SCENE: EXT. OF RESTAURANT – EVENING
JAY and JULIE are leaving Sushi Bistro, a restaurant located in a quiet, residential neighborhood in the Richmond district of San Francisco. The sun is setting behind them; the wind is bracingly cold. Julie ties the belt of her trench coat and looks over at Jay.
JULIE: Did you like that restaurant?
JULIE is visibly taken aback.
JULIE: Why not?
JAY: It just wasn’t good. It just wasn’t my type of food.
JULIE looks away thoughtfully (just so, so thoughtfully). After a moment’s pause, she seems to reach a decision.
JULIE: You know what? I agree.
– END SCENE –
I hope you all enjoyed this gripping preview of the screenplay I’m writing. It’s based off of my sushi-eating adventures and is titled, “Why? Just for the Halibut.”*
I’m being a bit facetious — but theatrical is an appropriate tone for a place like Sushi Bistro. The Michelin-recommended restaurant takes Japanese foods and flavors and dramatizes them into American-friendly adaptations. Clearly, their approach works; its original location has garnered thousands of glowing reviews and constant crowds, including on the Friday night we stopped in.
* If you can think of a better fish pun, let minnow.
Having made reservations, we were seated promptly. Our server was professional but rushed, clearly in the business of turning tables. We didn’t mind, however, as our food came out in well-spaced intervals, including a tasty, complimentary app of pickled cucumbers. We started with the popular butterfish blasters: snow crab meat and avocado wrapped in torched butterfish and finished with a garlic-soy reduction. This was our favorite dish of the night; the fish was incredibly tender and delicate, and the sauce deliciously umami.
Our remaining orders, despite being the popular, creative rolls for which Sushi Bistro is known, veered off into less exciting waters. In theory, each of the sushi combinations sounded super flavorful — but, in practice, the sauces and seasonings overpowered the fish. The sushi rice was packed in to the point of being gluey, though, to Sushi Bistro’s credit, they didn’t use very much as filler. The chefs definitely don’t skimp out on the seafood here; it’s just unfortunately indiscernible underneath all the other components on the plate.
The Big Island (salmon, tuna, albacore & tobiko, snow crab meat, avocado and sprouts wrapped inside a thinly sliced cucumber) was a bit bland. On the other hand, the African spider pictured in the lead of this post (soft shell crab, sprouts, tobiko, deep-fried cajun albacore and salmon topped with avocado) was on the heavy side, overpowered by its eel and spicy sauces.
The Monsters in Law roll (chopped spicy albacore, cucumber topped with yellowtail, jalapenos, spicy and ponzu sauce) was good but unexciting. Jay particularly objected to the flavorless flourishes of Sriracha.
To be clear, none of the dishes we had were bad. They simply missed the element of simplicity that I find most enticing about Japanese cuisine. I stand by the idea that you don’t have to be “authentic” or culturally connected to make good food; I’m not averse to creative, funky, fusion cuisine. In this case, though, I just wanted to taste my fish better. Sushi Bistro is clearly a nontraditional Japanese restaurant, catering to a population that loves big, bold flavors. They’ve got an adoring audience — I’m just not necessarily among them.
431 Balboa St
San Francisco, CA 94118