with that). And of course ask how much time in advance notice they need if a preorder whole is needed.

- compare and contrast the pricing/size/weight

- ask if the piglets come with anything on the side. There's almost always the dip sauce, but good to know what it is exactly.

- For me, I would ask if the piglet's feet are included when the restaurant purchases the piglets. If yes, find out what dishes they can do with it. At the nicer roast suckling pig specialist restaurants, some do a soy sauce marinated/braised/simmered piglet feet dish that is quite delectable. Or some keep the feet on when roasting the whole piglet, and is also tasty to eat.

- check yelp and blogs (online search/photo image search) in case there are photos of past visits where people ordered them to give you a better idea before you make your final decision as to who will do it.

- I do highly encourage to to find enough people/adventurous eaters/good friends to join. This feast is meant to be shared. The piglet should be eaten entirely dine in or as much as possible for the optimal experience.

Another suggestion is that if these restaurants offer an appetizer sized plate during dim sum lunch hours, you can try one to determine if you want to order a whole one. It is not necessarily a representation of what you will get in the end from a whole pig (since we have no idea when these plated suckling pig appetizers are roasted and sliced).

Jun 06, 2014
K K in Los Angeles Area

2014 regional Chinese roundup

Thanks for the feedback. Still have not been yet, but had a feeling it wasn't going to be bad. I don't know much about Hunan food but the place seems legit, and at least clean and semi upscale looking. I did glance at a takeout menu one time and there were a lot of preserved smoked Hunan style meat (la rou) dishes, far more than any other place I've seen.

The trick with most regional Chinese restaurants is to request dishes with less oil less salt (shao yoh shao yen). The pork belly you had was probably Mao's braised pork belly...pretty famous and iconic Hunan dish.

Jun 04, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

2014 regional Chinese roundup

Saw that sometime back thanks, our table had way more varied dishes than that report, including ones from the temporary specials menu which I had already mentioned a few.

Jun 03, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

2014 regional Chinese roundup

+ Beijing Duck House (Cupertino)

The summary:

Tasty preorder Peking Duck (7 to 8 lbs per, shipped in from Long Island NY somewhere), carved tableside, and served with in house made crepes, and the carcass and meat in a tasty duck soup (thus, two ways...but they won't do three way). They also make a lot of "Lao Beijing" style snacks, some that supposedly were served as Imperial Banquet type mini dishes for the Last Empress of China (mostly dessert types, she probably had a sweet tooth, but luckily not a Yelper type into macarons, froyo, and Cream sandwiches). The cold appetizer dishes are very noteworthy, like marinated duck tongue, and Chinese mustard (mostly deboned) duck web which had a killer umami presence and perfect amount of mustard marination...as well as a dish of Lu cuisine origin called Luo Han Du (like a head cheese, but has pork stomach and tripe)...could give Cosentino's Boccalone offerings a run for their money...not as decadent as coppa di testa but very close in feeling. Friends who have eaten at Quanjude Beijing said this duck was obviously inferior, but I suppose if you haven't been to Beijing duck restaurants where they use apple or lychee wood fire, this ain't so bad and is already a great effort for SF Bay Area. I forgot to ask the other friends if they thought it was better than Great China (which I think for sure it would be).

Not the best service (or hospitality) by the owner/lady boss, but perhaps a bit of a communication issue. Overcome this and go in a group, and the experience gets better.

Jun 03, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Kusakabe [San Francisco]

Someone posted a yelp photo of the a la carte menu, dated May 22. Otoro, aji, saba, kohada, tai, kasugodai, ayu, hotaruika, uni, ikura, ankimo. $7.50 to $8.50 (guessing the prices are per piece) with otoro at $10.50.

Definitely a far cry from the breadth at a place like Shunji in SoCal, but is already considered very good by SF standards.

Maruya hits the 30 types of fish mark easily (well, so does Sushi Sam's in San Mateo, but the quality is not even close). But when Maruya first opened, they had maybe 15 selections. But whatever Kusakabe has based on those selections a la carte, Maruya will likely have them as well.

The only difference is that Maruya doesn't serve A5 beef (Miyazaki Wagyu). That is more of a modern gimmick for wow factor. Then again, lots of high end hybrid kappo/sushi Japanese run eateries in Hong Kong are doing the same thing, up the wow factor, to get the crowds and social media experts through the door. They didn't serve me A5 at Ginza Iwa Hong Kong though, which was fine.

May 29, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

Yes what ipse said.

Didn't realize it was out of the way....in that case, please save your quota for other things!

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

ISO Bay Area restaurants with delicious grilled octopus preparations.

Coqueta and 1760

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

San Tung has a sister restaurant right next door called San Tung #2, supposedly same owners, mostly similar menu, and handles overflow or those who don't want to wait for #1 if it is way crowded. I haven't been, but don't bother there since they do not provide complimentary kimchi/pao tsai like #1, which I find very very strange....

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

No comment on the attendance and how it affects restaurants, but I would start by going to opentable.com and searching for a range of dates/times of some of the aforementioned restaurants and see what works for you (also to check availability) and start booking places you want to check out, like right now. Also consider going directly to the restaurant's website to book reservations there (which usually redirects to opentable), particularly the very popular ones. If you are willing to dine later, 9 to 10 pm, you have better options/availability.

If you do SPQR, some say that the counter/chef's table side is best. Since it is walkable from SF J-town, and if you make it there in time much earlier, drop by Benkyodo Co for some excellent mocha based confectionaries (wagashi). No preservatives, old school Japanese American. There are Japanese tourists who visit, that apparently buy boxes to bring home. If you go earlier you might be able to try strawberry mocha or blueberry, very addictive. Though our Japantown is otherwise not interesting at all.

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

Our regional Chinese here isn't bad but definitely pales in comparison to the breadth and depth of SGV. Taiwanese is sadly a big joke, even whatever is left in the South Bay (with the exception of four TW food trucks based in the South Bay that are passable). It's as bad as our ramen.

If you must have Japanese, and can make it to Berkeley, Ippuku is excellent for dinner. Though I wonder how it compares to SoCal's finest yakitori joints.

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Cooking Papa (Mountain View)

Yes rice noodle roll with flour crisp is indeed the carb on carb item known as "ja leung".

I've been to CP MV twice so far, so let me offer some comments

- there are a few veterans from CP Foster City working at CP MV, guessing for the long haul. There are also junior waitstaff and newcomers.

- Once you understand CP's operations, you'll come to realize the 10+ hour workdays the staff goes through...very stressful and some of the junior staff do not have the capacities to handle a high stress high turnover environment, and are not as wired into the business as the senior staff....thus need more time and training.

- the kitchen perhaps is a tad small to be able to handle all the tables and load. I think CP MV would benefit by having fewer tables, so waitstaff can navigate between easier...but I think they planned it that way so to maximize throughput, and thus revenue. But what they have now is pretty much a bottleneck when it is super busy.

- of the dishes sampled so far, a majority of them are quite pleasing. The preorder baked sago pudding dessert was excellent. Roast pork belly and empress chicken very good. The drinks need some work (only tried iced lemon tea), but at this rate better than nothing.

As much service and consistency issues/complaints there are currently, you have to admit that there isn't another "brand" of Cantonese high paced comfort based food restaurants out there that can open up quickly to face huge crowds...and it will not subside anytime soon. I sure am glad they are in MV, instead of a Sizzler or Chick Fil A.

As far as speculation about dim sum and the chef being ex-ABC...who knows. It could go either way. The resulting product could be different by the same chef in a different environment/different ownership and management/operation philosophy. If owners are smart and know the limits of the chef's potential they would figure out a plan to get what they can out of it within reason. I would rather try CP MV dim sum than Fu Lam Mum...

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Cooking Papa (Mountain View)

The managerial woman is likely either Prascilla or Eleanor, both have ownership stakes in all the CP locations.

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

True from that perspective, but if a visit to ST is happening for the wings, the 5 spice beef noodle soup is a good companion if a bowl of rice isn't ordered, and if there is stomach space.

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

I remember being asked (in Cantonese) at Hai Ky if I wanted kidney, and I'm sure they also understand/speak English there....so make sure they include kidney in your order.

If you are really hungry, you might be able to eat two bowls of noodles, in which case try something else (if not two bowls of Mi Pok). Their Vietnamese iced coffee is drip and very strong which I very much enjoy...unlike Trieu Chau's pre-drip pre refrigerated coffe that I found rather horrendous, offensive, and vanilla caramel latte like tasting (Brodard has this same issue coincidentally).

May 27, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area