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Mama-san

May 15, 2006

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This is a really hard review for us to write, because while we’d like to give Mama-san a very high rating, journalistic responsibility requires us to rate this restaurant according to the same set of discriminating criteria we apply to all eateries that appear here. Nonetheless, this may be one of the only times you will hear Short Exact recommend that you visit a restaurant that ended up earning an OK-but-not-stellar score of 2 stars (see the rating at the end of the review). Located on a side street off the hustle-and-bustle of inner Clement’s commercial district, Mama-san has very little ambience, but it has all the comfort and kindness that you can only find at truly family-run establishments such as this one. In a time when we are constantly inundated with rampant commercialism, revoltingly plastic and unnuanced chain stores, and a seemingly unbounded desire to attain the hip and trendy, establishments like Mama-san are few and far between, but sorely needed. Upon stepping in, you can ignore the madness of the world without, and enjoy a meal in simplistic comfort with newfound friends… by whom I mean, of course, Mama-san and family.

Okay, end knee-jerk liberal rant; time for an actual review. In terms of food quality, Mama-san leaves some to be desired. The rolls are rather tasty and reasonably well-formed, but there’s definitely room for improvement with the nigiri sushi. The cuts of fish are not stellar, and the fish itself is not of superlative quality: not unsafe certainly, but not pristine. I would call it a comfortable approximation, but not a work of art. The maguro was a little a tough, and the texture threw us off; the uni was actually rather nice, especially considering the price, but it lacked the richness and depth that is the hallmark of an excellent piece of uni.

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In addition to its friendly home-kitchen atmosphere, and getting the chance to share conversation and jokes with the kooky but loveable Mama-san and her family, this restaurant has one tremendous advantage over other sushi restaurants: they have some of the cheapest prices around. Prices this reasonable are hard to come by. And, it would be impossible to offer truly pristine slices of fish at the prices they charge here, so it’s a trade-off between quality and price. If you really need a sushi fix that doesn’t empty the wallet, and are willing to overlook considerations of quality, Mama-san is a great place to go for that. It should at least satisfy your craving, even if it does not wow you. As long as you know in advance that you’ll be privy to a lower tier of culinary creation, Mama-san is a charming little eatery worthy of a visit.

RATING:

COST:

312 8th Avenue (between Clement St. and Geary Blvd.)
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415.221.9165
Hours: Everyday, 11:00 am – 9:30 pm.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond

How to get there: Muni bus lines 1, 2, 4, 38, and 44.

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