walking the fine line
There is a fine line between a wait that shows how popular a restaurant is and how exhaustingly difficult it is to eat there. There is a fine line between food as art and food as a nutritional and savory experience. In short, there is a fine line between understated and overstated, and Kabuto sushi walks it well.
Few westerners eat sushi the way it’s supposed to be eaten. Rule number one: do not mix wasabi in soy sauce. Rule number two: dip only fish or vegetable topping into soy sauce, leaving rice dry. Rule number three: do not pile pickled ginger on top of the rolls since it is meant to be eaten plain, between pieces to cleanse the palette. Right. How many of us actually follow such guidelines? Perhaps the reason for our thrill-seeking sushi habits (admit it, you mix the wasabi into the tamari...) lies in the lack of truly creative and inspiring sushi rolls.
The beauty of good sushi, and perhaps the best test, is whether it makes you want to follow all the rules so as to extract the most flavor. This is the art that Kabuto perfects. Food as art can be beautiful or it can be delicious, but it is a delicate task to match the two characteristics with success. Frequently, if a dish is too beautiful, the taste will be a disappointing and the visual foreplay overshoots its target. On the other hand, if a dish is not aesthetically pleasing, it runs the risk of being consumed without the proper savoring and appreciation. Kabuto makes moderation in each of these areas blossom so that the food is worth the wait (we spent an hour waiting for a table and eventually settled for bar seats, but reservations are not accepted).
The vegetarian/vegan options are unique and plentiful. Besides your typical avocado and cucumber rolls, Kabuto serves concoctions that call on the traditional Japanese palette in each of us. From tangy, sour plum paste to slimy (and crunchy!) mountain potatoes, the collection of flavors available to vegetarians is easily double or triple the assortment that most sushi establishments offer.
Vivid flavors fill this menu. Even the ginger and wasabi are more pronounced than usual.
Perhaps it is the unassuming storefront, or perhaps it is the fact that the owners (both the former and the new owner) were working up a sweat in their efforts to serve their creations to the customers, but something makes the establishment feel authentic. The 2005 Zagat Survey rated Kabuto “extraordinary” and draws attention to master chef (former owner), Sachio Kojima’s adventurous specials, noting, “incredibly fresh fish that’s almost too good to put into a roll.” On the menu, new sushi creations are romantically described as being literally born out of Mr. Kojima’s dreams.
With the help of his family, this talented and hardworking man has been the inspiration and lifeblood behind the restaurant’s counter for nearly twenty years and has only recently sold his business. However, with the momentum and almost cult-like following he has generated, there is little chance of things slowing down now.
5116 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, California, United States
415.752.5652 | Website