Izakayas and ramen have had their moments in San Francisco. Now, it's sushi's turn. From the classic-style nigiri served by Hinata and Kinjo to the Edo-style offered in the omakase at Napa's Kenzo to contemporary creations at Robin (how about a piece of sushi with a potato chip, ramp aïoli and caviar?), there has never been a more exciting time for sushi lovers in this city. Remember prices can be steep (think $500 per diner) and the experience is always more rewarding at the bar; each of the following has one except Nobu Palo Alto. Order some sake, say "omakase" and enjoy the rare catches at these 12 spots.
Menu intel: The omakase-only option is $145 per guest with five small appetizers, 13 pieces of seasonal fish and a cleansing red miso soup. Sake pairing is $75. Diners may add à la carte nigiri pieces to the omakase for an additional price.
Insider tip: Thinking that you want dessert after all the fish? Bi-Rite Creamery is just down the street.
252 Divisadero St.; 415-658-7388
Contemporary, upscale NoPa destination with clean lines and counter seats serving elevated omakase sushi.
Menu intel: This 18-course, $145 per diner omakase menu has an estimated 90% of its fish coming from Tokyo’s celebrated Tsukiji Market. À la carte sushi is available after the omakase concludes.
Insider tip: There are two seatings per night, 6 PM and 8:30 PM. Note that the cancellation policy is very strict, and any cancellation within 48 hours of dining time is fully charged the omakase price.
1335 Fulton St.; 415-655-9924
Menu intel: The regular omakase is $78 with three appetizers, 13 nigiri courses, a fish broth with red miso and nameko mushroom owan and a choice of dessert. The 23-course, $108 grand omakase has five appetizers and 15 nigiri pieces before the owan and dessert. À la carte supplements are also available.
Insider tip: You might not need more food after so many courses, but since Hinata is the city’s best high-end omakase value, don’t think twice about adding the A5 Miyazaki Wagyu nigiri with truffles for $14.
810 Van Ness Ave.; 415-829-8291
Highbrow, multicourse Japanese sushi and seasonal mains, complemented by sleek, elegant quarters in Mid-Market’s Mint Plaza.
Menu intel: This nine-course kaiseki meal includes nine pieces of nigiri for $250. From Tuesday to Thursday, a $175 option is available with four kobashi dishes and 12 nigiri pieces.
Insider tip: Ready to splurge? Like, really splurge? SF’s most expensive menu (at the moment) is the $500 per diner chef’s table omakase in Hashiri's private dining room. It’s available Tuesday to Thursday only and requires two weeks advance notice.
4 Mint Plaza; 415-908-1919
Sushi bar on Polk Street offering prix fixe omakase dinners with seasonal touches in a sleek, intimate setting.
Menu intel: The $85 or $120 omakase option is available at tables and a $150 per guest omakase is available at the sushi bar.
Insider tip: As pristine as the fish is, make sure to try the house blend of aged soy sauce that gets infused with kelp. You’ll wish there was an unadorned bowl of rice to pour over because it’s so full of umami.
2206 Polk St.; 415-921-2222
Menu intel: The à la carte option is available at tables or the omakase priced between $79 and $179. The 11-seat bar is omakase-only. Make sure to request for the aka mutsu topped with its own braised liver and the live scallop topped with uni.
Insider tip: This is the rare sushi bar that has equal strengths in sake, wine and beer for the beverage program. Have fun with the pairings and sample around for the most rewarding experience.
620 Gough St.; 415-548-2429
Acclaimed destination for sustainably sourced sashimi and nigiri, plus sake, that recently returned to its original classy environs at the border of Bernal Heights and the Outer Mission.
Menu intel: Order à la carte or omakase at various price points. Outside of any sushi rolls and nigiri, don’t miss the big-eye tuna and avocado salad or the sake lees marinated black cod à la carte.
Insider tip: Lunch Wednesday to Sunday has a smaller crowd and is a far less expensive experience. The menu is centered on sushi rolls and Japanese-style hot dogs.
3369 Mission St.; 415-525-4750
Sleek sushi restaurant between SoMa and the Design District with imported Japanese fish and several high-end chef's choice dinner menus that is the upscale flagship of a rapidly growing restaurant group (Okane, Dumpling Time).
Menu intel: True to the name, this place is omakase-only. For $150, the Hideaki has two appetizers, one sashimi, 10 nigiri pieces, one owan dish and a sweet. The $200 Yamato is the same format with two sashimi selections, one yakimono and 12 nigiri pieces.
Insider tip: Seatings are only at 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM.
665 Townsend St.; 415-865-0633
Nobu Palo Alto
Nobu Matsuhisa’s Bay Area debut offering the Peruvian-accented Japanese fare that has made him a globally iconic chef, served in a chic, happening setting on the ground floor of Palo Alto’s Epiphany Hotel.
Menu intel: À la carte is the route most diners go. Make sure to try the signature tiradito and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, along with the newly added raw tai snapper in an agave-based sauce. Nobu’s signature dishes are available as a $125 tasting menu or a $150 omakase.
Insider tip: Ask for the sidewalk seating. It is a gorgeous setting with great people-watching, and Palo Alto’s temperatures are patio-friendly.
180 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-666-3322
Menu intel: À la carte only. Must-orders: “Poke” made of tofu; gobo roll with spicy roasted mountain burdock; green mango nigiri with sweet ume vinegar and avocado crema; Colonel’s Pipe roll with smoked meets, cashews, asparagus and creamy tofu.
Insider tip: It’s popular, and reservations aren’t accepted. If there is a wait, you’re in luck because Zeitgeist is on the same block.
370 14th St.; 415-678-5767
Upscale Japanese bistro in downtown Napa from the owners of the Kenzo Estate Winery with prix fixe sushi and kaiseki menus, plus wine and sake in a quiet, immaculate white and wood-toned room.
Menu intel: Options include two $225 per diner menus. One is kaiseki-style with a few sushi and cooked dishes. The other includes several more pieces of sushi and cuts back on two cooked dishes.
Insider tip: You're in a Napa restaurant owned by a winery; of course you should try the Kenzo Estate wines by the bottle or glass. The "Rindo" will prove that a Bordeaux blend can match with sushi.
1339 Pearl St., Napa; 707-294-2049
Elevated Mission bistro serving sushi, à la carte Japanese classics and an omakase menu in modern, black-heavy environs.
Menu intel: Options include a $78 sushi omakase with $36 supplement option for five more kinds of sushi and a $40 sake pairings. The omakase is not required. Izakaya dishes and most pieces of sushi are available à la carte, so be sure to try the fried squid and any yakitori and dessert.
Insider tip: Low-ABV cocktails are offered and most are shochu based.
2598 Harrison St.; 415-525-4527