July 14, 2006


A couple of months ago, a true neighborhood gem set up shop in Hayes Valley. Chef-owners Danny Dunham and Michael Black (formerly of Midori Mushi) have an extensive knowledge of and a clear passion for fish, which they share with diners at their new restaurant, Sebo, by giving us a chance to experience some of the freshest fish to set foot (metaphorically speaking) in San Francisco.

All of the dishes they create demonstrate a keen eye for beautiful presentation, with careful attention paid to the details. Here is the lovely seasonal assortment of sashimi with which we began our meal:


A great deal of the fish at Sebo is flown in from all over the world (much of it from Japan), but some of it is from fresh local stock, as well. The evening we went, they had a wonderfully deep, rich hon maguro from Italy, which was also the source of the ootoro we ordered:


Every piece of nigiri was fresh and pristine. The cuts were fine and delicate, and the sushi rice was very nicely prepared: an excellent complement to the fish. But the hon maguro ootoro was one of the most memorable moments of the evening. The bite we took to consume this piece of sushi ranks as one of the most magnificent single bites we’ve ever tasted. This fish was so rich and buttery (which is, of course, a hallmark of ootoro), but we were most impressed by the waves of flavor. Just after initially taking the bite, you are treated to the buttery flavor, but even as you continue to chew the fish, move it around in your mouth, and swallow it, this initial wave of flavor is followed up other distinct waves: we think we counted four. The effect is rich and long-lasting, even compared to other ootoro we’ve had in the past. Short Exact also had a deliciously prepared ankimo. Very often, ankimo preparations involve merely a bit of pre-made monkfish liver on rice, a splash of ponzu, and then a nori wrap; but we were delighted to find that at Sebo, slices of poached ankimo are served atop the rice. Though we would have preferred slightly firmer ankimo, this is a real treat, and much better than what one typically finds. The uni (from Mendocino) was wonderfully textured, and the buri (aged yellowtail) subtle. The hirame wrapped in shiso was also pristine and delicious. Hirame has a subtle flavor, and there is a little time delay factor while your taste buds discover that flavor. At the very beginning of the bite, the shiso sets the stage, but after a small delay, the shiso and hirame meld effortlessly; the effect is quite refreshing.


The high level of freshness set by our earlier selections was maintained, as we finished our meal with shimaaji, kohada, and mirugai:


At least, we thought we were finished. As it turns out, Danny had a special surprise in store for us. He made an additional item, on the house, which is one of the most delicious and unique pieces of sushi we’ve ever tasted:


This piece combines ankimo with chutoro tartare. We’ve never had these two together in the same bite, but the effect created by these two very distinct flavors combining and playing off of each other was amazing. As is clear from the above commentary, most of our meal at Sebo consisted of nigiri options. However, Sebo also offers maki and some more creative plates, which Short Exact did not have the opportunity to try. Looking at the flavor combinations on the menu though, and using our imagination, these dishes look to have a lot of potential, and they would probably give Michael and Danny more chance to show off their beautiful preparations than just straight-up nigiri. Short Exact is excited to try them on our next visit.

As we hope our above review clarifies, the emphasis at Sebo is on serving fresh fish with pure, mostly traditional preparations. You don’t want to come here searching for California rolls and fusion sushi, because you won’t find them.

Sebo is really a neighborhood gem, and not just because of their high quality product. The restaurant is also just an incredibly relaxing place to be, in the way that only a truly neighborhood spot can, and it has a sleek, modern interior:


More important is the tone that Danny and Michael have set for the place. We spent about 2 hours dining here, and not only did we never once feel rushed to leave, but we hardly even noticed the time pass. While Danny and Michael carefully coax fish into impeccable morsels of sushi, they share facts, anecdotes, and stories with the diners at the sushi bar. They’re very friendly and have plenty of interesting tidbits to share with you about their art, which they clearly love. The relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, combined with the high quality of the sushi, make this a winning spot. Short Exact is already eagerly anticipating our next visit.



517 Hayes Street (between Octavia St. and Laguna St.)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.864.2122
Hours: Tues-Sat (sushi menu), 6:00-10:30 pm; Sun (izakaya menu, no sushi), 6:00-11:00 pm.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley/Civic Center

How to get there: Sebo is directly served by Muni line 21, and is within walking distance of lines 5, 6, 7, 47, 49, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N, and T. Closest underground stations are the Muni Van Ness Station (5 blocks away) and BART/Muni Civic Center Station (6-7 blocks away).



  1. I was late to the game w/ Sebo but it’s a very good neighborhood sushi spot. There are better places nationally but I think they’re the best in SF.

  2. […] « Tajine Izakaya Sundays at Sebo November 12th, 2007 Well over a year ago, I wrote a post on a then recently-opened Japanese restaurant (primarily sushi-focused), Sebo in Hayes Valley. I […]

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