With one phenomenal dish after another, omakase is an experience that sets sushi lovers’ hearts aflame. The progressive meal is crafted to highlight the freshness of seafood and the skill of the itamae (or sushi chef) — omakase literally means “I’ll leave it up to you.” Contrary to what you might think, this style of dining is relatively new, tracing its origins to 1990s Japan, and we have the beloved Akikos to thank for introducing it to San Francisco in 2009. With the largest Japantown in the U.S. and more restaurants per capita than any other major city, there’s no shortage of omakase options here in S.F. in the present day. From mall counters to extravagant spreads, here are 10 omakase experiences to check out.
Blink and you’ll miss this no-frills sushi counter tucked in a corner of Japan Center Mall in the middle of Japantown. A steady stream of locals line up early to snag one of the eight seats at the small but mighty counter, where the chefs often strike up conversations with the customers. Oma offers its hyper-seasonal fish — including excellent toro and uni — in three omakase options, with the lowest price starting at a reasonable (for omakase, at least) $95 for 12 items.
The tastiest way to spend two hours, Omakase is one of the best high-end dining experiences in the city (at $240 for 18 courses). But don’t expect some rarefied temple of gastronomy. You’ll be sitting at the sushi bar, chatting with lively chefs, downing sake, and inhaling gold-flecked nigiri or seared nodoguro flown in from Japan that week (this Potrero Hill gem didn’t once have a Michelin star for nothing). With only a dozen or so seats in the house, reservations are a must.
There’s no denying the high-dollar luster of this jewel box near Alamo Square, where every four guests are guaranteed a personal chef to guide them through course after course of wonderous delicacies (the restaurant seats just 16 at a time). Ju-Ni sources most of their fish from the Toyosu Market in Japan. The 14-course omakase menu will set you back $198, but we can’t think of a more delicious way to blow through some cash.
Make no mistake, this unassuming neighborhood spot in the Richmond District is one of the top omakase experiences in the city, shining especially bright when it comes to nigiri. Chef Tomoharu Nakamura, who started his career at age 18 in Osaka, regularly flies in fish and seafood from Japan, and the menus often feature hard-to-find delicacies like Higashizawa uni from Hokkaido. Bonus: you can now enjoy a multi-course feast for takeout ($100), with each component carefully packed.
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Appointed in warm woods and sleek lines — with a sushi counter crafted out of elm — this small Japanese spot opened in 2014 in Jackson Square, where it quickly won a Michelin star and established itself as one of San Francisco’s most dynamic restaurants. Though priced on the high end at $198 per person, it’s one of the most filling options on this list, with a whopping 18 courses that incorporate hearty somen noodles, Wagyu sukiyaki and red miso soup into its raw fish lineup.
From over-the-top extravagance to fusion sushi, there are omakase experiences to suit every type of eater. Zushi Puzzle in the Marina District fits the bill when you want a chill, casual spot with excellent, reasonably-priced edomae-style sushi — the fish-on-rice variety — that we all know and love. For the omakase, bypass the tables and aim straight for the sushi bar, presided over by friendly pony-tailed chef Roger Chong for the past 20 years (you may want to call ahead to reserve your spot).
The owners of Sushi Sato — a bustling restaurant that brews beer on-site — designed its adjacent omakase room to celebrate Japanese cuisine in high style. The melding of traditional preparations with Northern-Cal seasonality has earned it Michelin recognition along with numerous local accolades. For a super luxe experience, reserve the private omakase room that’s decked out in moody red and black decor. You’ll be treated to a personal chef and exclusive drinks.
Omakase on a sliding scale is a concept we’re down with. Grab a seat at this funky, industrial dining room in Hayes Valley and tell the waiter what you’d like to spend within the suggested range of $109 to $209. Sit back and enjoy a parade of creative, fusion-style dishes, where amberjack is topped with Granny Smith apple shavings, bluefin tuna meets poblano soy, and caviar comes with housemade potato chips.
Don’t expect to see gold flakes and caviar — the omakase here is simple, straightforward and phenomenal, earning Michelin nods and a loyal fanbase. Still, An Sushi is somewhat under the radar. Located in the Japan East Center Mall, the cozy, cheerful spot is run by a husband and wife team who source seasonal delicacies from Japan, like rare snow crab and kanburi wild yellowtail. A rotating selection of intriguing, hard-to-find sakes rounds out the experience.
Only in S.F. will the tiny neighborhood spot around the corner have world-class omakase. Doma in Bernal Heights across from Precita Park is so under the radar that it doesn’t have a website, and restaurant hours can be “flexible,” but it’s worth the effort to sample some of the most relaxed, reasonably-priced omakase in the city. Perfect for a luxurious midweek meal, the only question is: can you get through all 21 courses? Their seasonal multi-course feasts are also available for takeout ($120).
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