Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Sushi

31 Mar

ichiro-windowIt’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these posts, so I thought I’d jump back into this series with a post on one of my greatest culinary joys in life: sushi. Yeah, I know it’s weird that I love sushi so much, considering that I’m a non-fish eating vegetarian, but, what can I say – I can’t get enough of veggies rolled up in rice and seaweed. So here’s my guide to sushi eating downtown, and don’t worry, I asked fish eating friends for input.

Ichiro – 15th between Broadway and Franklin

Ichiro will always be my favorite sushi place in Oakland. Four years ago, when I had just started working in downtown Oakland, I went to a City Council meeting after work and I needed to find something to eat. Naively, I thought I could just walk from my office to City Hall, and that I’d certainly find places that were open for dinner. I walked around a bit and had almost given up when I saw the lights on at Ichiro. I pulled up a seat at the sushi bar, and immediately fell in love with the food and friendly atmosphere. The portions are huge and the veggies and fish are always very fresh. I quickly became a regular customer and often would arrange for all of my coworkers to order from there. I only vaguely remember it, but at some point, I became such a regular customer that they took a photo of me and put it up on their wall. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough, even though I go there a bit less now that their prices are higher than they used to be (though still reasonable). The only downside to Ichiro is that especially during lunch, the service can be slow. Also, forget about calling in a takeout order during lunch – they’ve gotten so busy that they rarely pick up the phone. But if you’d like to have a lesiurely lunch or are looking for a place that’s open for dinner, check out Ichiro. Also, especially if you drop in after work, make sure to sample their extensive sake offerings.

Ichi Japon – 17th between Franklin and Webster

Once Ichiro started getting too busy to order takeout there, I decided I needed to branch out and checked out a few other Japanese restaurants in the area. Most of them were not very good, and some of them were pretty bad. But Ichi Japon came in a solid second. The food is always tasty, though their portions are not as generous as Ichiro. The staff is also nearly as friendly, and I realized the other day that most of them know me by name now. But most importantly, their takeout is quick and reliable, which is sometimes what I’m looking for. The tempura in particular is delicious, and so is the udon. Sadly, at night Ichi Japon tends to be mostly deserted, so if you’re looking for a place to have a quiet dinner, this is where you should go.

Kai’s Japanese Restaurant – Washington and 8th

Kai’s is a bit outside of how far I’ll generally walk for lunch, and I’d probably never have gone there if dto510 hadn’t recommended it. I’ve only managed to go there once, but I was very impressed with the food. Their bento boxes are generous and tasty, and for some reason the thing that sticks out in my mind about Kai’s is their delicious green tea and the warming miso. Oh, maybe that’s because it was pouring rain the day I went there. If you’re in Old Oakland, Kai’s is worth checking out.

10 Responses to “Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Sushi”

  1. das88 March 31, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    I go to Ichiro a fair amount because my co-workers often drag me there. Other than it being open at night, I find little to recommend it. Lunch is an assembly line of mediocre to bad sushi. I think their Bento’s are a little better.

    Ichi Japon and Kai’s have a few good items – I especially like Kai’s spicy tuna salad. Overall, though, I find both of them to be pretty mediocre compared to their Grand Lake or Alameda counterparts.

    If you like vegetarian sushi, have you tried Cha-Ya in Berkeley. It is all non-meat.

    I think the DTO lunch scene is much more about sandwiches has per your earlier post.

    • Becks March 31, 2009 at 9:08 am #

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone describe Ichiro as mediocre, but I guess we all have different opinions.

      The food at Cha-Ya is amazing, but I haven’t been there in a while because it’s a bit out of the way and it’s always so crowded because it’s tiny. I wish they’d open up new, bigger spot in Oakland.

  2. Noah March 31, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Some of the best Sushi places in the Bay in my opinion:

    Koryo in Oakland on 43rd and Telegraph.

    Majori on Grand Ave

    Tachibana on College

    Berkeley Sushi House in the food court on Durant right above Telegraph

    Warakabune (Sushi boat) on Church Street in San Francisco

    Blowfish in San Francisco

  3. dto510 March 31, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    I think Ichi Ro is just great, not mediocre at all. And their sashimi salad is a really good deal. But since Noah mentioned Tachibana, I have to note that two people I know have been seriously sickened by their sushi! I recommend staying away.

    • das88 March 31, 2009 at 10:09 am #

      If you like sashimi salad, you have got to go to Yume in Alameda. Then come back and try to sing the ichy-praise.

      I only been to Tachibana once. It was pretty good, but I didn’t like all the kids running around. I felt like I was out in the burbs.

      In Oakland, the best nigiri and sashimi I have found is Mijori (nod to Noah). For some reason, though, they can’t seem to properly make a roll. Also in Grand Lake, Coach is pretty good but that saki-guy wierds me out (some people really like him, though). Take-sushi has ice-cold delicious 99 cent Sapporo drafts which go a long way to covering up their uneven sushi when you catch them on a down night.

      Anyhow, I have plans for lunch today at Ozumo. I was thinking up having a reasonably-priced Bento, but now I felled compelled to try their expensive sushi.

      • Becks March 31, 2009 at 10:22 am #

        You’ll have to let me know how Ozumo is. I’ve heard great things about it but haven’t yet made it over there.

        • das88 March 31, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

          Second day in a row for Ozumo lunch. Yesterday I had the Kobe-style burger ($10) – small but very delicious.

          Today prompted by this blog, I had the sashimi bento ($15). It came with three medium sized pieces of salmon, two small maguros, and two small hamichi slices. I thought the fish was decent; not horrible but not as good as some of the places being discussed above. It did also come with good size portions of baked tofu and a cucumber/octopus salad as well as rice and edamame. All-in-all I was quite happy and would order again.

          What really kicked-butt, though, were the gyoza appetizers ($4). They have a vegetarian and a pork version. We got pork, it came with 4 medium sized gyozas perfectly pan-fried and two dipping sauces. These were mighty tasty.

  4. Eric March 31, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    It’s not downtown, but I’m partial to Uzen on College for gimmick-free sushi. I haven’t been in years though, hopefully it’s still good.

  5. Jim T March 31, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    Kai’s is great, but they are only open for weekday lunch (c’mon Kai!).

    I agree with your other thoughts as well, but the best sushi in the bay area, hands down, is “Sushi Bistro” in the Richmond district (Balboa and 5th or so…). They’re opening a second location in the Mission, I hear, so try this. Most imaginative and delicious you’ll find.

  6. Joanna April 1, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    I’ve been to Kai’s once, and it was okay, but the service was beyond awful.

    Another place here in Oakland that is good is Sushiya on Broadway just a door down from Art’s Crab Shack (another favorite, although not for sushi).

    At Sushiya, I suggest sitting at the bar – not at a table – and you’ll get the added commentary from the owner. He’s quite fun to listen to. His sushi and suggestions are both great.

    Also great, or used to be, is Yoshi’s – just to sit at the sushi bar and have a roll or two along with a tasty beverage. Pricey, but yummy. Haven’t been in over a year, so I’ll have to try that one again very soon…

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