DPaul and I had been to Deep Sushi (1740 Church St) once before, but I wanted to withhold any commentary until a second visit, preferably with others. So we returned last night with our foodie friends Cameron and Anita. My overall feelings were reconfirmed.
The short answer: I like it. I don't love it, but I like it. The space is compact but efficiently laid out, and done up in a very hip décor. The dishes are creative, the fish impeccable and the presentation artful. Appetizers run the gamut -- we had some lovely curry croquettes, a nice sunomono and a lovely, dry wakame salad (with maybe an eentsy bit too much sesame oil). Our hirame sashimi was firm and delicate. The tai nigiri was excellent, with a fragrant salad of spring onion on top. And, most telling, both the uni and ankimo were light, fresh and satisfying, with nary a trace of iodine flavor or livery funk. They of course have the obligatory soju cocktails, which I confess I rather like, and a very nice list of high-end sakes that, when ordered by the glass, come with a generous overflow into the traditional square wooden cup.
So why don't I love it? The service can be a tad clueless, if always pleasant and cute. The music is always a little overloud. And the place is a bit of a scene. Do yourself a favor and go early -- we arrived at 6 pm and were the first ones there. By 7:30 things really started to hop and tables filled up with twenty-something hipsters and the like. It's just not how I like to enjoy my raw fish.
What I yearn for is a great neighborhood sushi joint that serves up hyper-fresh fish in a serene environment. There are many places we frequent, but none yet that really fulfills my wishes wholly. Our regular joints are:
Hamano (Castro btwn 24th and Jersey): Longtime favorite in the city, but the quality goes up and down. They gained fame with their live uni and live scallop, both of which are phenomenally delicious, but we haven't seen them on the menu in months. They also undergo periodic sweeping changes in the staff, which breaks the continuity of the place. Still, last time we went, we had a lovely appetizer of tempura-fried smelts, which were just delightful.
Izumi (16th at Sanchez): I've been going to Izumi for over 15 years. It's nothing special, just a small operation, but it's quiet, and you always get one-on-one service. They have some interesting dishes, like the agu-nase, a baked eggplant appetizer, but on the whole it's just straight-up sushi. The downside is that they rarely have anything exotic or unusual; the menu selddom changes.
Yo's Sushi Club (Mission near 30th): We've followed Yo from restaurant to restaurant for well over a decade, and just love him. But in his current location, where he's been for about two years now, he just can't turn enough volume to expand the selection. When he was at Grandeho and at Daimaru, he was the king of interesting and super-fresh fish. He's still got an eye for quality, but he's too smart a businessman to invest in stuff he cannot turn over.
No matter how popular the sushi restaurant, I have had the hardest time finding my all-time favorite, mirugai, or giant clam. It is extremely perishable, moreso even than most other raw fish, and so increasingly hard to come by. Anyone out there know of a place that has some serious mirugai action?