The sushi bar at Ichi before the rush arrives.

The sushi bar at Ichi before the rush arrives.

The story: This popular neighborhood sushi spot originally started in Bernal Heights, opened by sushi veteran Tim Archuleta and his wife, Erin. Starting out with a catering company, the couple opened Ichi Sushi in 2010 and word quickly spread about the fresh and creative sushi, especially the nigiri. Earlier this year, Archuleta opened in larger quarters in the Outer Mission, adding a lounge area and calling it Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar.

Why I went: I love sushi, and always wanted to try Ichi but it’s a bit off the beaten track. Last Saturday I was in the Mission with my friend Vera and afterwards we decided to get dinner, so I suggested we hunt down the new Ichi Sushi.

The vibe: With a graphic mural to welcome you and Lionel Richie bellowing from the house speakers, it was a bit like you’re attending a gallery opening. The service is friendly and welcoming, which helps since they don’t take reservations and patience is probably important when thinking of eating here.

The booze: The menu offers a nice array of sake, beer and wine, but I was getting over a cold so I steered clear of alcohol. I enjoyed a nice pot of Japanese genmaicha tea.

Ichi is known for its nigiri, which is served each dressed in its own sauce or preparation so no soy sauce is needed (or recommended).

Ichi is known for its nigiri, which is served each dressed in its own sauce or preparation so no soy sauce is needed (or recommended).

The menu: While much of the menu is dedicated to the fresh fish, served as nigiri, rolls or sashimi, Archuleta has added a section on hot dishes and snacks to play up the Ni Bar element of the new space. Archuleta serves his nigiri in the traditional way, which means each formed piece of fish and rice is seasoned specifically for that type of fish and dressed to be eaten as is. That means no soy sauce and wasabi need apply. Vera and I tried a variety of nigiri, which were all distinctly different and enjoyable, along with a cold dish (maguro avocado salad) that was beautifully presented and a hot dish (miso clams) that was my least favorite dish because the ground pork mixed with the clams didn’t seem special and the overall flavor seemed generic.

My favorite dish: It was probably the tray of nigiri that we ordered, and of the fishes we selected, my favorite was the katsuo, or Japanese skip jack, which was slightly torched on the edges and had a wonderful subtle sauce.

Insider tip: This probably isn’t a secret, but go early to beat the crowds! Vera and I arrived at 5:30 p.m. and easily found a table, but the restaurant was full by the time we left at around 7 p.m.

The last bite: Ichi Sushi is a blend of the traditional and modern sushi restaurant, and while its popularity makes it difficult to get a table, once you’re seated the nigiri sushi provides creative yet sublime sushi tastes.

The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps

3-snaps

 

 

The deets: Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar, 3282 Mission St. (at 29th), San Francisco. PH: 415.525.4750. Open for dinner, Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. No reservations accepted. Major credit cards accepted. ichisushi.com

Ichi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Part of the graphic mural on the wall at the entrance of Ichi provides a look at sushi and how it should be eaten.

Part of the graphic mural on the wall at the entrance of Ichi provides a look at sushi and how it should be eaten.

Maguro avocado salad ($12.50) with chunks of big eye tuna, avocado and sesame dressing.

Maguro avocado salad ($12.50) with chunks of big eye tuna, avocado and sesame dressing.

Our nigiri selection included four fish: Umi masu ($6.50), top left, or ocean trout that had a citrus twist; katsuo ($8), bottom left, or Japanese skip jack that's slightly torched; inada ($8), top right, baby yellowtail; and kampachi ($7) bottom right, a firm white fish also with a citrus underlining flavor.

Our nigiri selection included four fish: Umi masu ($6.50), top left, or ocean trout that had a citrus twist; katsuo ($8), bottom left, or Japanese skip jack that’s slightly torched; inada ($8), top right, baby yellowtail; and kampachi ($7) bottom right, a firm white fish also with a citrus underlining flavor.

Miso Asari Clams ($8.50) was my least favorite dish, while ironically Michael Bauer of the Chronicle named it one of his favorite dishes from a Top 100 restaurant. Oy.

Miso Asari Clams ($8.50) was my least favorite dish, while ironically Michael Bauer of the Chronicle named it one of his favorite dishes from a Top 100 restaurant. Oy.

Working the sushi bar.

Chef/Owner Tim Archuleta working the sushi bar.

Specialty roll: Umi masu kawa ($6.25) is made with ocean trout, avocado, tobiko and ponzu.

Specialty roll: Umi masu kawa ($6.25) is made with ocean trout, avocado, tobiko and ponzu.

Vera added at the last minute an order of ama ebi ($7), which is raw sweet shrimp. I've never had this before, and found the shrimp meat so beautiful.

Vera added at the last minute an order of ama ebi ($7), which is raw sweet shrimp. I’ve never had this before, and found the shrimp meat so beautiful.

Typical Japanese accoutrements behind the sushi bar.

Typical Japanese accoutrements behind the sushi bar.

Shrimp heads from the ama ebi fried up for the table, which of course Vera enjoyed all to herself.

Shrimp heads from the ama ebi fried up for the table, which of course Vera enjoyed all to herself.

6 Responses to Review of Enjoyable Nigiri at Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar in San Francisco

  1. Row says:

    Oooh, the ama ebi looks so fresh and I love the fried shrimp heads (sorry)! And now I’m craving nigiri… thanks. ;)

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Ama ebi is a marvel. It’s so sublimely sweet and clean tasting. One of my favorite nigiri to enjoy. Can’t wait to check out Ichi, as it’s hot, hot, hot right now.

  3. Ben Ben says:

    LOL, didn’t realize there were so many ama ebi fans! I’ve always ordered the cooked shrimp version. But now that I see how lovely it looks raw, I’m definitely a fan too. But I’ll leave the fried heads to someone else, haha!

  4. Mmmm genmaicha tea is my favorite. I’m a huge proponent of going to eat early to avoid lines – my dinner on Saturday was at 5:30pm for that same reason! This place has been on my list for that nigiri!

  5. Brenda Ton says:

    This is a great review, Ben. I’ve heard so many great things and been wanting to try this place out. The photos are beautiful. The tip helps to know when I should expect this restaurant to be full by what time.

  6. Tara says:

    I actually have this lined up in my posting queue! I just have to go back and take a few more pictures. I thought it was pretty tasty and legit for something that’s not considered really authentic. I wish I was a bigger seafood fan so I can enjoy the nigiri.

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