Everyone who knows me knows I love me some sushi. It doesn’t matter if it’s the finest grade nigiri, the less expensive tekka maki rolls, or the pre-cut rolls in the coolers from Whole Foods, because, in my humble opinion, even their brown rice spicy tuna rolls get the job done. If it’s raw fish touching starchy rice, and there’s some wasabi in sight then I’m all over it. In fact, my own brother once asked me if I was a lesbian after I ate my way through an all-you-can-eat sushi bar experience in West Hollywood. If I remember correctly, the restaurant manager had to cut me off, pointing out the “two hour maximum” time limit written in fine print on the back of our menus. I guess it was clear from the savage look upon my face that I was far from my point of satiation.
So knowing how much I love and respect sushi, you can imagine how excited I was when I walked out of Saru Sushi Bar in Noe Valley thinking I’d just had the best sushi in my entire life, because the best sushi restaurant in San Francisco is only a 15 mins bike ride away!
Here’s the deal. The place is tiny. In fact, I think it only has seating for about 20 people between the sushi bar and the high top tables for two. My friend and I met there at 7pm and got the last two seats at the bar. We tried to order conservatively, because she’s a skinny bitch who doesn’t eat much, and because I’m a fat bastard who needs to learn how to walk out of a sushi restaurant without taking a second mortgage out on my condo. But once we tasted the freshness of the fish, we had to try a few more things.
Saru Sushi Bar – The Best Sushi in San Francisco
We started with their cucumber and tosazu sauce salad, which was fresh and light, the perfect kick-start to the culinary journeys our palates were about to embark on at, in my opinion, the best sushi in San Francisco.
The cucumber salad was the perfect accompaniment to their Nasu No Nitsuke, which was a bowl of cold Japanese eggplant pickled in a slightly sweet vinegar and juice. Really interesting texture and flavor.
We got their Hamachi sashimi with truffled ponzu and fried onions, which was ah-maze-ing (sorry no pic). The truffle flavor wasn’t overpowering and the onions really brought out the sweetness of the fish.
Then we had the spider roll, which if it’s on the menu I’ll always order, because a really good soft shell crab can’t be beat. It’s a shame about 90% of the soft shell crab rolls out there are just okay, with soggy or nonexistent crab. That was not the case at Sushi Saru.
and we got another tempura roll with fried prawns inside and unagi (eel) and avocado on the top. This was essentially caterpillar roll but kicked up a notch.
Because the fish was so fresh and fantastic we threw in an order of salmon and yellowtail sashimi.
The surprisingly enebriated-for-7pm-on-a-weeknight stranger to my right said she loved the naked roll so we ordered that too. Besides, you put the word naked in the name of a sushi roll and you can guarantee this homo is going to check it out! It was a scallop cut roll with some spicy mayo and fish roe, wrapped in white soy paper. Each piece just melted in my mouth, falling apart slowly as the flavors of the scallops and fresh crab danced cross my tongue. Yum!
Then we ordered a few pieces of nigiri: the baby lobster (sorry don’t have a pic), the kanpachi or Hawaii Amber Jack, the Iwana Arctic Char from Canada, and the Ebodai pompano butter fish. Each piece was a good size, extending over a little puffy pillow of rice touched with the essence of tangy wasabi and sweet rice vinegar. I had never seen baby lobster sushi before. It looked like a giant piece of shrimp, and instead of being flamingo pink, the horizontal stripes across the tail-piece were a purplish gray. The chef also cut a slit in the soft flesh and squeezed some roe and mayo mixture inside before garnishing it with a few toasted pine nuts.
The White Out Roll is filled with Hamachi inside and covered with Hamachi that’s been lightly seared with a torch on the top, giving it that perfect little char that plays homage to the Japanese robata grill.
At that point I was consciously wondering what would happen if I just kept on chewing and never actually swallowed my food. So what if it turns into some soupy paste? If I can keep that taste in my mouth for a minute longer, it’s worth the effort! After all, it is the best sushi in San Francisco.
The final test I conduct anytime I think I’m in the presence of pure sushi genius, is to order my favorite spicy scallop hand-roll (sorry, but I ate this before I could snap a pic). That’s the one item, if done well, that I would eat over and over if I were trapped on a deserted island. And I have to admit, when the chef handed me the roll across the sushi bar barrier and waited for me to take it from him directly, I knew this no-frills cone of joy was going to be good. The nori wrap (dried seaweed) was still flaky, which means he’s fast when he rolls the rice and fish inside….sometimes, when the contents of a hand-roll come in contact with the nori for too long, the nori gets damp, elastic, chewy and tough to bite. The spicy scallop filling melted like butter and it wasn’t too hot as if the chef just used a wisp of Sriracha sauce.
Then we finished our meal with an order of the green tea and black sesame ice cream.
Maybe the fish was super fresh, and they picked it up that morning, because it was a Tuesday and most sushi places are closed on Mondays, or maybe they just know what they’re doing at Saru Sushi Bar. Either way, I feel like a sign of the best sushi in San Francisco is when you realize you’ve eaten everything you’ve been served and you didn’t dip any of it in soy sauce. I will be going back to the best sushi in San Francisco — the Saru Sushi Bar — as often as my charge card balance will allow!
- They don’t take reservations so either get there early, or put your name down and walk around the neighborhood. Believe me….from one sushi lover to another– it’s worth the wait.