If you’re a follower or you’ve simply read a few of my articles, you’ll notice that a common theme of mine is the lack of food variety while growing up. I was never fond of fish as a child because of bones. When I grew up, I never ate sushi because, well, it was expensive and we didn’t grow up with a lot of money, as I’ve said before, so eating raw, fancy fish was pretty much out of the question.
My first run-in with “sushi” didn’t happen until I went off to college. You’ll notice I placed sushi in quotes because...and I’m ashamed to admit it...but my first sushi was a pack of California Rolls from Safeway, the grocery store. Sad, I know, but I’ll just tell you this: it was delicious. At the time and for a poor college student living off $3,000 per semester.
No, but seriously, my first experience of sushi was at a restaurant in Palo Alto, CA that I don’t even remember the name of. I remember thinking it was decent and not like anything I’ve had before. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of eating at different sushi restaurants in California across the Bay Area to a few places in Seattle, WA. My wife and I normally throw in a visit to a sushi restaurant whenever we go on vacation so we’ve tried a few places in Vancouver, BC and at least one place in Virginia Beach, VA.
What is Omakase?
Throughout all these places, my palate has gone from eating partially cooked sushi such as California Rolls with real crab (not from Safeway!) and crazy, saucy rolls with even crazier names to fully raw rolls. Over time, I’ve learned to love the natural flavors of raw fish. Then, I discovered nigiri. The simple, yet elegant mixture of raw fish over a small ball of rice was the perfect balance!
My first nigiri was an order of Blue Fin Otoro. If you know, you know. And I know, this was the worst and best first nigiri decision. Nothing after this tasted the same. I was hooked on nigiri and always ordered it whenever we ate sushi.
Then, the day came where I was brave enough to order something off the paper menu and on the menu on the wall. Something called “omakase”. Of course, I asked what it was, shyly because I didn’t want anyone to know that I didn’t know. For anyone who doesn’t already know, omakase is normally referred to as chef’s choice. This meant you would get an order of 8-10 pieces of nigiri, all hand picked by the head chef. Normally, it has almost every fish that’s on the menu with the occasional eel, sea cucumber, or masago.
In my experience, omakase normally consists of the best cuts. You could get a few lean salmon cuts as starters, with some fattier tuna or salmon cuts that practically melts in your mouth. Sometimes, there’d be seared baby lobster, which is bomb! But the real star? Wasabi. And I don’t mean the wasabi that comes with the table. I mean, real wasabi, ground by the restaurant staff just moments before. This. Stuff. Is. Gold.
For anyone who has never had real wasabi, I highly suggest going to try it. You’ll notice the difference right away. Real wasabi has a much, much better flavor and highly accentuates the sushi you’re eating. I normally only eat real wasabi with nigiri sushi or sashimi, because any other roll just isn’t worth it.
You also have to be very selective of where you eat real wasabi. I’ve been to a few restaurants and the delivery of it just isn’t the same. Sometimes, it’s too pasty. Other times, it’s finely cut and not ground. Now, this could be a personal preference, but I definitely prefer and highly recommend ground real wasabi. Though, I do admit that I just love wasabi in general and have eaten it no matter how it’s delivered.
But boolsis, I thought you don’t eat spicy foods? Yes, I know. However, I’ll make the occasional exception. Especially for wasabi. Know why? Because if I eat too much of it, I can drink water and the spice is gone! Seriously! That’s what I love about it. There’s an immediate brake to this spiciness.
Raw, Buttery Goodness
The best wasabi and omakase that I’ve had, though? It’s definitely from a restaurant called Amami Sushi. Before I link out to where it is, a brief history for context: I first discovered this place in San Bruno, CA with my wife. This restaurant was decent sized but the parking lot was very, very small. And I remember the restaurant would get pretty busy. Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times we went before they expanded. My wife and I rediscovered their delicious foods when they opened up more restaurants.
To date, we know of four restaurants that carry the “Amami” namebrand. All but three, I believe, are owned by the original chef. However, our favorite place to eat at is Amami San Sushi in South San Francisco, CA. This place is normally pretty busy but always, always delicious. Especially when their head chef is the one preparing!
We have yet to be disappointed with the omakase from this place. The fish selection is superb and the wasabi (I know, you’re tired of hearing about wasabi) is phenomenal. The fish cut is always perfectly balanced with the amount of rice that you get. There’s never too much or too little. Occasionally, the omakase consists of salmon, tuna, baby lobster, and a few other selections. My favorites are the fatty tuna and baby lobster. Both of these are buttery in their own ways! Sometimes, the salmon is just as buttery but it depends on the chef’s decision that day. Ah, I can already taste the fish as I’m writing this. In fact, I might drop in tomorrow for lunch!
If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend dropping in for a bite!