San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world for a myriad of reasons (from its #onelove liberal energy to its vertigo-inducing hills to its sweeping coastal views), but most of all, because it’s one of the ultimate food meccas in the U.S. for sushi/seafood lovers. Every single visit to this heavenly city by the Bay, my palate leaves deliriously satisfied.
Most recently, I was there last month with my parents – dad’s very first time in California after nearly 30 years in the States and mom’s first ever trip to the city. It was for a family friend’s wedding so a good chunk of the weekend was already accounted for, but we were able to sneak away for a number of unforgettable meals, three involving uni (surprise, surprise) and one of which was a mouthwatering lunch at Akiko’s on Bush Street (not to be confused with the one on Mason Street – same name but not related).
Since my parents tend to prefer simple and filling over delicate bite after delicate bite, we chose to just sit in the dining area and order a la carte – but I would LOVE to return next time I’m in town in order to finally try the much-buzzed-about omakase at the sushi bar.
That said, what we did have was still phenomenal, with the highlight of the meal being – you guessed it – the melt-in-your-mouth, insanely sweet, fantastically creamy Santa Barbara uni.
Great sea urchin always has a pure taste that is reminiscent of the ocean, but this was beyond. I like to think of uni as being the foie gras of the sea, and this order of sea urchin nigiri ($12 for two pieces) not only tasted like that – it looked like it too. Pure uni heaven.
That aside, we also tried the “Sashimi Tasting” ($34) from the menu, but in a total amateur move, I forgot to ask exactly which items were included before ordering. Upon arriving at the table, the fish was absolutely fresh but your standard combination of sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), and suzuki (sea bass).
The other highlights were two additional orders of nigiri that were thoroughly delectable, both served already-dressed omakase style. The kanpachi (amber jack from Japan) was clean and smooth while the umimasu (ocean trout from Australia) was exquisitely fatty and tender – check out that MoMA-worthy marbling! A+ beauty.
Akiko’s – Pros:
- The quality and freshness of the sushi was flawless and left me craving more, and I loved that pre-dressed, a la carte nigiri was even an option away from a more formal omakase experience. Very rare to see that offered.
- The uni was impeccable.
- The overall decor was very charming – chic, rustic, and cozy.
Akiko’s – Cons:
- Sitting in the dining room, you immediately feel twinges of regret not being able to order directly from the chef instead. I couldn’t help but sense that unlike at some restaurants, there’s a significant drop in how fun and innovative the food is at the sushi bar vs. away from it.
- Speaking of being in the dining room, our reservation was made well in advance but we happened to be given one of the tables on the edge (there’s only about eight or so small tables total) right next to where the cash register was. Thus, throughout the entire meal, there was a constant flow of wait staff traffic that made for a somewhat disruptive experience.
Rating [out of 5]: ★★★★
Address: 431 Bush St., San Francisco, CA