Until someone posted some pictures on Facebook, I had never heard about Kusakabe, but once I read about the Michelin star and the chef/owner’s link to Sushi Ran, I made reservations as soon as I could. The restaurant’s space exudes a zen-ness that you would expect from a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant. I would have described its concept as omakase with sushi and hot dishes, but according to the website, it is kaiseki style which I believe is a multi-course traditional Japanese meal based on seasonality of the ingredients. That definitely makes it sound more unique.
The owner/chef is Matsunori Kusakabe who spent several years as the Executive Chef at Sushi Ran where he also earned Michelin-starred recognition and built up the restaurant’s reputation as one of the best sushi places in the Bay Area. Although I have been a couple times, I really think my experience was not like what others have always raved about because I never sat at the sushi bar. The sushi was good, but it wasn’t as memorable as its reputation would have suggested. I have learned over the years that no sushi restaurant can be properly judged unless the meal takes place at the sushi bar. I’m not sure why, but it really makes a difference. So with our seats at the bar and Chef Nori working his magic behind the bar, I felt like this was a true Kusakabe experience.
Sushi is one of those meals that no matter how delicious it is, it really is very difficult to describe individually. So needless to say, I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but I really did enjoy the food here. The fish is fresh and very traditional in its preparation and presentation. Most notably, they do all the flavoring for you so the right amount of soy sauce and wasabi are already added. Lastly, I like the intermingling with hot dishes because it mixes up the meal and keeps the menu interesting. Overall, I do think the Michelin-star is very much deserved and I do think it is worth the visit if you are an avid lover of true Japanese sushi.
584 Washington St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
PAFO Ratings for Kusakabe:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars