Monday, January 30, 2012

California 21, or, Culinary Investigation Two of Three, or MUNI-N-SUSHI DAY

One item that your correspondents, personally, feel is a particularly dark spot on the DC culinary map: sushi. So we knew we had to spend a day in San Francisco gobbling up as much sushi as we could. But that could be costly both for the stomach and the pocketbook. How to slow things down and make sure we didn't wind up eating more sushi than we could actually handle? We decided to ensure a leisurely interval between each sushi restaurant by exploring different restaurants in different neighborhoods, and getting from one neighborhood to another as slowly as humanly possible, i.e. via Muni. Neither the Sushi nor the Muni let us down.

Case in point: We decided our first stop of the day would be Wayo Sushi, on Van Ness, and therefore a straight shot of the 49 Van Ness up from our Mission/Bernal digs. We didn't get an early start on the day, but when a 49 showed up, we had scarcely gone five blocks before it had to be taken out of service and we had to go wait for the next 49 to show up, and then slowly make our way up Van Ness with various crazy shouting people. When we arrived at Sushi Wayo, they were no longer serving lunch and wouldn't open again until dinnertime. So, we made our way back down to Sushi Hana, which was not as well reviewed, but was actually open. The sushi there was nice. I guess I should have written this a little less than six months after the event because I don't really remember more detail than that. The picture above doesn't really do much to bring back the details on the food, either.

I do recall that we then caught a 47 back down to Mission for our next stop at Sushi Zaoh. I don't recall how on earth we decided this not-particularly-noteworthy spot should be on our agenda, other than the following: 1. They were open; and 2. We were realizing the enormity of the task we had established for ourselves attempting to get around via Muni. One place I wanted to try in the Richmond was obviously not going to happen. Retreating back down Van Ness on the 47 with a gaggle of screaming teenage girls yelling at each other about what stop to get off at was a more manageable dose of Muni. So we had some nice enough sushi at Zaoh, which was a fitting local for the Civic Center neighborhood. No-frills, perhaps even a little down-on-the-heels, and very blue (as seen above), but the sushi was fine. We then took a tactical pause to digest at the Asian Art Museum.

For our next stop, we were hoping for the pièce de résistance with some sushi in Japantown. We thought maybe we would take the 19 Polk up to Sutter and transfer to the 3 Jackson, but we wound up walking all the way up to Sutter before a 19 ever came by. But the 3 took us the last few blocks without incident. The reputations of Sushi places in Japantown are a bit mixed, perhaps due to high expectations, but Kiss Seafood gets rave reviews all around. We were hoping that on a Tuesday night if we arrived right at opening at 5:30 we might be able to get seated. No such luck. So we went for plan B at Ino Sushi inside the Peace Plaza building. It was awesome. Expensive, and they had a minimum order so we wound up filling up more than we had perhaps planned, but it was a definite get-what-you-pay-for proposition.

We took a brief digestion interval in the crazy Japanese Dollar Store in the basement of the Peace Plaza building in Japantown, and acquired all sorts of hilarious stuff we didn't need, like popsicle molds and a space age lunchbox. Then we decide to push our luck in Japantown - but where Ino is sparse to the point of austere and feels very traditional, we veered now in the other direction and went to Isobune, "the original sushi boat restaurant." We sat at the bar where they have a little moat around the sushi chefs and a train of boats going around in endless circles so you can grab anything that looks good, then pay at the end by how many empty plates are stacked up in front of you. The sushi was not up to Ino standards, but it wasn't terrible. And your correspondent finds it hard to resist when something really exotic floats by, like the octopus pictured at the very top of this post.

For our final stop, we went back down to Noe Valley (ending in Noe on both Ice Cream Day and Muni-n-Sushi Day because of certain relatives of the Holla who live in the neighborhood). In a foolhardy move, we attempted to take the 22 Fillmore and then transfer to the J Church Muni Metro. The 22 was not a particular problem, but we waited for something like six hours for a the J to come by. It was good to finish, as we began, in true San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority style. When we finally got to Hamano sushi, and then finally got a table, we again rolled with the style of the neighborhood, with some high-falutin' rolls with ingredients like lemons and field greens and stuff. Definitely our least traditional stop of the day, but also a good one.

Sadly, at that point we were stuffed, and maybe also had enough sake and Kirin to call it a night, and I couldn't persuade anyone to join me in a mad dash to one more restaurant before closing time. Five sushi meals and four self-inflicted trips on the muni would have to do on this day - a record we hope to top on Muni-n-Sushi Day 2012 (or whichever year we manage to get back to San Francisco).

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