Go Eat This Now: ‘CiViChe’ at Kabuto

A halibut wrapped in deep-fried seaweed crowns any meal at this slightly offbeat sushi spot in the Richmond.

Sushi can be tricky, especially in San Francisco. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to spend $300 on gold-leaf omakase, but risking a meal on lifeless frozen tuna also isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Maybe you want a place that’s humble and not intimidating, with fresh, delicious fish at affordable prices. And the ideal sushi experience is waiting for you in the Richmond.

Kabuto, on Geary Boulevard between 15th and 16th avenues, has the perfect balance of authenticity, elegance, and kookiness.

Walking in, you’ll be greeted by a yell from the old man working behind the fish counter. Waiting to seat you is a young staff member wearing a white shirt and black tie that doesn’t seem to fit the atmosphere. Start with a cup of asari clam kai miso ($6), a brinier version of the classic Japanese appetizer that no proper sushi excursion can be without. Upon gazing upon tables full of scallops, oysters, tartars, ceviches, foie gras, duck, and truffled caviar, all individually plated and coursed out in front of your fellow diners, the waitress’ attire begins to make sense.

I begin with the spicy scallop ($7). It’s silky and buttery, served with a dollop of  Kabuto spicy mustard” or — as I like to call it — Sriracha. Kabuto’s take is delicious and delicate: It can even be ordered live! Next course is the toro tartare ($6). The massive bite of meaty umami explodes as it breaks free from a crunchy nori shell. It’s a lovely blend of soft tender tuna, avocado, rakkyo onion, deep-fried shiso, and crispy seaweed. Resembling a beef tartare, this is one of the most satisfying little bites on the menu.

Halfway through the adventure, it’s time to take a detour back to dryland for the one dish I cannot visit Kabuto without ordering, the Sonoma Duck nigiri ($7). It’s a delectable little fillet of charred duck on a ball of soft sticky rice. Like most guilty pleasures, it’s incredibly simple, with a naughty decadence. One more course is necessary to bring the journey to its end, though. The “CiViChe” is an intriguing dish of “halibut with salsa wrapped in deep fried seaweed and served with lime and sea salt, eaten with no sauce.” Two words: good choice.

If there’s a little room left in the tank, nothing caps off a light meal like a ball of fried sugar. So finish with a scoop of tempura green tea ice cream ($6).

Kabuto Sushi is traditional and a little bit wacky. It’s classy enough for a nice first date and casual enough to bring someone you’re already in love with. Overall, the experience reminds me a little bit of my first visit to La Ciccia. Enough said!

Kabuto, 5121 Geary Blvd., 415-752-5652 or kabuto-restaurant-san-francisco.sites.tablehero.com

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