2353 Lombard St. (at Pierce)
San Francisco , CA 94123
Sunday thru Thursday
Friday and Saturday
Vibrant food may play the lead role and ambiance could be the supporting characters. But together they make a meal worth talking about. Embedded in a bustling strip filled with motels, patrons could easily sidestep the modest entrance on the streets of Lombard. Once past the entrance, candles, mahogany tables, and large bamboo poles window side create a sensual decor.
With dimmed lights and new age music in the background, the ambiance is both modern with a dash of sophistication. Over hearing the sweet tones of Japanese spoken by the sushi chef behind a selection of fresh raw fish, a sense of authentic Japanese food- seldom found in San Francisco-prepare my senses.
After a few sips of warm sake, I sit back in the black leather chair as I prepare to taste co-owner Eiichi Mochizuki’s wide range of Japanese dishes that can be found uniquely at his restaurant. At only thirty six, the young restaurateur also owns Shabuway in San Mateo and Mountain View.
The hamachi jalapeno sashimi style ($9.80) drenched in a garlic soy oil is a successful play on contemporary cuisine. Just at first glance, the knives skills are apparent with uniform cuts of the buttery fish accented by spicy notes from jalapenos. The kinoko salad ($8.50) is all about temperature. Warm peppered mushrooms compliment a bed of mixed greens.
Arriving with perfect cris – crossed grill marks, the beef tongue (grilled kobe style beef tongue with salt-$8.50) demonstrates a texture that “kicks back” Noticeably, the seared meat gives off the savory tones that excite the appetite.
Served in a u-shaped bowl, the gyu suji nikomi ($6.60) leads me to comfort food heaven. With a slight poke through the poached egg, vibrant yolk mixes well with the beef and tendon. Every piece of the stew is fork tender and the running yolk provides just the right amount of creaminess. Balancing the creaminess, each meat piece is immersed in sweet soy.
With much anticipation, the nigiri arrives in a trio of vibrant colors. The sake (salmon-$4.80) is firm and sweet. With buttery tones, the hamachi ($5.20) is worth another order.
Stealing the show, the hon maguro toro (semi fatty tuna-$14) gave me a “food orgasm.” The sweet taste of tuna married with a marsh mellow like texture heightened my senses. Not ever since my trip to the famed Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo have I had such great tuna.
A favorite amongst the sushi aficionados, the uni (sea urchin-$8.00) did not disappoint displaying sea-sweet tones with creamy texture. Made from folding numerous thin layers of fried egg, tamago (egg omellette-$3.80) ended my nigiri tour.
Displaying a myriad of colors, flavors, and texture, the Hime roll arrives with presence. Each oversized plump piece creates a rock concert for the palate. Creamy avocado compliments the eel while shrimp tempura does a surprising tango with spicy tuna. The miso sauce further enhances each piece with a sweet note.
For a dessert with minor theatrics, the vanilla ice cream with matcha tea does the trick. The staff member pours matcha over the dessert and within a few minutes, a solid cast forms over the ice cream. The dessert exemplifies the balance of bitter tea with sweet vanilla ice cream that results in a cooling palate.
In the 120 seat restaurant, service is attentive with staff members readily at your side for an encore of water or plate change.
Business Tip: In this economy, mid to high end restaurants may face troubling times. A restaurant such as Hime with its spacious decor needs to create campaigns that promote celebrations such as birthday parties or corporate events. Large parties will likely ensure not only a big tab but also patrons are more likely to splurge a little more for a celebratory event.