Bitter Sushi Rivals Come Together in San Francisco

The thing about sushi is that its adherents are often divided into two camps: purist and westernized.

The purists go for uni and otoro, garnished with perhaps a sliver of daikon, while the latter camp goes for kamikaze rolls, crunchy rolls, or anything ending in “roll.” Rarely do these camps intersect.

Unless you’re at Koo. If I had to choose sides, I’d say purist, and I dined at Koo with friend who falls in the westernized roll category.

The great thing about Koo is that their menu caters to both, with traditional selections like fresh scallop, buttery uni, and striped bass, as well as lots of specialty rolls that go beyond the overdone tempura and California rolls.

But before we jumped into sushi, my dining companion shared an appetizer of eggplant dengaku.

Grilled and slathered with salty miso, this was rich without being unhealthy. It was good but the eggplant itself wasn’t very flavorful.

Next, we moved on to the sushi.

We chose two traditional sets and two inventive rolls: gindara (black cod), maguro (tuna), azteca (crab,avocado, gobo, white fish, jalepeno, spicy mayo, tobiko and ponzu), and flying kamikaze (spicy tuna, asparagus, albacore, garlic ponzu and scallions).

My favorite was the maguro, topped with just a dash of onion and ginger. The gindara was good too – not a whole lot of flavor but chewy and interesting in texture. (To be fair, my dining companion didn’t care so much for it.) The flying kamikaze was delicious too (again, I love tuna), and the azteca was unique but too mayonnaisey for me and the spiciness overpowered the fish.

For dessert, we split a dish of mango and strawberry mochi ice cream with cookies.

It was a simple, refreshing palate cleaner to our meal. I should note that service is great at Koo too – friendly without being pushy and despite the busy atmosphere, we never felt rushed.

I can’t wait to go back to Koo again. The next time I visit, I know I’m trying their spoonful of happiness (a spoonful of uni, quail egg, tobiko ponzu and a spoonful of ankimo wrapped with whitefish, white truffle-oil ponzu and a shot of chilled sake).

Their catch of the day menu changes seasonally too so I’m looking forward to what’s in store. That’s what’s great about Koo: you don’t have to choose sides. There’s something for everyone.

Koo 408 Irving St. in San Francisco,

Mariam Hosseini is a Bay Area native who has been writing about food and travel for six years.  She blogs regularly at

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