Ijji (Sushi) – Lower Haight, San Francisco

Ijji

252 Divisadero Street

Ijji, from the owners of Saru Sushi Bar, is yet another sushi joint riding the wave that is crashing into the Bay Area.  Serving nigiri only in the edomae style with most of the fish coming directly from Japan, Ijji is competing in the “high end” space where one piece will set you back $7-10 on average.

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Iyasare – Berkeley, CA

Iyasare

1830 Fourth Street
iyasare-berkeley.com

Iyasare opened in late 2013 as part of the Bay Area Japanese food explosion that is going strong in 2016. The restaurant immediately received critical acclaim, earning a Bib Gourmand award in 2015 (not renewed in 2016).

What is unique about Iyasare is that they are not a cookie cutter Japanese restaurant.  They do not serve sushi, ramen, or the standard grilled/fried izakaya fare. instead, they take Japanese ingredients and flavors, and prepare dishes in a California-Japanese fusion way.  The result is innovative and often delicious.

Drinks

We started off with a cocktail and a pour of sake.  The cocktail was the daily special, a bourbon based beverage.  The sake pour comes with the overflow vessel to show generosity.  Depending on who your pourer is, you can get more or less “generosity.”

Iyasare_01_Cocktail

Iyasare_01_sake

Uzaku – Grilled Unagi

with Japanese eggplant, shitake mushrooms, ginger bulbs, tamari rice vinegar

Iyasare_02a_Uzaku

Iyasare_02b_Uzaku

The first dish we had was a saucy eel with some explosively flavorful mushrooms and eggplant.  The eel was soft and tender.  The wasbi added a nice spice compliment.

Ocean Umami

hokkaido scallop, ikura, sea urchin, fermented wasbi leaf, nori ponzu

Iyasare_03b_Ocean UmamiIyasare_03a_Ocean Umami This was my most highly dish of the night based on the description, ingredients, and previous photos I saw. The presentation lived up to the billing…it sits beautifully on the plate. The flavor was good but it did not have the impact I was expecting.

Octopus Terrine

black miso garlic, swooping farm lemon balm, romano beans, pickled okra, leek ash

Iyasare_04_Octopus Terrine

This dish wins for most unique and unexpected item for the night. The terrine was slightly gelatinous with a soft flavor that contrasted nicely with the rubbery chewy octopus.  The miso paste added a nutty component.

Mentaiko Spaghetti

spicy cod roe, reef squid, kaiware, shiso, garlic-ginger butter

Iyasare_05_Mentaiko PastaAnother delectable dish that is in a close race with the unagi as the best of the night.  The mentaiko added a creamy kick to the pasta that left me wishing that we ordered two.

Mediterranean Sea Bass

sea bass, uni, ikura, nori

Iyasare_06_Sea Bass

The off menu special of the day was a sea bass, deboned and served whole topped with similar ingredients as the Ocean Umami. The fish was meaty and juicy while the dashi-ponzu sauce was a mild, zesty compliment.

Fudge and Cheesecake Mochi

Iyasare_07_Mochi

Dessert was six bite sized mochi balls.  Three fudge with a chocolate topping and three cheesecake with a strawberry hat. Both were light and refreshing; a satisfying end to the meal.

Iyasare is innovative. The Japanese flavors and ingredients are mostly there but the style and result as distinctly not traditional Japanese. The result is a well executed hybrid  of Japan and California that stands out amongst the flood of sushi houses offering edomae style omakase.

Iyasare changes the menu frequently enough that a return visit would not be a repeat visit at a price point that is in line with what should be the expectation in the Bay Area.