Ki Sushi

I LOVE seafood—fish, shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab, mussels—ok not oysters or clams, but still, it’s a pretty extensive list of the water-dwellers that I love to have on a plate. So many people are surprised to learn that the first time I ever ate sushi was during my sophomore year of college.

Naturally, I have since become quite sushi fan. But the fish used in sushi is often in the news, particularly for issues with overfishing. Recently, I learned about a sustainable sushi restaurant in San Francisco. Actually, it’s located inside a dance club, of all places. So, I set out to learn about Ki Sushi at Temple Nightclub.

Ki defines itself as a local and sustainable izakaya (Japanese for “drinking establishment that serves food”).  As Chef Isamu Kanai explains, it means that all the fish served at Ki is locally caught—even the uni comes from Mendocino County—and fish that suffer from overfishing, such as bluefin tuna, don’t appear on the menu. He points out that uni (sea urchin) is “bred to kill” so instead, the chef has created a vegan version that magically tastes like fish. All the fish on the menu is sustainable according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and all the produce is also locally grown.

Some of the most popular items on the menu include:

  • Real California Roll
  • Pacific Rim Roll
  • Albacore Tataki
  • Green Dragon Roll
  • Coconut Taro

The most popular drink is the Lotus Drop, a sweet yet powerful light colored cocktail.

That night, my meal consisted of:

  • Sardines
  • Green Dragon Roll
  • Scallop Carpaccio
  • Real California Roll
  • Coconut Toro
  • Fried Mochi
  • Almond Milk Panna Cotta

The sardines were a special offering from Chef Kanai. These aren’t sardines from a can; they’re fresh and are delivered daily. The scallops arrived on a Himalayan salt plate, which I was unnecessarily tempted to lick. The real California rolls are topped with huckleberry and cranberry, which brings out the freshness of all of the ingredients. The fried mochi is a savory dish that looks like small bits of deep fried shrimp and has a distinct flavor of the fish flakes that cover it. The almond milk panna cotta was sweet but not overwhelming, serving as a great finish to the meal.

My favorite dish was the coconut toro. Look for it on the specials menu, and be sure to order it. Made entirely of coconut and other vegan ingredients but tastes like a seafood dish so often that Chef Kanai says people always ask “what kind of fish is it?”

Just as sustainability fits well with the California lifestyle, Ki fits well into the SOMA scene. Housed inside Temple Nightclub—the restaurant is a smaller room off the main lobby—the décor has colorful backlit panels and modernist geisha paintings on the walls. The menus have backlights as well and glow when you open them. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner, plus happy hour Tuesday and Wednesday, 5-7pm; Thursday and Friday 4-7pm. Getting dinner on a Friday or Saturday night? Admission to Temple is free for all diners.

Ki Sushi

540 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105; Tel. 415.278.0495