Wednesday, December 05, 2007

El Camino Sushi

I love sushi, but I don't eat it all that often for two reasons: the first is that the sushi joints I like are either too far away or too expensive for daily use, and the second is... well, if I put the second reason in print, I'll get smacked when I get home.

Since we moved to Pacifica, we've been on a quest to find local places to dine. Nona's, at Lindamar Beach, is a favorite, as is Toto's Pizza. And we've started to find some others in the Sunset District, like The Pizza Place on Noriega (no really, that's the name). After two-plus years, we're only now finding a good selection of places that we'd try for a second time. Lately, we've been heading to West Portal, but that's a subject for another post... On to sushi!

When we look for places to eat, we usually drive up and down El Camino Real, and usually between Westborough Blvd. (the main feeder to our house) and Millbrae Ave. (near Yumy Yogurt...). That stretch of El Camino is littered with taquerias and Chinese restaurants, and surprisingly, sushi joints. I always laugh to myself, or make a comment to Sarah, that it's so funny to see sushi joints - where one likes to see operating-room cleanliness - sandwiched between so many random, not-so-clean strip malls, vacuum repair shops, and wig stores. And on a street named "El Camino Real." (Just FYI, that's Spanish for "The Royal Road" or "The King's Highway.")

So, I finally decided to give them all their fair shake! You know - don't judge a book by it's cover and all that crap. I need sushi. I crave sushi. And some of the greatest sushi joints that I've tried in the past haven't looked all that special from the outside. Maybe I'll find a diamond in the rough? Maybe I'll find that little place that no one knows about, that's run by some 90-year-old master sushi chef who gets line-caught fish right off of the boat every morning at 4 AM! Or maybe I'll just get a bacterial infection that cleans me out like an industrial bottle of Draino.

First thing's first - map out the plan. On the map below, you'll see nine push pins within the sushi corridor, as we're going to refer to the shaded area. The seven pins in green are the legitimate joints with El Camino addresses, while the two outliers in blue are close to the route, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Click Here to View Larger Map

Here's the list, from north to south:
  • Mijouri Sushi Bune Restaurant
  • Sunny Sushi
  • Sushi House
  • Ichiban Sushi
  • Kobe Sake Japanese Sushi Restaurant
  • Okane Sushi
  • Wast Wast Sushi House
  • Sushi Kei
  • Osho Japanese Cuisine

Being someone who thinks in Excel, this has to be a quantitative exercise. I mean, I just can't eat at each of these and then expect to remember if it was good or not. I need a score, a measurement. So, here's the plan:

  1. Each joint will be sampled for dinner, not lunch. I want to be able to relax over the fish, not just scarf it down.
  2. For the most part, I'll get the orders "to go." But, I will order them in the place and wait for my order while I absorb the scene.
  3. I'll order a selection of "standard" items at each place, and then add on an additional roll and a few additional nigiri items that are specialties, either listed on their daily board, by menu highlights, or by asking the server for "what's good today."
  4. The standard items will be (pretty normal stuff, but I'm sure some places will be out of a few, which is why I list so many):
    • Hamachi (Yellowtail)
    • Hirame (Flounder)
    • Maguro (Tuna)
    • Saba (Mackerel)
    • Sake (Salmon)
    • Uni (Sea Urchin)
    • California roll
    • Spicy tuna hand roll
  5. For the "special" items, I'll go for one of their signature rolls, and one or two selections of Nigiri that they recommend. I'll try to stay away from Toro, since I'd like to stay on a budget, and from any shellfish, veggie rolls, crazy-ass $20 rolls, or salads. This is pure sushi!
  6. For the full taste of the establishment, I'll use their included chopsticks and soy sauce. Plus, that'll save me like 18 cents per joint from not using my own soy or imparting wear and tear on my personal chopsticks.

Judging the food will be equally rigid:

  1. 30 points - Fish Freshness, Texture, and Taste - It better be fresh, firm, and tasty.
  2. 30 points - Rice Texture, Stickiness, and Taste - I have to admit that I like my rice sticky, but I also like it to have some flavor, and I like it to be a bit warm.
  3. 10 points - Nori Taste and Texture - Since rolls are in the mix, they'd better be good.
  4. 10 points - Creativity - Their specialties better be special.
  5. 20 points - Vibe - This covers cleanliness (the Sarah test), crowds (are other people eating there), waitstaff (were they nice), etc. Basically, would I go back with someone else.
  6. I'll also post the total price, and the price for the standard items (if I remember to write them down... I should buy an iPhone for this project!)

Hopefully, I can get started this week. But, with nine joints and the pace at which I eat sushi, this may take a while. Stay tuned...

Let the soy sauce flow!