- Cost: $85/person, before drinks, tax and tip
- Size: 9 seats at counter
- Style: few otsumami + sushi omakase
- Reserved: 6 weeks in advance
In the past 5 years, the sushi game in the Bay Area has gone from an afterthought to competing on very serious level with places like New York and Los Angeles. The number of traditional edomae omakase-focused restaurants in San Francisco proper has gone from zero to almost 10 (and counting) in just a few short years. This is a bit of a departure from tradition, where the most heralded sushiya were located in strip malls on the peninsula in places like San Mateo and Burlingame. Sushi Yoshizumi follows in that tradition, and it is potentially the finest traditional-style sushiya in the Bay Area.
The semi-industrial location across from a train station and with no signage is probably a now-familiar sight to those familiar with the unassuming nature of sushiya in Japan. Like many Japanese shops, the room only contains a single counter with 9 seats. This makes for an intimate and special experience.
Yoshizumi-san is originally from Osaka, but his style is quite traditionalist. Tsumami on my visit contained typical items like ultra-tender poached octopus (now a mainstay appetizer at many high-end US and Japanese sushiya) and kawahagi with a dollop of kimo. Most notable for me was a chunk of ankimo that had been marinated in a sweet tsume - a preparation I had not encountered before, and a departure from the typical sake-steamed version.
The nigiri evoke the style of more "traditional" Tokyo sushiya (i.e. not the Michelin spots) that populate neighborhoods like Shinbashi and Nihonbashi. Nigiri are large, and the aka shari has a notable vinegar hit, tempered with a bit of sugar. The shari itself appears to be a blend of a few types with differing grain size, but the texture was on point throughout the meal. Nigiri construction was less precise, evoking a more rough-hewn, classic style. Neta quality is good, but not at the highest level, which is reflected in the price.
It was in the neta preparations that Yoshizumi-san took the most creative liberties. Kinmedai was given the unusual treatment of being marinated in soy (-zuke) and torched to bring out the fish oils. A "maki" of ohagi (chopped maguro and pickles) contained smoked takuan, imparting brand new flavors. Anago was topped with tsume and a tiny kinome leaf, lending it the flavor of sansho pepper (normally, you might find anago only served with powdered sansho and salt).
It is tough to find sushiya in the US that serve up nigiri in a style that references some of the more traditional shops in Tokyo, and Yoshizumi definitely fills that void. Even the dessert - a "taiyaki" filled with three types of ice cream - referenced tradition. Yoshizumi-san as a chef is quite friendly and engaging, and his work ethic and concentration is palpable. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal there, and was intrigued by the unique approach to certain sushi. It is definitely a spot worthy of repeat visits.
325 E. 4th Ave., San Mateo, CA