Sushi Kazu has got to be one of the more underrated sushi-yas in the tightly packed and well-curated commercial area that is the best part of my neighborhood in the Inner Sunset. Restaurants and shoppes are thickest between 6th and 10th on Irving, and in that radius there are no less than five sushi restaurants, and further down on Irving and 15th, there are exactly three Japanese restaurants (not necessarily sushi, though) located within one block. For a while, until Koo moved into the neighbourhood, Ebisu was king. Its sister restaurant across the street, Hotei, focused on noodles and ramen, but one could also order Ebisu sushi there. Koo stepped up the game for sushi in the sunset, blowing folks away with their addictive Spoonfuls of Happiness, presenting a “Catch of the Day” sheet with a list of their freshest fish flown in from Japan, offering izakaya-style small dishes that blended the East and West.
Kazu quietly stepped into an old spot vacated by another rather nondescript Japanese place, and for the longest time, we never got around to checking it out. There’s generally never a wait, even on a weekend night, and when the wait at Koo or Ebisu is too long, and you’re craving sushi, Kazu’s a good bet.
As usual, we always end up ordering the Gomae — a spinach salad dressed with crushed sesame seeds. In this version the spinach was nicely cooked and dressed evenly and well. The vegetable was neither overcooked nor too dry – the dish, on the whole, was nutty and perfect.
The monkfish liver was also done well, topped with finely chopped negi and served in ponzu with a few mizuna leaves floating in the sauce. It had the delicate, livery-silky-briny-fishy taste that I love enhanced with the floral salty qualities of the ponzu. Lovely.
Listed on their specials board I spied a listing for pork belly, which we couldn’t help ordering. It was fantastic, but not cooked like the traditional buta kakuni that I was used to – there was no sweet soy-mirin-sugar sauce, but the pork was probably seared slightly, steamed and then perhaps simmered in a dashi until super fall-apart-tender.
We enjoyed the rolls we ordered, including:
- Roll in foreground: Dynamite Scallop: Green Bean tempura, avocado and jalapeno; seared Japanese scallop topped with green onion, avocado and tobiko with chef special sauce.
- Roll in background: Spider: soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber, bean sprouts, burdock, and lettuce topped with wasabi tobiko and garlic ponzu.
- Roll in middle: Yamakake: albacore tuna, avocado, and cucumber wrapped with hawaiian big eye tuna and green onion topped with wasabi yam sauce.
The second time we visited, we asked the Chef Kazu-san for Omakase – chef’s choice – see the matrix of photos at the top of the post. Of note, Chef served us some Kurodai - a kind of land snail reportedly endemic to Japan. We loved the spicy seared Hotate scallop, served with a dab of spicy mayo, tobiko and a sprinkling of nori strips. I had a bad experience at Ebisu once with some pretty fishy mackerel – turned me off to the fish for a long time. The Saba at Kazu was fresh, delicate and flavourful all at once; it didn’t even need the smear of wasabi-ginger but we were glad for its fiery bite all the same. Of course, we’re always big fans of Uni, and the tiny Ikura rolls topped with quail egg and a coin of cucumber are always nice to behold.
Chef ended the nigiri courses with a truly special treat of a baby sea Eel — unagi — barely grilled and lightly brushed with teriyaki sauce.
And finally, another highlight of the evening – Chef finished us with a maki made with fatty tuna belly and pickled radish – absolutely sublime.
DD was still tad hungry, and asked for one more roll to fill his belly, but finally he was sated, and we paid up, bowed, thanked Chef and the staff, and waddled out towards home.
I’ve been dreaming of that buta…
841 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122