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Tsunami Mission Bay

SOMA Sushi & Sake

The sister restaurant to Tsunami Sushi in Western Addition, Tsunami Mission Bay is not the most authentically Japanese or even typical California style sushi bar. For starters, there isn’t an actual sushi bar. But the extensive sake selection, sexy cocktails and unique sushi rolls make it a great place for meeting friends before or after a Giants game.

Since opening less than six months ago, Tsunami Mission Bay has been a draw for the young professional set living in the area, thanks to the happy hour from 5 – 7 pm Monday through Saturday (yes, Saturday), when specialty cocktails and large bottles of Sapporo beer are $5, and all bottles of sake and temaki (hand rolls) are half off.

Walking inside, it’s clear that the most Japanese thing about Tsunami Mission Bay (aside from the sushi and sake) is the interior. White oak, clean lines, ample floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary art give the relatively small patch of real estate a spacious feel. The bar and restaurant are broken into distinct areas making it seem cozy enough for a two-top and yet with plenty of room for a table of ten.

At Tsunami Mission Bay, the sake list features more than 60 selections including sparkling sake, unfiltered sake and aged sake, and there are currently 14 gin cocktails on the menu. If that weren’t impressive enough, the bottles of sake on display in a vertical tower serve as a not-so-subtle visual signpost that this is most definitely a drinking destination. In fact, it’s a bit like two other establishments in the Dajani Group—Nihon Whisky Lounge for the emphasis on cocktails and Tsunami Panhandle for the restaurant aspect.

The appetizer menu features 10 options and there’s also a small section that includes miso soup, edamame, sunomono pickles and confusingly one of two tataki dishes, the other resides under appetizers. The Kobe beef tataki ($17) served with yuzu sesame ponzu sauce and topped with garlic chips is rich but the bite-sized portions make it ideal for sharing. The soba salad ($7) is a generous portion of refreshingly chilled buckwheat noodles and greens, tossed with yuzu-miso vinaigrette. A heartier starter, though still good for sharing, is the tempura-fried hamachi stuffed shiitake, which comes sliced with a couple of contrasting sauces on the plate for dipping.

While some of the nigiri can be disappointing—too much wasabi, or not the right balance of rice and fish, the rolls are excellent. They are not overstuffed massive American-style sushi rolls, but instead are innovative and complex combinations carefully crafted, that are as exciting as they are satisfying. Of the 10 rolls, six are spicy but none overwhelmingly so. The signature roll, Papa San ($15) is a spicy California roll topped with sea bass, jalapeno rings, lightly seared with ponzu sauce and dotted with aioli. The bite of jalapeno and spicy interior nicely contrasts with a cooling but flavorful aioli. Also recommended is the 1977 ($15), a spicy salmon and asparagus roll with sweet scallop, lemon and a dab of black tobiko. The sweet seafood and sour citrus combination is a good contrast, as is the medley of textures from the silky scallop, crunchy asparagus and bursting tobiko.

The surprise favorite was the Veggie Tiger, with asparagus, cucumber, pickled burdock, sweet cooked gourd and pickled radish wrapped in eggplant and topped with avocado and a sweet "tsume" glaze. Like the others, this roll was light on the rice, with each component adding complexity while still offering balanced bites, on the whole.

In general, prices are high compared to other sushi bars, but the quality is excellent, the atmosphere lively and the service accommodating. The best way to enjoy Tsunami is to come during happy hour and mix in some temaki with some rolls and a few drinks, after work, a ball game, or on a Saturday afternoon.


Reservations Essential? No.