There’s no doubt that sushi is one of the most popular and beloved foods in the Bay Area, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone. From simple but delicious ingredients to unusual and daring options, each of these recommendations have unique and captivating flavors. At its core, sushi is all about harmony between flavors and textures, while ensuring absolute freshness in each taste. When done right, each bite will nearly melt in your mouth, yet still exploding with richness and flavors, from briny to buttery to savory to even sweet. Yes, the quest for the best sushi is a favorite pastime for many a connoisseur, especially in a seafood haven, like San Francisco. Resident foodie, Ryan Hunter Bluestone will take you through his favorites in this eclectic town.
If you’re looking for some of the best sushi in San Francisco, many will head right to Japan Town, because you’ll find ten solid and traditional sushi restaurants within a two to three block section of each area, such as near Webster St and Geary Blvd. Sure, there are many choices up and down Japan Town, and you can’t go wrong with their perfected rice and hand-trimmed fish made with the heritage and love that it deserves. Here, you’ll certainly find some of the most delicious, but generally more basic, sushi restaurants in all of San Francisco, notes Ryan Bluestone.
For local Ryan Bluestone, however, most of his favorites can be found in other parts of the city. Each place boasts melt in your mouth offerings to please even the snobbiest of sushi lovers. These restaurants vary in style, offering everything from traditional Japanese fare to more innovative and fusion styles but Ryan Bluestone has broken them into his favorite a la carte sushi spots and his favorite omakase style spots here. Regardless of your taste or preference, you’re sure to find something on his list that will please you and your fellow diners.
Ryan Bluestone’s Favorite a la carte style sushi spots
1. Ozumo in the Embarcadero area. Ozumo has been in San Francisco for over 20 years and resides on Steuart St, just off the Embarcadero. They offer excellent a la carte sushi like their Sekiwake roll, and other expertly made dishes. Ozumo says they focus on the culture and beauty of Japanese food, drink, and custom and they claim to have the largest premium imported sake list in the US. In addition to their top quality sushi, they have outstanding beef choices including various Kobe and Wagyu options. Ryan Bluestone suggests your table should share an Ise Ebi, a whole roasted Maine lobster with Shiso butter or any of the items from their robata grill. Ozumo is known for their house-made barbecue eel or Unagi.
2. Another favorite is Pabu Izakaya in the Financial District. Founded by chefs Michael Mina and the late Ken Tominaga, now guided by his son, Ken, as chef and partner. Pabu serves world class sushi, sashimi and an array of other creative dishes. They attest that they use globally sourced A5 Wagyu and fresh seafood that are flown in daily from Japan’s own Toyosu Market. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating and claim a modern take on traditional Japanese dining with an urban sophistication. The sushi lives up to that billing, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone. Head over to Pabu before 5:30 pm on weekdays for an amazing happy hour that features affordable handroll options and skewered items, hot from their robata grill.
3. Yet another solid option is Ace Wasabi Rock-N-Roll Sushi, nestled among so many good restaurants along Steiner St between the crowded and fun Chestnut and Lombard Streets, up north in the Marina District. They too offer indoor and outdoor seating, great food, and a buzzing atmosphere. Ace’s happy hour is one of the things that sets them apart. It is currently from 5 to 6 pm, with discounts on sashimi and small plates and more. Ryan Bluestone says this is a reasonably priced spot and one of his favorite go-to’s. All the rolls are great. Try the Bring it on Sampler plate which is a mix of Ace’s four favorite rolls. Victoria’s Secret, the Post Malone, and the Rocket Man are Ryan’s personal favorites. You get the idea, it’s a fun vibe here and the sushi menu is vast and top notch. Similar to Pabu, Ace Wasabi offers an incredible happy hour menu. Groups are allowed to order one item from this menu per table, but that is quite understandable when you see it. A beautiful platter of over twenty pieces of assorted sashimi for less than $1 a piece is unbeatable in this city.
4. Ryan Hunter Bluestone also loves Hakashi Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill in SOMA. Chef Julio, who runs Hakashi with a master stroke, learned from his own master, chef Norihiko Suzuki from Fukushima Japan. The student has become a master in his own right. All dishes are fresh and the portion size is commendable. The rice is just the right balance of sticky – perfectly in between too soft and too firm. The fish to rice ratio is also strong here. While this SoMA spot is newer than most, opening in 2019, it has gained a true following and is always lively and delicious. From the long list of unique nigiri options to Chef Julio’s signature rolls, every single thing is spectacular. A must try item is the sweet ebi nigiri, as Chef Julio brings you the prawn head fried afterwards.
Prices are very reasonable for San Francisco sushi, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone, which he expects is part of Hakashi’s allure and why it is another one of Ryan’s most acclaimed sushi spots. You can always expect a line here, so make sure to go early or call around 5pm for a reservation.
Ready to step up to Ryan Bluestone’s favorite omakase experiences?
1. Robin, one of Ryan Hunter Bluestone’s favorite spots for sushi, offers a personalized Omakase experience, with prices per person ranging from $99 to $199. Head chef, Adam Tortosa, offers picturesque works of art in his Hayes Valley restaurant which serves California-inspired Omakase. He uses top shelf ingredients such as black truffle, caviar, and A5 Wagyu. Menus are not part of the Robin experience, as Ryan Bluestone advises, you just let yourself be guided and treated by the expertly skilled hands of chef Tortosa. The food is spectacular and the atmosphere is hip (or hip-hop). Just tell them how much you want to spend between the $99 and $199, and then sit back and enjoy.
2. The Shota is another excellent choice for omakase sushi. They also fly in their seasonal seafood directly from the well-known Toyosu Fish Market in Japan. Their offerings are both beautiful and delicious. They offer a pre-fixe course of Edomae style omakase sushi and otsumami and sushiYa style dishes depending on the time of year. Guests will dine on about 15 courses and should expect to take about 2.5 hours for this truly special dining experience. Enjoy, says Ryan Bluestone.
3. Co-owners Kash Feng and Jackson Yu have earned a coveted Michelin star for their Edomae-style sushi restaurant, the very upscale and aptly named, Omakase. This 14-seat spot in the Design District near Showplace Square offers a high-end decadent omakase experience, priced at about $225 to $240 per person. The sleek and simple atmosphere all allows patrons to sit at the counter to get a close-up view of the expert chefs at work. It all works together beautifully; the quality of the food combined with the intimate experience makes diners feel like they are in on something very exclusive, says Ryan Hunter Bluestone.
4. Another high-end omakase spot, yet one that blends trendy with upscale very well, is the well-known Akiko’s. Akiko’s was the first omakase restaurant in San Francisco. It has an energy and immersive experience that, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone, is very different from many of the typically quiet sushi spots. This place is known to have jazz music in an industrial setting. The restaurant features a one-of-a-kind open concept chef’s stage as the main attraction where you can get a close-up view of Chef Ray Lee. They too fly in their fish from the famous Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo, and you can taste the differece! In 2023, Akikos expanded and moved to the East Cut part of downtown San Francisco. Expect to spend about $150 for the full lunch experience, and about $250 for the full dinner version. Ryan Bluestone assures you that either would be quite the treat!
Sushi is one of those wonderfully diverse foods that’s enjoyed by people all over the world. Whether you’re a fan of the basic California roll or something much more exotic, there are many sushi spots just right for you in San Francisco. What makes the San Francisco sushi scene so great is that there is a high-quality option in nearly every neighborhood. In Ryan Bluestone’s experience, the above-mentioned choices serve fish that tastes just as it should – like it came out of the ocean that day, so fresh and melting in your mouth.
So, if you’re looking for some of the best sushi in San Francisco, whether you are new to trying sushi or the most experienced Omakase traditionalist, look no further than these eight recommendations from Ryan Bluestone. From traditional Japanese sushi bars to more modern, innovative dining experiences, he’s got you covered. All of these restaurants will have you coming back for more. There is so much to explore regarding sushi in San Francisco, so don’t wait. Head out and experience some of the best food that this amazing city has to offer.