Saturday, April 2, 2011

Umami - San Fran

One of the things I considered a "must eat" in San Fran is the sushi.  The day before my friend Shelly came into town, I tried to fit that in because I wasn't sure what she'd be in the mood for.  Alas, the two places near Cow Hollow was open only for dinner, and I was needing a lunch place.  Imagine my indescribable pleasure upon learning that Shelly's one food desire was sushi.

So on Saturday night, we hightailed it to the aptly named Umami at Union and Webster to sit at the sushi bar with nary a thought to the radiation possibilities.  I guess being so far away from the Japanese disaster has given me a safety bubble in my mind, and besides, unless I know the fish was coming from a port near Sendai, wouldn't it be just a tad weird to worry only about the Japanese place?

Anyhow, my expectation for California sushi - not to be confused with the California Roll - is super high simply because Californians should know better.  And Umami did not disappoint.  It's got a groovy, hip feel to it, the bathroom has an ultra cool sink in it, and above all, the sushi is delicious.

 We started with the Edamame Hummus.  My, my, is this good.  All of what makes the Garbanzo bean version delicious - the garlic, spices, smooth, yet chunky - is here, only it's soybeans.  Granted, probably GMO soybeans, but I like the twist here.  I shall make this the next time around, substituting the garbanzo in my favorite hummus recipe.  

Upon ordering wine, I dare say that I do love a Gewurztraminer pairing with sushi.  I get this wholesome and earthy flavor that is only detected in my nasal cavity.  Just like how Umami is that esoteric "other" flavor, this is similarly hard to describe, but I know it immediately when it happens.  I also get this pervasive earthiness when I pair it with a Sapporo beer.  So imagine my disappointment when Shelly says, "I don't like sweet wines..."  and there goes the Gewurzt.  There was, however, a Gruner Veltliner that I have begun to play around with the last several months.  It's drier, but has a reputation for being a good food-pairing partner.  And hey, it's the same general vicinity of the world as a Gewurzt, so let's go with it!  I'm happy to report that it is, indeed, a nice pairing with sushi, and the pervasive earthiness that I enjoy so much was present.
And here is the Chef's Omakase Sampler of Sashimi.  Omakase is a Japanese term that basically leaves it up to the chef.  At Umami, it's a good compromise of 1/2 knowing what you're going to get, and 1/2 SURPRISE!!  The great thing about this is that you end up trying new varieties that you may have never gotten on your own.  Yeah, I always get the Yellowtail, Salmon, etc.  But I wouldn't have thought to get the Ocean Trout, which is third from the right, looking suspiciously like Salmon.  It had a nice, firm texture and had a sweetness to it that I had not tasted elsewhere.  It was excellent!  Equally excellent was the Uni - Sea Urchin, which I also call my Sushi Dessert.  If the Uni is good, I want that to be the lingering flavor on my tongue when I leave a sushi restaurant all fat and happy.  At Umami, it's super fresh with that wonderful brininess that I have grown to lust after the moment I walk in.  Shelly, that brave soul, gave it a good ol' college try, and while she didn't love it, at least she didn't give any kind of face.  I really do appreciate it.  I still say that it takes about 3 times of "trying" Uni before something clicks and you become a Pavlov's Dog.  Some people never get there, though, and it's okay.  As long as you don't make a face while I - the Uni Luminary - am eating it rapturously.

2909 Webster Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 346-3431

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