Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sushi Ran: For Bay Area Aficionados

Zuke Chu Toro (Red Wine Cured
Medium Fatty Blue Fin Tuna)
Kasugodai (Baby Red Snapper)
Kamasu (Seared Barracuda) with Myoga ginger 
Soft Shell Crawfish Roll

Sushi Ran of Sausalito

Sushi enthusiasts of the Bay area need look no further than Sushi Ran, a posh gem in Sausalito that serves top-tier traditional Japanese sushi and Pacific cuisine. To feast here is to indulge all your senses—the pampering ambience relaxes you while the visual banquet entices. There’s lively chatter at the sushi bar, as well as on the wine bar and patio side of this joint.
Restaurateur Yoshi Tome, who has owned Sushi Ran since 1986, flies in freights of seldom-seen victuals from various parts of the globe, and is careful to serve only sustainable tuna. While a number of items hail from the world famous Tsukiji Market in Japan, this sushi bar also features selections from Canada, Hawaii, and even Tasmania, from which their Umi Masu (Ocean Trout) arrives.
Most of the chefs—and restaurant patrons—may likely suggest the Omakase Tasting, which for $39 per person includes seven varieties of nigiri culled by the chef, paired with umami soy. If you wish to choose your own sushi after the chef’s selections, you can order from the replete menu—or, ask the chef to continue to surprise you.
Newcomers take heed: the sushi here is priced per piece. The McFarland Trout may start at $5, but a single bite of the Miyazaki Wagyu beef chomps you out of $12.75. Both regular and fresh wasabi are offered: the fresh wasabi is automatically served with an omakase order, but if you want some extra, it’s $2.50 more.
My chef’s caprices on this busy weeknight led me to tastings of zuke chu toro, a “red wine cured medium fatty blue fin tuna,” brushed with sweet sake and soy sauce and then torched and splashed with lemon. The result? Heaven in a bite, a burst of flavors that reeled me in as it sent me over the edge. And that was followed by kasugodai, baby red snapper that according to the menu was “cured with bamboo leaf.”
The consistently soft melody played only slightly off-note with the introduction of the chewy, sinewy hobou, a sea robin served with kinome, or, according to the chef, “a type of prickly ash, a woody aromatic herb.” Albeit a little hard to masticate, the flavors abound in this one.
Then there was the tobiuo, or flying fish with umami tobiko, which drew me back into familiar waters, and then the tasty inada, or wild young yellowtail. The exotic kamasu (seared barracuda) kicked it up a notch, especially because it was coupled with a certain ginger called Myoga. And to wrap up the seven-part wonder, there was the ocean trout, from down under.
Oh, but I couldn’t help but request the Soft Shell Crawfish Roll, a soy-paper-wrapped delight I have never seen elsewhere. Served with a wedge of lime, along with umami tobiko, spicy crab, asparagus and shiso, this unique roll ensconces the red critters with their miniature claws pointed heavenward, as if a supplicating gesture…at least until you stuff an entire piece of the roll, softish claws notwithstanding, into your mouth.
Also from chef Taka Toshi’s menu, there is the top-selling Crunch Roll, which combines eel, avocado, tempura flakes, spicy crab, aonori powder and shrimp for $18.
On the other side of the menu, from the kitchen of executive chef Scott Whitman, there's the popular Vietnamese Shaking Beef, which melds sweet onions with tiger lily buds and a lime-pepper dipping sauce. And let’s not forget the oft-ordered Smoked Hamachi Tataki, which offers the refreshing ingredient of Ruby grapefruit, which is then contrasted with a yuzu black pepper sauce.
To guarantee seats at this sushi hotspot, it is advisable that you book about a week in advance.

Sushi Ran
107 Caledonia Street, Sausalito