The Sushi Geek’s Top 5 Bay Area Sushi Restaurants

Since many of my friends and acquaintances know that I am a hardcore Sushi Geek™, I’m frequently asked for Bay Area sushi recommendations. So here is my current top 5 favorite SF Bay Area sushiya list!

Bear in mind that the “cons” listed below for each restaurant are based on my personal preferences only. Example: I prefer rice that is strongly seasoned with akasu vinegar. Someone else might prefer rice that is lightly seasoned with Komézu. One preparation method is not necessarily more correct than the other. (Although akasu tends to be used in traditional Edomae-zushi).

Regarding the “typical price per person” field: I usually order omakase, plus a couple extra pieces of nigiri, + two drinks (beer or nihonshu) and tip in the 20 to 25% range. The amounts listed include all this, and taxes, per person.

Here’s the list. Enjoy, and let me know what your list looks like.

1. Sushi Yoshizumi
Typical price per person: $250+.
Pros: By far my favorite sushiya in the Bay Area, no one else comes close to Yoshizumi’s mastery. Nearly flawless shari and overall execution. Incredibly skillful teate (prep work).
Cons: Hard to book. I can’t list the high price as a “con” as I think it is completely justified.
Ease of booking: Very difficult, requires booking 2 months in advance. 

2. Wako
Typical price per person: $175. I order the $100 nigiri omakase and go from there.
Pros: Even though Tomo-san uses Komézu instead of akasu, his rice is delicious and well-seasoned. Good attention to details such as temperature control.
Cons: I love their rice, but still prefer akasu shari! Level of execution and attention to details, while very high, is not quite at Yoshizumi’s level.
Ease of booking: Moderate. I recommend calling 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time to guarantee a spot at the bar.

3. Kusakabe
Typical price per person: $175.
Pros: High quality ingredients, some very original preparation techniques. Good overall attention to details.
Cons: I’m not a huge fan of the flow of the meal as I prefer to have otsumami first, then straight nigiri courses. Shari, while very good, is not seasoned enough for my taste. Not traditional Edomae style. Restaurant size is a bit too large for an intimate experience.
Ease of booking: Moderate. I recommend booking 4 weeks ahead of time minimum.

4. An Japanese Restaurant
Typical price per person: $150.
Pros: Good quality ingredients, relaxed atmosphere, traditional Edo style preparation techniques.
Cons: While seasoned with akasu, I would personally prefer for the shari to be more strongly vinegared, and warmer in temperature. 
Ease of booking: Easy. A spot at the sushi bar can usually be obtained within a day or two, often same day.

5. Gintei
Typical price per person: $130.
Pros: Good ingredients prepared by experienced chefs. Typically offers impressive selection of neta.
Cons: Fairly bland komézu shari, which can be a little on the cold side. Ingredients and technique are very good but not of the highest caliber, which is understandable at this price point.
Ease of booking: Easy. A spot at the sushi bar can usually be obtained within a day or two.

13 thoughts on “The Sushi Geek’s Top 5 Bay Area Sushi Restaurants

  1. Have you tried sushi night (every other Wednesday) at Hachi Ju Hachi in Saratoga? I’m wondering how it fits in the spectrum. I heard very good things about their sushi night, despite the mixed reviews of their regular, non-sushi menu.

    1. I have not tried sushi night at Hachi Ju Hachi – I knew he did Osaka style hakozushi (boxed sushi) but was not aware that he served full sushi meals. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll try to make it there one Wednesday.

      1. Great – and please do report back. I think it’s by reservation only, and the chef only fills the sushi bars for that night and no walk-ins.

  2. Gintei already Changed Sushi Chef and no longer served same tipe nigiri. That Chef who moved to Omakase in SF.

    1. John,

      Which Gintei chef moved to Omakase? Sam?

      Masa Yamasaki is still the head chef / part owner, and the selection of neta they obtain has not changed. Yamasaki-san made nigiri for me a few weeks ago and I did not discern any changes in quality.

  3. I think John Ko is referring to Masa Sasaki. Masa actually left Omakase, was then at Gintei for a few months and left Gintei to help open Delage in Oakland. He is opening his own place in SF in September. I heard, not sure, that the Gintei owner will be his partner.

  4. Cool website! I used to work with Yoshizumi at Umami back in 2012, but left to work in Hong Kong at Sushi Yoshitake for a year in 2013. I’ve been back for a while now but haven’t tried any of these places yet…

  5. Hi, thank you for your great reviews.
    I tried making a reservation at Sushi Yoshizumi but it’s been very challenging.
    Yelp reservation has some dates available – not greyed out – but then it says there’s no seats available?
    How do you normally do it successfully?

    1. Sushi Yoshizumi is indeed difficult to book. The online booking system opens up at midnight every night for bookings 60 days later. I recommend trying to book right at midnight, or early in the morning. I know this is not the most convenient, but Yoshizumi’s sushi is worth the trouble.

  6. So I am flying in to SFO for one night, flying out the next and I have a waitlist reservation at Yoshizumi, a call in to Wako and reservation at Hashiri just so I am covered. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations – I actually rebooked my flight so I could make it for dinner when I had the ‘WTF you are flying to SFO and NOT eating at a fabulous restaurant’ revelation.

    Yoshizumi has an option for a notification when a reservation becomes available, FYI. So I am hoping. Had I gotten on this earlier (as in more than 7 days out) chances would maybe be better.

    Appreciate your reviews and guidance. And fantabulous picture gallery.

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