584 Washington Street
Kusakabe is an omakase only, kaiseki restaurant with a focus on edomae style sushi. Said in plain English, a Japanese course menu designed with seasonal ingredients centered around traditionally prepared sushi. Kusakabe falls into the same market as other newish Japanese restaurants such as Maruya and Saru among others we have yet to explore.
Kusakabe is tucked in front of the pyramid building on the edge of the financial district, a quite area on a Saturday afternoon. A wood sign hangs over the entrance with a green fabric emblazoned with logo hides the door.
The incredibly long, wood sushi bar is an impressive sight and impossible to miss as you walk in the room. The long wood bar contrasts nicely with the exposed red brick wall on the opposite side.
The menu at Kusakbe is simple. For 95$ a person, you get an eight course meal. Most of the decisions are made by the chef however we did have to select a miso soup (either duck meatball or black truffle) and the grand finale (otoro or A5 wagyu). Following the omakase portion, Kusakabe offers up an ala cart sushi menu with prices that range from 7-12$ per piece.
We were dining with our friends Luke and Yukari and kicked the meal off with a bottle of Tamakawa Kinsho “Gold Medal” daiginjo sake.
The omakase kicks off with a welcome tea, a coupe of sips of kelp konbu cha. A salty palate cleanser.
The first of the food courses was a trio of sushi. All are prepared and seasoned by the chef as intended to be eaten, no soy sauce needed.
Zuke Chutoro – lightly seared medium fatty blue fin tuna cured in soy sauce
Hirame – ikejime halibut topped with its own liver
An enjoyable start to the meal. The flavors of the fish, sauce/seasoning and rice were a nice balance. The wasabi kick on the end was a sharp burst.
Chutoro blue fin tuna and a scallop, served over shaved ice with fresh wasabi and yuzu onion sauce
Kamo-Dango – duck miso soup with Mitsuba leaf
As a big fan of simple miso soups, this was a nice treat. The duck flavor blended smoothly with the miso soup and the meatball was a nice change of pace. Minako ordered the truffle miso soup and we decided that either is a good choice and were glad we could share.
Chef’s Assorted Le Petite Plates
The next course was five bite sized offerings.
First – a diced and seasoned tomato
Next, a cube of rice topped with crab
After that, an oyster topped with some caviar
Followed by some cured king salmon roe over rice
Closed out with a terrible picture of what is supposed to be a shrimp topped with what looks like but isn’t actually an egg
BBQ Unagi and Matsutake Croquette with Hokkaido konbu dashi and yoshino kuzu starch
This ball of delicious was stuffed with a creamy mushroom explosion. The unagi was very subtle.
The second sushi course brought along another three pieces.
Tenjo Buri – Hokkaido wild yellowtail
Sanma – Pacific Mackerel
Ivory King Salmon – Alaskan white king salmon with oboro konbu and dill
Choice between otoro and A5 wagyu. Eventually we got both.
Toro – bluefin fatty tuna belly
Wagyu – A5 grade Miyazaki wagyu strip loin
Ala Carte Sushi
Mostly satisfied, we decided to top the meal off with some additional sushi pieces.
Kamasu – Japanese barracude
Shirayaki – Fresh BBQ white eel with sansho pepper
Uni – Santa Barbara
Kaisui Uni – deep ocean Hokkaido
Prior to this “vertical” uni tasting Luke mentioned he preferred Santa Barbara uni compared to Hokkaido. He doesn’t say that anymore.
Chestnut Creme Brûlée
Kusakabe is another strong entrant in the blossoming San Francisco Japanese dining scene. While the starting price point of $95 is not overly exuberant, I would find it difficult to walk out without adding some ala carte supplements to the end of the meal.