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Wayo Sushi

September 7, 2006

Recently, a friend of ours claimed she had found the perfect, hidden sushi gem, named Wayo Sushi, which, despite its location on high-traffic Van Ness, was relatively little known. Little known indeed: Short Exact is familiar with a great variety of hole-in-the-walls, but we had not yet heard of Wayo before this. We don’t like to jump to conclusions without more information, but because of previous not-so-stellar recommendations that our friend has made, needless to say, we were a bit skeptical. Nonetheless, to Wayo Sushi we went.

My friend later revealed that she had not visited Wayo herself prior to this; the claim that she had “found” this sushi gem was a bit misleading, since all she found was that Wayo had garnered many positive reviews on Yelp. I almost yelped in shock when I heard this, because — no offense to the good people of Yelp — but it is not always the case that a slew of positive Yelp reviews equates to a wonderful establishment: and such is the case with Wayo Sushi.

The first thing Short Exact noticed upon taking a seat at the bar was that much of the fish was precut. To say the least, this was not the first thing we hoped to see upon starting our meal, but since we were seated, and since our friend was so eager to try Wayo Sushi, Short Exact decided to see how the events played out, and so did not make a fuss.

We started with shiromaguro sashimi. Rather than a more involved tataki preparation, the sushi chef opted for straightforward sashimi slices. This would have been fine, if it weren’t for the fact that the quality of the fish was not appropriate at all for sashimi. The fish was not unfresh, but it had no depth or subtlety; in fact, it lacked flavor altogether, and it had no soft, melting texture. In addition, the slices were uneven and rough. (It seems like a new knife for our sushi chef might be in order here.) Instead of even, elegantly sliced pieces of fish, we received something that more closely resembled cuts of wood hewn from a tree trunk:

tb_wayo_sashimi.JPG

Next came the tekka maki. We ordered just a standard tekka maki, but to our dismay, we received a spicy roll! One look at and taste of the roll revealed that the spiciness was added not to tease and tantalize our taste buds, but rather to hide what was less-than-excellent quality fish:

tb_wayo_tekka.JPG

In such a situation, we would have appreciated simple honesty from the chef when we ordered, a statement that the tuna was not as fresh as it could be, and wouldn’t we prefer a different maki, which would feature better fish. Of course we would! But no such explanation was offered, and so our experience with the tekka maki was another letdown, right on the heels of the sashimi letdown.

This was not a promising start to the meal. However, the service was courteous, and really as prompt as it could be, given the fact that the whole restaurant (small though it may be) is served only by one waitress and one sushi chef. And, as it turns out, the meal improved, once we were given our nigiri of hamachi, ika, and sake (which we did not photograph). This fish was not of wonderfully pristine quality, nor were the cuts exemplary: even here, they were still a bit uneven, though nowhere near as rough as the sashimi slices had been. Nonetheless, the nigiri fish was more flavorful and of noticeably higher quality than that featured in the shiromaguro sashimi and the tekka maki. Even if the whole experience was, overall, quite lackluster, Short Exact was pleased that we ended the meal on this relatively positive note.

As you might have deduced from the rather straightforward fish we ordered, Wayo Sushi tends to stock the standard fish found in sushi bars all over this country; it does not make a point to stock seasonal fish, nor does it stock fish from Japanese or other foreign waters. We noticed a series of maki involving mango (which we did not order), so it seems like Wayo has made at least a small attempt at the ever-popular fusion roll. The menu is straightforward, though, and it will be familiar to anyone who has visited at least a few sushi bars. A rather unique quirk of Wayo, though, is that upon request, all sushi can be prepared with brown rice instead of the standard white rice. All in all, Wayo Sushi is a cozy, comfortable restaurant that offers a decent sushi selection at reasonable prices, but sometimes with quite lackluster fish quality. If you’re in the neighborhood and you don’t mind sacrificing quality, it’s an OK option. If not, you might be better off satisfying your sushi craving elsewhere.

RATING:

COST:

1407 Van Ness Avenue (near Bush St.)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: 415.474.8369
Hours: Daily, 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Polk Gulch/Van Ness

How to get there: Wayo Sushi is located directly on Muni lines 47, 49 and 76, and is easily accessible via lines 1, 2, 3, 4, and 38. In addition, Wayo Sushi is only two blocks from the California Street cable car line terminus.

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