Sebo (SF) – I Can Finally Eat Sushi in SF Proper
I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that San Francisco doesn’t have many (or is that any?) great sushi spots. All I seek is a nice enough place within walking distance that prides its fish; I know where to get world class sushi one hour, 4 hours, and a coast away. You could listen to the “experts”, but their mentions of Ozumo, Kiss, Sushi Ran, and others question their legitimacy as experts. Of course, these are the same names that pop up in heated online debates about the best sushi in San Francisco. And they could be right because, while these might be our best, they are by no means very good.
Sebo has made a splash and it’s come recommended by a few different people. Two young guys get the fresh-fish-from-Japan hook-up, design a hip sliver of a room to house the patrons, and launch a pretty good word of mouth campaign. Sounds like the makings of an uber-successful San Francisco restaurant for the yuppies.
They are very proud of their fish and the omakase chef was very knowledgeable about fish migration patterns and seasons. They claim to get 3-4 shipments/week – most from Japan. And it shows – all of the fish was of better quality. The only problem was that some of the fish, while buttery, lacked any intense flavor.
The rice was slightly warm but lacked much vinegar or sweetness. Picking a piece of nigiri up w/ my fingers (the proper way to eat it!) often left a few sticky grains on them; dipping the sushi into soy sauce tended to leave a few grains behind there too. This isn’t world-class nigiri but it’s serviceable. They do use real wasabi – yum.
The Cooked Dishes
Hmmmm, I wouldn’t know – they didn’t cook anything.
I asked them if they’ve been to Urasawa (and Kuruma) and they gave me blank stares. Interesting tidbit – you’d think they would have at least heard of these top-tier places (and very much want to try them.) I told them to go but they probably forgot immediately.
1. Sashimi – Wild Hamachi, Tai, Shimaji, & Saba
The hamachi, shimaji, & saba were fresh but lacked any intense flavor (unlike the wild hamachi I had at Sawa a week ago.) Tai was served ungarnished – lemon and/or sea salt would have been welcome. Good.
2. Sushi – Bluefin, Wild Hamachi, Hokkaido Scallop, Cuttlefish, & Kohada
The fish worked better on the rice; the scallop was exceptionally tender and sweet. Good to Very Good.
3. Salad of Cucumbers, Seaweed, & Seared Saba
A nice mix of greens and fish all tossed w/ a vinegar. This wasn’t refined or exacting but satisfyingly good. The saba, when seared, really came to life. Good.
4. More Sushi – Ankimo, Tako, Uni, & Seared Saba
The ankimo was quite creamy but the sliver was so small it couldn’t hope to coat your mouth. The uni went down very smooth – too smooth – it lacked the ocean’s sweetness. Good.
5. Tuna Poke w/ Salmon Roe & Ankimo
Not sure why it’s falling apart but this shows how the refinement isn’t even close to approaching an Urasawa level (and one reason why Sebo must be considered a great neighborhood restaurant, not a destination restaurant.) No idea how the roe were treated but they tasted unusually light and refreshing. Good.
6. Toro Roll
It is what it is – filler.
7. Final Sushi – Toro & Seared Saba (my request)
The toro was exceedingly buttery but, again, lacked any intense taste. I did like that seared saba.
The Final Verdict
My review might read a little harsh but these guys are trying and I bet they could do better. I’m happy to say I finally have a go-to place for sushi in the city – this is what every neighborhood spot should aspire to be. Most of the restaurant was filled w/ regulars and it’s easy to see why – not a bad meal for $100. I’m sure the meals will get better as I’m known.
This isn’t destination dining – you can get better fish elsewhere prepared at a more refined level. However, it’s a great place for locals or for those on a budget. I’ll be back – that’s the closest to a compliment I could give to a sushi bar.