Though San Francisco is a ten-hour flight from Japan, you wouldn’t know it by the volume of precious, ice-packed chests arriving daily from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market to create the city's best sushi. San Francisco is home to an impressive network of master sushi chefs, trained at acclaimed Japanese restaurants, and opening their own seafood restaurants in the Bay Area. Whether your ideal meal is super-fresh, simply prepared nigiri or wildly inventive omakase, there’s a sushi bar for every taste.
RECOMMENDED: The best Japanese restaurants in SF
Sushi in San Francisco
This upscale restaurant serves omakase (chef’s choice) only: $98 for seven courses or $165 for 10. The carefully calibrated progression of dishes is designed to achieve a distinctive balance of tastes, colors, and cooking methods (roasting, steaming, frying, simmering and served raw). Mitsunori Kusakabe, an alum of Nobu Tokyo, New York and Miami Beach, oversees the sushi bar. After leaving Miami, Kusakabe honed his skills at Sushi Ran, the revered Sausalito sushi restaurant. He’s is an expert in traditional Edomae sushi techniques, as well as a certified blowfish butcher—order accordingly.
This Michelin-starred fish haven is headed up by chef Jackson Yu, a local restauranteur who also owns several outposts of Live Sushi and Okane, next door. Yu moved to the Bay Area at the age of 18 and has been honing his skills in preparing traditional Edomae-style sushi for two decades. The restaurant offers two fixed-price tasting menus, the Hideaki omakase (two appetizers, one sashimi, 10 pieces of nigiri and one owan for $150) or the Yamato omakase (two appetizers, two sashimi, one yakimono, 12 pieces of nigiri and one owan for $200). Nearly all the fish is flown from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market—shipments arrive three times a week. (Even the Gen-emon porcelain dishware is imported.) Splurge on the sake pairing, with is served in handcrafted Seikado pewter cups and pitchers.
Ju-Ni translates to “twelve” in Japanese, a nod to the jewel box-sized restaurant’s 12 seats. Headed up by chef Geoffrey Lee and his business partner, Tan Truong, the Nopa newcomer has garnered considerable accolades since opening in 2016, including a 2017 Michelin star. A single sushi chef is devoted to every four guests, resulting in both impeccable service and an intimate vibe. The fish for the 18-course omakase menu ($145) is sourced from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo; bite is delivered with a soliloquy on the origin, creative process and tradition behind the dish.
Hinata’s head chefs, Gavin Leung and Weida Chen, have years of experience under their belts after working at Sushi Ran, Ijji and Tazaki Sushi. Their Civic Center sushi spot offers just two choices: 18 courses for $78 or 23 courses for $108. Go with the latter, the grand omakase, which includes an appetizer, nigiri, three multi-bite “movements” of progressive flavors, owan and dessert. The seafood is flown in several times a week from Tsujiki Market.
No, it’s not technically in San Francisco—but trust us, it’s worth the ferry ride. (If you can’t be persuaded to make the trip, check out Sushi Ran’s newer, izakaya-style sister-spot, Nomica, in the Castro.) After opening his doors 30 years ago in Sausalito, owner Yoshi Tome is credited with spawning the current wave of upscale omakase restaurants. The spot is known for imaginative sushi, sourced both locally and from Tokyo. First-timers can’t go wrong with the moriawase ($26), which features six pieces of fish, including kindai-tenku bluefin tuna, yellowtail, New Zealand king salmon, steamed prawn, and two freshly-sourced choices from the chef.
Japanese-born chef Takashi Saito refined his skills at AME and Izakaya Yuzuki. In 2017, his work at Hashiri was awarded a Michelin star. The atmosphere is sophisticated and modern, with a Japanese cypress bar and a canopy of seasonal light projections on the ceiling. The dishes are based in Edomae sushi techniques, but incorporate contemporary West coast flavors. Imported, seasonally rotating fish from—where else?—Tsukiji Market is paired with fresh produce from local purveyors. Don’t skimp on pairings: Hashiri is known for its excellent selection of old vintage burgundy, rare sake, and Japanese whiskey. Vegan and vegetarian options are available upon request.
Akiko’s Restaurant—not to be confused with the unrelated Akiko’s Sushi Restaurant—has been a Japanese mainstay for more than 30 years. With its exposed brick walls and minimalist wood-and-steel decor, the space feels industrial, but comfortable. Though Akiko’s serves a wide range of rolls, the menu’s real star is the sashimi, sourced fresh daily from local purveyors, as well as Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market. Akiko’s specializes in preparing rare fish and inventive flavor combinations, like the monkfish liver, silky Ensuii uni, and gindara (black cod, squid miso, roe, and Koji egg yolk). The menu is helpfully categorized by white fish and “vibrant” fish (think buttery, full-flavor varieties), as well as roe, egg, tofu, and crustaceans.
The constant wait for a table is testament to the quality at this intimate, 30-year-old Inner Sunset restaurant. It’s owned by Steve and Koio Fujii, along with their sons, Eric and Charlie, who often make an appearance behind the bar. The ever-changing line-up includes an array of nigiri, rolls, and hand-rolls. But regulars know to order off the day’s specials, listed on the chalkboard behind the bar, or just ask the chef to concoct something special. (He’ll gladly oblige.)
Ichi Sushi is a low-key sushi spot with an admirable pedigree. Executive chef Tim Archuleta and his partner, Erin Archuleta founded the Japanese standby over a decade ago. After growing their business with perennially slammed locations in the Mission and Bernal Heights, the pair downsized to the original Mission District location in 2017. The restaurant offers a la carte rolls, sashimi, and nigiri, as well as omakase service. Opt for the assorted sashimi plate ($24), which typically includes maguro, umi masu, and kanpachi. In addition to fresh sushi, ICHI maintains a long list of sake, Japanese beer, and wine.
This Michael Mina sushi and izakaya spot is moody and romantic, lit by a throng of glowing lanterns and swathed in stone, concrete, and Douglas fir. It’s helmed by chef Ken Tomonaga, who previously earned raves at Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma. The nigiri tasting menu ($110) is the highlight, which features nine courses of fish flown in daily from around the globe (including, of course, Japan). The sushi bar serves up rolls, sashimi, and sushi, as well as small plates. The booze here receives nearly as much attention as the fish, thanks to Master of Sake Stuart Morris, who also curates an extensive collection of single malt, blended, and single-grain Japanese whiskies. Tack on the sake pairing ($15) or whiskey ceremony ($16 to $225).