Sushi Zone: Great Value off Market
1815 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tucked away in an alley that actually is off Market Street (wow, in-car navigation systems really DO work!), I convinced my buddy, The Jeremy Piven Doppelganger (TJPD), to stand in line because the wait was supposedly worth it. The kicka** parking spot we nabbed on the side street also helped us with our overall experience.
We were a little skeptical (and exhausted after 4 long days of working through a local techie conference), and weren’t sure if this place was good because of the “scarcity principle” at work (where the long wait could convince patrons that the food was great in order to rationalize the long wait), or if the food was really all that. Well, it was all that.
We arrived at about 6:30 pm on a Wednesday, and were the 3rd 2-person party in line, the 4th party overall. The place is definitely cozy, and the wait was as legendary as you’ll read about elsewhere. Basically, you wait while you’re in line. Then you wait to get fed since there’s only one chef (who looks like a Japanese Mario of the Mario Brothers / Donkey Kong game). The 3 staff are friendly but always moving. We sat at the bar, and our waitress took our order fairly quickly, though there was a slight wait for the sake and water (no tea). Basically, you have got to plan ahead so that you eat when you are normally hungry, but not completely famished. Which is hard, because if you get there at 4:45 or 5pm and get seated immediately, would you really be that hungry unless you worked market hours?
For the record, there are 2 booths that can fit 4 people (maybe 5 if they placed an unseen chair at the head of the table). If you’re somehow a 2-person party and seated there, they reserve the right to bump you to the counter if space opens up. There were 5 counter seats on one side of the counter, and then 4 more on the other side. They will seat parties in order, which in our case led to what I thought was an inefficiency — 1 counter seat was open between 2 people, and another 1 was open at the other end, so it looked like:
x x o x x
If the next party up is a 3-person party, do you let those 2 empty seats go unused, or do you bump in the next 2-person party? Or, as a 2-person party, do you pretend to be solo diners, so you each get seated, and wait to sit together after any of the current 2-person parties leave??? Ahhh, restaurant issues.
Anyway, the majority of the prices were in the $5-6 range for 6-piece rolls, and they were sizable and filled with fresshhhh fish. Many specials came with papaya or mango, which added a tasty, unique twist to old favorites. Below is what we ordered, and prices if I can remember.
- Shitake Mushroom stuffed with Salmon – $5 for 2: Note to self, do not confuse “shitake” with “portabello” in your state of hungry delerium. Other than the buzzkill in the size of the morsels, TJPD said it was quite tasty. The shrooms were toaster-oven baked and then stuffed.
- Hawaiian #2: 6 pieces of albacore tuna and mango in a mayo sauce, topped with chopped macadamia nuts.Sounds weird, but the sweetness of these nuts and the crunchy texture blended well with the sweet mango and sushi-ness of the seaweed & albacore.
- Unagi with Papaya: 6 pieces of the usual broiled eel, but the papaya lends a very sweet natural taste to the broiled teriyaki sauce. An overall much sweeter combo but it worked for me.
- Hama- and Tuna-something Roll with Mango: Ok, so the Marketing Department didn’t do too well in naming these, but these were 2 6-piece orders of the same thing, just different fish. A little bit of the fish with green onion, a little mayo sauce, and then mango, again, to give it a little twist.
- Spicy Hamachi: Not the usual copout where the chef uses the Vietnamese Rooster Hot Sauce to make the fish spicy. Instead, the chef here makes an effort to add fresh jalapeno chili strips and lime to the roll, which definitely gives this more of a Latin, ceviche-like flavor. A delightful surprise.
Believe it or not, I actually had leftovers….4 pieces that I did take home with me. We shared a large order of the cold unfiltered sake, and the total came to more then $40. But TJPG was getting me the dinner to seal up a bidness promise from before, and he thought it was worth it, too, so we decided to splurge.
If you check this place out, where your comfy shoes, don’t cop any attitude, and wear layers in case you have to stand outside.
No takeout menu, and lots of things written on a whiteboard, so unfortunately as of this writing, MenuPages, MenuPix, and AllMenus searches came up null.