Fish Story

Kabuto's new digs are smaller, but its menu is still huge

The pricey sushi (which ranges from $2 to $5 per piece, and we ordered three of each kind we tried) was as simple and as good as any I'd ever had: impeccably fresh, carefully sliced, on rice that managed to be both fluffy and firm. Kabuto's list is the kind that encourages compare and contrast, since there are five different tunas, three different crabs, three mackerels, six roes, six clams. There wasn't a loser among anything we chose, but our favorites included the shiro maguro (velvety white tuna, which we preferred to the more expensive, famously buttery toro, to our surprise), lush shima aji (amberjack) imported from Japan, chewy white hirami (fluke), ivory discs of sweet hotate (scallops), oily saba (mackerel), miso-bathed unagi (freshwater eel), and the most delicious, fragile uni (sea urchin), like fairy scrambled eggs. (We also tried the hand-ground hon wasabi, a bargain for the curious -- only 50 cents! -- but virtually indistinguishable from the free commercial product.)

We ordered seconds of uni and eel for our next go-round, plus a few items from the laminated menu of goofy dishes, which were too goofy for us, as it turned out. The Halloween number -- a handsome molded column of rice, Japanese pumpkin, and chopped shrimp and scallops muddied with mustard sauce -- was forgettable, and the Sushi Mozzarella, in fact a mozzarella-topped casserole of red snapper, tasted like a bland, wan attempt to disguise leftovers. We were too stuffed to do more than glance at the last menu of the evening, desserts, which included the expected green tea and red bean ice creams as well as some more unusual treats (deep-fried tempura ice cream, hot red bean soup with soft rice cakes).

Since Kabuto A&S had become one of my favorite restaurants after a single meal, I decided it was the right place to take Tommy, who had been singularly unlucky on the previous two occasions we'd dined together. I wasn't prepared to wait, however (it was a verychilly night), so we met there at 5:30, when the place opened, and got a snug table for two in the corner. We may have had an even better meal this time: From my first taste of the first dish (fried baby octopus on a bed of lightly dressed salad, which served as a fresh, tangy foil to the crunchy little beasts) I relaxed and smugly told Tommy that this meal would absolve me of any guilt I felt. The chawan mushi (steamed custard with leeks, small white nameko mushrooms, and pink shrimp hiding in its depths) was so good he wanted to know what it was called, so he could have it again. Big, grilled, spicy mussels were tasty under a mayonnaisey sauce (though not very spicy). The sushi was so flawless I think you could point blindly at anything on the list and be assured that it would be the best of its kind (though it's true I was flummoxed by a mushy sea eel, and learned that Dungeness crab makes boring sushi). The only disappointing dishes were, surprisingly, a plate of not-very-crisp tempura (better-made at any number of low-rent Japanese restaurants, and odd coming after the excellent fried octopus) and an unappealing cut of grilled, too-sweet marinated black cod (though we enjoyed its sides of cold omelet, steamed spinach sprinkled with bonito flakes, and pumpkin).

The One to Beat: The sushi at Kabuto A&S 
is tops on our list.
Anthony Pidgeon
The One to Beat: The sushi at Kabuto A&S is tops on our list.

Location Info

Map

Kabuto A&S

5121 Geary
San Francisco, CA 94118

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Richmond (Inner)

Details

Tofu miso soup $2.50

Pira-kara nasu $4.50

Chawan mushi $6

Fried baby octopus $5

Sea escargot $6

Uni sushi $3/piece

Ogura cream anmitsu $4

752-5652

Open daily (except Wednesday) for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. (Sunday until 10 p.m.). Closed Wednesday.

No reservations

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: moderately difficult

Muni: 38

Noise level: moderate

5121 Geary (at 15th Avenue)

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As we lingered over a delightful dessert called ogura cream anmitsu, ice cream and red bean paste in sweet syrup studded with cubes of clear jelly and sliced orange, apple, and banana, I asked our server why Kabuto A&S had moved from its original, larger location after more than 20 years there. "Well," she said, "now we own the building." I was happy to hear it.

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