Step Up Your Sushi Game At The Most Under-Rated Spot in SF (2016): Tsubasa

  Posted by - August 19, 2016 - $$$ (50-100), Restaurants, San Francisco

Okkaaaayyyyy Tsubasa.  I see you! It’s about damn time you guys got some recognition! 

We sat down at the sushi bar yesterday, like every Tuesday night.

Wilson (the head chef) was extra happy, he was practically grinning from ear to ear.

It’s always been his dream to be the head chef at a sushi restaurant.  Except this day, Wilson was in an extra good mood, he couldn’t stop smiling.

We barely got settled in, I took a sip of my hot green tea, and he immediately said, “Let me show you guys something!”  It was this:


After months of empty/slow nights, Tsubasa is finally getting some much deserved recognition. Im not kidding you guys, it’s been so quiet in here that you could even hear a pin drop.

Fast forward 8-9 months later… even Michelin Guide peeps are taking notice of this little gem hidden in Hayes Valley (not quite hidden since Corey Lee’s Monsieur Benjamin is right next door).

Tsubasa has all the qualities of a REAL sushi experience, yet without the pretentious or ridiculous price tag. You are going to have an epic meal without all the glam, glitz and enormous bill at the end.

So if you’re ready for the next step up from your ordinary sushi spots and/or California Rolls, to the real deal … then this post is for you.

Alright, let’s hop into it. Here’s the 411 on what to order and what to look for.

Tip number 1: pay attention to the sushi rice

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-12Wilson says the rice is just as important as the quality of the fish.  You should be able to taste EVERY single piece of rice. It shouldn’t be “mushy” at all.  (Pictured above is the Kama Toro– there are only two pieces per every fish)

Tip number 2: the fish should NEVER taste or smell “fishy”

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-2

Most fish has a sweetness to it. If it smells bad or rancid, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  PS: If you walk into a sushi restaurant and it smells funky, make a 180 degree turn and run. lol.

Tip number 3: It should never be “stringy”

Tip number 4: when you dip your nigiri (piece of sushi on top of rice), into your soy sauce… make sure only the fish touches the sauce and not the rice. Although most places will have their own sauce already on the fish (example: pic above)

Tip number 5: Never put wasabi into the soy sauce.  The traditional way is to put however much wasabi you want on the fish.

What to order at Tsubasa (or any decent sushi joint):  Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-7

Get the chef’s platter (15 pieces for $60 – one of the best deals in town for FRESH sashimi). Most places would charge $70-$80 for quality this good.

Think of this as a “beginners kit.” If you don’t know what to order, this is a great start. Usually it will come with an assortment of these fishes (tuna, salmon, scallops, plus their best fishes of the day – aka chef’s choice).

Plus, if you’re tryna eat a little bit healthier… Sashimi is your friend.

Here’s what it should look like zoomed in:

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-8

Muki Hotate (aka scallops)- should have a sweetness to it. The color should never be yellow (drooling as I’m looking at this picture).

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-9

King Salmon (Canada) should have a nice orange color (FYI- these colors were not enhanced in editing. This is pretty close to what it looks like in real life).

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-10 Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-11Tuna (Chu toro in picture). If you’re at a good place, they should have toro (Chu or O) on the menu. It’s my favorite piece of fish, but also the most expensive- shocker lol. 

This should have a “melt in your mouth” type of consistency. And it should NEVER be chewy or stringy.

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-13

And THIS. Zomg. It’s only at Tsubasa.

I get this so much that every time I walk in, they are already prepping it for me (and yes, my BF and I come here a … LOT … If you see us, come say wassup! We’ll be at the bar counter).

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-3

Now let’s talk about uni (that orange stuff in the picture above). It’s an acquired taste. I personally didn’t learn to love it till this year. Here’s the thing. I don’t like anything that tastes briny… meaning too much like the sea. Gross. I like a clean finish.

Wilson gets his Uni from Hokkaido (Japan) and it’s worth the $9 a piece. That’s actually very reasonably priced considering you’re getting the same quality Uni as the Michelin Star places that go for $15+. It’s slightly buttery and should have a melt in your mouth type of consistency.

Best sushi restaurant in San Francisco- Tsubasa-1

So to sum it all up: pay attention to the sushi rice, make sure your fish doesn’t smell, and come to Tsubasa to experience WTF I’m talking about.

This is one of the most underrated, if not the most underrated sushi restaurant in the Bay Area.

PS: Their omakase is one of the best deals in town, 12 pieces of Nigiri for $60.  You won’t find that anywhere else, not with the quality of fish Tsubasa presents.

Oh, and say wassup to Wilson for me!

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  • Kathy Le November 20, 2016 - 11:01 am Reply

    Thank you for the recommendation!!! My BF and I loved our dinner experience here and the fish was SOOO good and fresh!

  • Jessica Tal September 3, 2016 - 11:04 am Reply

    What kind of camera do you use?

    • CynEats September 22, 2016 - 12:39 pm Reply

      I use a Fuji XT10 with a 56 mm lens :)

  • Evaline September 2, 2016 - 5:11 pm Reply

    I’ve passed by here many times and didnt think twice about it. The photos look really fantastic!

    • CynEats September 22, 2016 - 12:39 pm Reply

      Thank you! You should def stop in!

  • Sara August 23, 2016 - 12:23 pm Reply

    Thank you for the amazing recommendation! My Bf and I went to check it out last night and we loved it. We got the chef’s platter to start and was extremely impressed.

    • CynEats September 22, 2016 - 12:40 pm Reply

      Glad to hear you both enjoyed it so much! I’ve been out in NY and now I’m finally going back again tonight :)

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