San Francisco: Getting Raw at Ichi Sushi


tuna // maguro

An informal survey of sushi spots in San Francisco brought me to Ichi Sushi. The Bernal Heights spot is tiny (though they are expanding to a larger location soon) and we waited about an hour for a couple of spots at the sushi bar. Although I have never been to Ichi before, I decided to trust Erik Aplin, Ichi’s sous chef and went omakase. We gave him a budget to keep in mind and it worked out splendidly.


cucumber salad

We started out with beer and cucumber salad. I wanted to order chicken wings but our server said to trust Erik. I suppose a lighter appetizer went better with our fish.

The first nigiri to hit our leaf “plate” was tuna. I generally don’t eat tuna because I don’t find it flavorful but this particular tuna was very good. Ichi is the sort of sushi joint where the chef decides what condiment goes on the fish. As a result, the tuna was already glistening with soy, emphasizing its deep ruby color.

sea bream

sea bream // tai

Next we moved onto sea bream. The delicate fish was great with my Hitachino white ale.


Hitachino white ale

My friend thought it was surprising I chose to drink beer instead of sake. I follow the rule of beer with sushi because sake is made from rice and the Japanese believe rice plus rice from the sushi is filling. Besides, I like Hitachino.

Japanese Horse Mackerel

Japanese horse mackerel // aji

I was starting to sense a pattern. I wasn’t going to get sushi’s greatest hits but what was really good and fresh that night. Next up was Japanese horse mackerel. It’s not as fishy/ oily as some other mackerels (my favorite is Spanish mackerel) but the little bit of ginger did cut down on the pungency.


sea bass // suzuki

I normally love bass but I think I would have preferred cooked sea bass which is unusual since I generally like raw fish. This was the only piece I wasn’t too keen on.

Japanese striped jack

Japanese striped jack // shima aji

The Japanese striped jack is similar to yellowtail. It was fresh and the soy sauce was perfect.

Hawaiian amberjack

Hawaiian amberjack // kona kampachi

I love yuzu. The Japanese citrus on the Hawaiian amberjack was excellent on this tasty nigiri.


gizzard shad // kohada

I remember the first time I ever had gizzard shad and it was served with pickled kelp like the one shown above. It was one of the best and most memorable sushi meals I ever had. And this brought back a lot of memories and feelings of good times.


ocean trout // umi masu

Initially I thought this orange-colored fish was salmon but it turned out to be ocean trout. I hadn’t had it before and it was delicious. Such a rich, clean flavor.

albacore belly

albacore belly // shiro toro

I generally don’t eat much albacore because I find the structure of the fish lacking. I know other sushi places will sear the edges to hold it together. I was then surprised the belly of the albacore wasn’t treated that way. After eating it, I realized I don’t like the half-cooked/half-raw albacore I’ve had before. This belly was delicate and just slightly fatty. Perhaps belly cuts are worth nothing on any fish– or animal. Bacon, anyone?


sea urchin // uni

Erik at some point earlier in our sushi fest asked if we liked uni. We kept expecting our next piece to be uni but it was always something else. When the uni finally was presented to us, it was magnificent. There was a piece and half of uni and it tasted so buttery. Like a really good natural seafood pudding.



Erik is apparently famous for his tamago and I’m glad we got a little piece of this egg sushi.

I’m looking forward to Ichi’s new space opening and visiting on my next trip.

Ichi Sushi

3369 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110  —  (415) 525-4750

© The Minty 2014