I first heard about Gintei from DouZen, and when it comes to Japanese food and even sushi, I don’t doubt his recommendations, but I never expected that it would be as good as I found it to be. It stands apart from most of its suburban sushi restaurant brethren by offering an interesting and delicious selection of fish that is regularly flown in from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Even better, the quality and variety is priced very affordably with the 10 piece omakase at $45. I would argue the sushi equals and even surpasses many “best of” sushi restaurants in San Francisco, but given what I imagine is significantly lower rent in this area, I don’t think a better bargain can be found anywhere. Coincidentally enough, it also turns out that I know one of the owners who used to be a waiter at Zushi Puzzle, one of my favorite sushi spots in San Francisco that I have gone on one, two or several dozen occasions.
Nestled along a non-descript block of El Camino Real in San Bruno, Gintei sits in a small building looking very unassuming from the outside. Once you step in, the space is clean and zen-like but unlike most Japanese restaurants, it manages to feel quite spacious given the small square footage. The bar sits about 10 people and there are a couple handfuls of tables including 2 larger bench tables for bigger groups. I’ve gone and eaten at the tables, but over the years, I’ve confirmed that if you want sushi, the best seats are going to be at the bar. I don’t know why that is, but I have consistently found through the years at every single sushi restaurant that sitting at the bar offers the best sushi that any sushi chef has to offer. So with many of my family members visiting for the weekend, I decided to take them to our new favorite sushi restaurant.
We started with a few hot appetizers to wet our appetite as we waited for our omakase feast to begin. Never ever tasting soft shell shrimp before, I was completely delighted by these mouthwatering little suckers. With the same soft shelled crunch as I’ve tasted with crabs, I actually enjoyed these more because of the sweetness of the shrimps.
The collar of the yellowtail was prepared nicely resulting in juicy and flavorful tasting fish.
I’ve had better chicken karaage elsewhere, not that it is bad. The batter and chicken just wasn’t particularly interesting compared to other versions I’ve had.
One of the owners, Ko, is usually manning the kitchen in the back, but he always comes out and offers us something special. This time he prepared 2 braised red snapper fish heads for us to enjoy. It was prepared in soy sauce and ginger and tasted quite good once you got past the eyeballs.
Next up is the parade of sushi which represented some of the most interesting types of fish I’ve had. Even the mackerel (saba) which isn’t my favorite tasted fresh and delicious without it’s markedly briny after taste.
The Miso soup tastes pretty typical, but it’s the addition of shimeji mushrooms which I find interesting.
The ice cream dessert is definitely a must have finale to the meal, no matter how full you might be feeling. The restaurant works with Humphrey Slocombe to create unique flavors served exclusively at Gintei so they offer a variety ice creams using very Asian ingredients such as lychee and miso. Starting from the top and moving clockwise, you have strawberry, Vietnamese Blue Bottle Coffee (which isn’t a Gintei only flavor), Matcha Doodle and Jasmine Lychee. They all taste amazingly scrumptious and distinctive. The Matcha Doodle might have been surprise favorite mainly because I don’t like the flavor of matcha but the snickerdoodle cookie crumbles added a nice texture and sweetness that I thoroughly enjoyed. My all-time favorite which they didn’t have that night is the White Sesame, a salty but sweet flavor that is unparalleled.
All in all, I absolutely love this place and look forward to any occasion when I can visit.
235 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066
PAFO Ratings for Gintei:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4½ stars