Occupation: Program Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Sushi Groove
Reviewed Sushi Groove: Friday, April 9, 2010
My husband I and I took a leisurely stroll from our house to Sushi Grove on a beautiful Friday evening. The Sushi Grove neighborhood is charming, surround by tree-lined streets with cute shops and restaurants and the Hyde street cable car filled with excited tourists snapping photos while hanging on the rails slugging by. Bacchus wine bar is right next door, and Swensen’s Ice Cream is half a block away. It’s a terrific neighborhood.
When we arrived, we were seated immediately at our table. We always sit at the sushi bar, which is fun and exciting, since you are so close to the action, but this time we made a reservation and sat at a table. The space was a little tight. There was hip music playing, and the early dinner crowd was a mix of young hipsters and couples out for a date.
Our waitress, Michelle, provided excellent, friendly service the entire night and took our drink order immediately. Sushi Grove has a small but excellent wine list with great selections that pair very well with fish, but we opted to go for sake instead to keep with the authentic Japanese theme. I had the Kaori sake, and was very happy with the huge pour Michelle provided me. The Sake was slightly sweet and fruity and did a great job of getting me in the mood for the weekend.
We started our dinner with classic Japanese fare: miso soup and edamame, which are always excellent at Sushi Groove. They were both very tasty, as usual.
The next item was the baked mussel appetizer that came served in the mussel shell with a spicy sauce. Absolutely delicious! Savory, creamy, and with just the right amount of spice. Next came the Walu and Sake Usuzukuri: thinly sliced walu sashimi with a splash of ponzu, tobiko, and minced jalepeño. The presentation was gorgeous. The dish arrived at the table looking like an exotic tropical flower. The fish was so fresh it tasted like it had jumped straight out of the ocean onto the plate. Really special dish.
The Tai Me Up ( empura asparagus with fresh crab, torched red snapper, and spicy aioli) and Chili Spicy Tuna (spicy tuna, cucumber, and avocado with tuna on top) rolls were next. Both were beautifully prepared and loaded with incredibly fresh fish. The tempura asparagus combined with the crab was a uniquely delicious combo. Finally, my favorite, the Nigiri: Japanese eggplant, hamachi, toro, and sake. The fish portions were generous and extremely fresh. To DIE for.
Sushi Groove is an excellent neighborhood sushi spot with great food and great service in an adorable neighborhood. I will definitely go back!
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: La Ciccia
Reviewed Sushi Groove: Sunday, April 18, 2010
We arrived at Sushi Groove about fifteen minutes before our reservation and were seated promptly; the restaurant was crowded but not full. Parking in the neighborhood can be dicey, but there is a paid garage across the street from the restaurants. One of the first things that I noticed, once seated, was the volume of the music. It seemed to change from pleasant background to overly loud and annoying, regardless of the volume of conversation in the room. This weirdness with the music continued throughout the evening and made it so that we had to vacillate back and forth between yelling across the table and using a normal inside voice.
The service was helpful and attentive, and even though they seemed stressed, they were quick with drink refills and ensured that you had everything you needed. The courses were well spaced and paired well. We started off with the tuna tartare salad and the octopus salad, which is basically an octopus sunomono. The octopus was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the entire dish was enjoyable to eat. The tuna in the tartare was fresh and firm, and the quail egg added a great creaminess to the dish. That said, the salad with the tartare felt misplaced and didn’t really match the rest of the dish.
The sushi was delicious, and the cuts were generous and well done. A complaint that we shared was that the rice was mushy and not firm as you expect sushi rice to be, but the flavor was spot on. We ordered ama ebi, hotate, kampachi, sake toro, hamachi toro, and uni. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of uni, and when we received the ama ebi it seemed as though they were not overly fresh. We asked the restaurant if they had the heads to fry (a common preparation when you order ama ebi), and they did not. The hotate was excellent -- a huge piece of sweet, tender scallop. The sake toro is not to be missed -- firm, rich, and delicious salmon belly topped with a mixture that tastes of bonito and sweet shallot.
The rolls were well prepared and creative. They definitely won’t pass for "traditional," however for fusion-style sushi, they work very well. Using the very simple litmus test that I use to judge a sushi restaurant's rolls -- the venerable spicy tuna roll -- Sushi Groove passed with flying colors. The excellent Firecracker Roll had spicy salmon, avocado, tobiko, and tempura flakes for an extra crunch. The Techno Roll, Sushi Groove’s answer to the Rainbow Roll, was good but lacked substance in the middle, causing it to fall apart while trying to eat it. The Sunkist Roll had shrimp tempura in the middle with salmon and lemon on top and a mild aioli that was set off well against the shrimp.
Dessert was the Green Tea Tiramisu, which, while it was a pretty good homage to the classic dish, didn’t taste of green tea at all.
I enjoyed the meal, and if I was in or near the neighborhood and was in the mood for less traditional sushi, Sushi Groove would be my first choice. The meal was very good, but I felt, given the amazing number of choices for great sushi in San Francisco, that my money could’ve been better spent elsewhere.
Occupation: Online Candy Store Owner
Favorite Restaurant: Babalou's Mediterranean Restaurant
Reviewed Sushi Groove: Tuesday, April 20, 2010
After walking a hilly forty minutes from BART to Sushi Groove, my friend, my fiancé, and I were hungry. Really hungry. Our table wasn't quite ready for us, so we perused the menu while we waited outside. I was glad I hadn't brought novice sushi diners with me when I saw how focused the selection was on fish and rolls. Soon, the cheery hostess seated us, and we were immediately drawn into the specials menu.
The walu and sake small plate caught my eye with its promise of sweet/sour (ponzu sauce), spicy (minced jalapeño), salty (tobiko/flying fish roe) and silky smooth (fresh butterfish and salmon). I ordered it and a bottle of hot Sake as soon as our waitress approached us. The hostess quickly brought out our sake. By the time our small plate arrived, we had been ready to order for a bit. Our waitress didn't seem to notice that we were ready when she dropped off our starter, but we caught her attention before she walked away.
After ordering a couple of rolls, seaweed salad, and miso soup, the three of us pounced on the surprisingly small small-plate. The presentation was pleasing, but for $24, I expected a little more fish. A single sliver of jalapeno topped each alternating slice of butterfish and salmon. A small mound of daikon radish sat in the middle of a mini moat of ponzu sauce. Next to the average salmon, the butterfish really stood out. It practically melted in your mouth, and I enjoyed the tiny bit of heat from the jalapeno with the mild flavor of the fresh fish. Later in the evening, when we ordered a second round of rolls, we realized that the dish we got was not as described on the menu. I wondered how different the small plate would have been had it been delivered as advertised, with the jalapeño minced instead of slivered, and with tobiko (flying fish roe) instead of shredded radish. We felt a little cheated on the tobiko, but too much time had passed when we noticed the substitution. We were onto other dishes already so we didn't say anything.
Mild miso soup arrived at the perfect temperature in unusually large bowls. The seaweed salad was also generously portioned. I appreciated the large bowl, however, the salad was almost soupy. We all thought it was a little strange having to fish the seaweed out of the dressing. The hostess checked in with us, and we ordered another bottle of sake. As soon as the rolls arrived, all thoughts of the seaweed salad evaporated. The Burning Man and Veggie Dragon rolls were impressive. I would go back just for the Veggie Dragon with its avocado, perfectly cooked eggplant, asparagus tempura, and sweet sauce. We all agreed it was one of the best veggie rolls any of us had ever tried. When we saw the Burning Man roll on the specials menu, we were intrigued by the idea of a sushi roll topped with Kobe beef. We were glad we hadn't passed it up once we tasted the tender topping on the crisp shrimp tempura roll.
We wished we ordered more rolls in the beginning because our waitress was a little difficult to flag down. The impression we got was that she was in a bad mood and didn't want to deal with the customers. Both the water/bus boy and the hostess spent far more time at our table serving us with a smile. Our second round of rolls took a long time to arrive, considering half of the restaurant had emptied out at that point. I could hear the mellow music over the lower volume of the crowd and finally took a moment to notice the warm colors on the simply decorated walls. The rolls that arrived were not in the same league as the previous two. The Kamikazi roll was nondescript, and my friend and I were so overwhelmed by the “fishy” flavor of the toro in the Toro and Asparagus roll we couldn't eat it.
I was disappointed that our experience (from the service to the food) was so uneven, especially since the good was very, very good. I'm pretty sure I could navigate the specials menu for a fantastic meal at Sushi Groove (perhaps the Veggie Dragon and a special containing walu?), but I probably won't go out of my way for it.