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Wako (photo credit: Stephen Hsu)

 

Yuzuki Japanese Eatery (photo credit: Eric Wolfinger)

How to indulge in the omakase experience on a perfectly sane budget

The appeal of omakase is easy to understand: In a dining landscape that can cover a lot of new and unfamiliar territory, the burden of decision is on the chef, not you. Better yet, you’ll likely be invited to expand your horizons—sampling and discovering delicacies you might not have opted for on your own.

Of course, this implies a level of trust between you and your gastronomic guide. You’re investing in their expertise in sourcing the freshest, most interesting seasonal ingredients, and in their knowledge of how to handle and showcase them in the best way possible. The result is often a tab that stretches comfortably into the triple digits—per person. But it doesn’t have to! Here are seven SF spots where you can get awesome omakase for $100 or less.

Wako Japanese Restaurant
Oftentimes, the omakase experience can feel a little too buttoned up, which is why the friendly neighborhood vibe of this Inner Richmond spot is such a pleasure. In addition to their market price omakase nigiri, Wako offers a nightly seven-course progression that includes an assortment of appetite-igniting small plates: fresh, expertly cut sashimi, a warm dish, tempura, eight-piece nigiri, miso soup, and a dessert. The meal has a two-person minimum, so be sure to find a dining companion with a discerning palate and a hearty craving for close-your-eyes-good sushi.
price: $76

Kiss Seafood
The omakase at this pint-sized (seriously, it has like 15 seats) Japantown standby is a downright bargain. Run by a husband-and-wife team, there are two set chef’s choice options; the slightly more expensive “special” version offers a higher quality selection. At less than $80 its definitely worth the upgrade, and includes a solid, six-course parade of seasonally-inspired, traditional items like chawanmushi, Matsutake mushroom miso soup, and assortments of sushi and sashimi.
Price: $60 to $78

Pink Zebra
There’s been quite the buzz surrounding this perma-pop up from Mission Chinese Food alum Jesse Koide since it set up shop in the Mission’s Tao Yin last October. In addition to a crave-worthy a la carte menu, which features everything from traditional yakitori to Hurricane popcorn with fried pig ears, it also offers what may be one of the city’s best omakase deals. Collaborator Rio Sakai leads the charge of this reservation-only, local market-driven experience, which is served exclusively at the space’s tiny five-seat sushi counter in the back of the restaurant. Each item in the 15-or-so-course menu is served individually and strikes a nice balance, mixing tradition with creative flourishes. On any given night, your smartly orchestrated journey might include items like house-made tofu, poke, kombu-cured sea bass, Mendocino uni nigiri, live butter clam, and the traditional meal-capping tamago.
Price: market (approximately $85)

Yuzuki Japanese Eatery
Back in August of last year, this Mission spot dropped “Izakaya” from its name and introduced a three-night-a-week sushi omakase option as part of its new “Japanese Eatery” identity. Now priced at $100 per person (despite originally launching at $75), the two-hour-long curated dinner requires guests to reserve at least one week in advance, to allow for proper preparation. But good things come to those who plan ahead, and Osaka-bred chef Kentaro Ikuta has earned plenty of praise for his new direction in the kitchen. Expect silky, house-made tofu steamed with sea brine, treats like seaweed-cured sea bream, and thoughtful inflections of salt koji seasoning on the eight-course menu. A special heads up to sake fans: The in-house sake somm guides you through their substantial list, which features gems like a sparkling variety and special flights.
Price: $100 Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights

Maruya
Maruya’s Masaki Sasaki bills himself as a “simple sushi chef,” which feels like an almost unjustly modest assessment for the guy behind one of the city’s top omakase experiences. The young Michelin-starred restaurant offers a couple “leave it to the chef” options, but the entry-level eponymous omakase represents a great value at $88 a person. Meals begin with a sampling of fresh-from-the-market, small welcoming plates—delicacies like tofu with uni or truffle, grilled items (yakimono), clam miso soup (owan), and classically executed sashimi and nigiri. You won’t leave hungry.
Price: $88

Kusakabe
This Financial District restaurant is so serious about its omakase that the a la carte menu is only offered as a supplement if you’re still hungry after the meal is served. And looking at this thoughtfully laid out prix fixe, that probably won’t happen. An initial welcoming tea is followed by a “sushi prelude” and sashimi courses; Italian black truffle or duck miso soup; assorted plates; a warm dish; three kinds of sushi of the day; and a grand finale of toro or Wagyu beef sushi. Guided by the kaiseki principles of seasonality and harmony, it’s a truly unique omakase experience designed to provoke, engage, and satisfy.
Price: $95

Akiko’s Restaurant
Hidden next to an Irish bar on Bush Street—and not to be confused with the sushi spot of the same name on Mason Street—this Financial District favorite is a definitely worth seeking out. In a recent review, SFGate’s tastemaker Michael Bauer raved about the 15-course experience here, praising the skill displayed, the off-the-beaten-path items, and the smart preparations—think sous-vide abalone, Madagascar shrimp with fried heads and raw tails. While this omakase still falls on the pricier side of the spectrum, diners have attested that you can give the sushi chef a price range, to arrive at a selection that’s just for you.
Price: $80 to $100
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