Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez
Since watching the beautifully produced food documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I’ve been fascinated with the omakase dining experience. For those seeking to completely release control with their meal, diners at an omakase allow the sushi chef to present courses, starting with the lightest at the beginning and richest at the end. After finding out about a brand new — just opened in June 2015 — Omakase in SOMA, I couldn’t wait to finally experience this type of meal for myself.
Omakase in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood presents itself as a traditional Tokyo Edomae-style with only 14 seats at the sushi bar. Don’t expect a set menu but rather three pricing options: $100, $150 and $200. The restaurant graciously invited me in to try the $150 omakase meal and to check out their new space.
My meal started out with a glass of Krug Cuvee and an extraordinary seafood salad with fresh greens, sea grapes, lobster and herring roe. A piece of river salmon sushi was also served alongside the salad with perfectly seasoned sushi rice. Let it be known that many of the ingredients served at Omakase are flown in from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market three times a week. If you’re looking for the freshest seafood, most amazing nigiri and a true understanding of umami, Omakase offers it all and then some.
My second course was a piece of squid ink-infused fish cake atop a tofu cream and wasabi sauce. The fish cake had the slightest hint of the sea and the creaminess and heartiness of the sauce made me wanting more. Such a perfect start to the meal.
I enjoyed a bottle of bright and balanced Nishida “Denshu” sake, which paired perfectly with the rest of the meal. The sake was served in a pewter vessel and the set runs anywhere from $600-$700. Apparently pewter is the preferred way to serve superior sake as it enhances the overall taste of the beverage. The porcelain and ceramic dishware and all of the beverage vessels are custom chosen for the restaurant and definitely become part of the dining experience.
The team of sushi chefs, headed by Jackson Yu, offered an assortment of three kinds of sashimi. Orange clam sat in a bed of cucumber and pickled radish, alongside slices of Japanese hamachi and seared Kingfish topped with lemon juice and sea salt. The plate was absolutely stunning and I don’t think I’ve ever had such fresh fish.
The 12 courses of nigiri was the star of the evening and I tried everything from seasonal white fish best eaten in summer; long, snake-like fish found in Japan; blue fin tuna marinated in soy sauce; mild Saba flown in from Japan that morning; seared Japanese butterfish; sea eel; and of course, otoro, Japan’s most prized blue fin tuna.
After completely indulging in some of the best fish from one of the most renowned fish markets, I’m fairly certain I’ll never look at nigiri the same ever again. The sushi chefs masterfully cut slices of fish, formed them over perfectly seasoned sushi rice and either topped the nigiri with thinly sliced garnishes or brushed them with a marinade. This nigiri experience was totally unreal and if you ever find yourself with the absolute privilege in indulging in an omakase experience, do it. And if you’re in the Bay Area, you must visit Omakase in SOMA.
As if my meal thus far wasn’t indulgent enough, my sushi chef handed over an otoro maki roll with torched seaweed, a red miso soup with shrimp heads, and finally, a freshly made piece of tamago sushi. The meal crescendoed into a rich and sumptuous peak before balancing out my palate with the sweet, velvety texture of the tamago.
My meal at Omakase was absolutely stunning and unforgettable. From the motions of using my fingers to grab each piece of nigiri, to watching my sushi chef blow torch nori and raw fish and feeling the cold sake in my pewter cups, Omakase may be one of the most interactive and refined dining experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. If a true omakase experience has been on your bucket list or if you’re seeking an unbelievable culinary treat for you and your loved one, Omakase in SOMA is where you need to go. For more information, visit www.omakasesf.com.