Fun and Cheap is Good Enough on Some Nights: Sudachi
Sharing a meal with friends is so much more than just eating good food, or satisfying your hunger. You’ll note that when you look back at a great experience you had at a really good restaurant, you tend to remember the company as much as you do the food — if not more. In fact, long after your recollection of what you ate has faded — you will remember who was sitting in front of you sharing in that experience.
On that same note, there are just those nights where it matters very little what you ate, and you only want to get together with friends you love and share a meal.
Well, Sudachi is one of my go-to places for just those nights.
I can’t actually say this is topnotch food. Most of the dishes are tasty enough, and quite fairly priced with sushi rolls ranging from $7-18, depending on size and contents — but when you get a $12 roll, it’s big as a $12 roll should be. The choice of rolls that Sudachi offers is extremely vast, and I’ve found the taste of each roll to be about as good as you’d expect it to be, based on the menu description.
To the left is the Sudachi Roll, which I usually order as it’s a really big combination of mostly raw fish and cooked shrimp tempura in the middle. It’s also quite nice to look at.
They offer the typical range of nigiri here, though I have yet to try any of them. In all honesty, for sushi, I have a dozen other places to go to in the city before I eat it here. But Sudachi offers a fusion of Japanese/Korean comfort foods that can’t be found elsewhere in San Francisco.
They have the usual fare of udon and katsu-choice, like chicken katsu or don-katsu; they also offer the donburi types for each of these. But then they also offer more interesting items like “bulgogi tacos” or “Korean spicy pork hamburgers”, both of which we ordered on this evening.
But before getting into the food, Sudachi offers a fun atmosphere in which friends, even very large groups, can gather to eat, drink and be merry for a relatively low cost.
My first time here was for a going away party, and about 25 of us gathered here to eat dinner and drink. It being a Japanese restaurant, the sake rounds started as soon as we sat down and continued on throughout the night at an alarming pace. Cold sake! Hot sake! More, please! Beer!
Thirty toasts later, I was dumbfounded at how much sake my table had consumed. I was also really curious how much this bill was going to be, because the group never stopped eating! Roll after roll, appetizer after appetizer, entree after entree — and lest there be any room left — MORE rolls — the 25 people just consumed like it was their last meal.
And at the end, each person’s portion came to $33, unbelievably enough.
A year later, I brought a group of 18 people or so here on a Friday night, and with little effort, we were able to score a big makeshift table in the back area of the restaurant. (The restaurant is significantly more popular since those days, I believe.) We all sat down and basically repeated the first time, and again, the cost was low — somewhere under $30 per person if I recall. (If this seems high to you – that’s probably because you’re not familiar with just how much our groups were drinking.)
Since then, I come back to Sudachi when I want a fun and simple dinner with friends. I’ve had some crazy nights here with a group of six or so, measuring head circumference with camera handles, and seeing who could or couldn’t balance a spoon on their noses. I’ve also seen some craziness happen here, where suddenly a swarm of Cyndi Laupers walk in — and we’re told it’s “80′s Night”.
Come 10 PM on weekend evenings, the entire place gets rowdy. The clientele turns pretty young and rambunctious. My dinners here during the weekdays have never been interrupted by this crowd, but weekends are definitely crazier.
Without having visited 50 times, I can’t speak to the quality of each thing on the menu as this menu is HUGE. Gordon Ramsay would have a field day, cursing out the people who came up with so many rolls and entrees. But for the rest of us who have different tastes, there is something for everyone. Some of the rolls are familiar, like the Dynamite Roll, and then others are completely unique to Sudachi.
The rolls that I continue ordering on each visit have been the “Oh Yes Roll”, “Yahoo Roll” and “Sudachi Roll”; I’ve also grown fond of their chicken katsu, though something has changed this year that made the chicken katsu a lot tastier in years past. Granted, there’s no comparison to the really good katsu at Hukilau, which might be my favorite katsu, especially combined with their awesome macaroni salad, but last time I checked, they didn’t serve up creative sushi rolls there.
On my last visit, I ordered the fish katsu which was perhaps the most underwhelming and unimpressive thing I’ve had at Sudachi to date. The fish was thinly sliced and unmemorable, and the batter overpowered any slight and albeit mediocre taste the fish may have offered. A bigger and better fish has to be used to be able to serve it up katsu-style.
Inevitably, every time I go to Sudachi, someone orders a fusion burger of some sort. The consensus seems to be that the bulgogi burger is better than the spicy pork bulgogi burger, but the biggest raves are usually over the salmon burger. I’m stretching myself enough filling up on rolls that I loosely call “sushi”, so I rarely try any of the burgers here. The wedge-cut fries, though, are quite tasty, if not a little greasy.
One person at our table ordered the bulgogi tacos on my last visit, which was my first time tasting it — and I have to say, this was actually quite good. For $11.25, it’s listed as an entree, but it’s also ideal for 3 people to share while tasting all the rolls and other goodies that the restaurant offers.
Service can vary. The servers are generally young and energetic, but how attentive they can be really depends on the evening. I’ve had one male server that truly made the entire night fabulous, and I’ve also encountered a couple female servers that left a bit to be desired. With my really large groups of diners, some things have been forgotten or otherwise not delivered to the table, but no harm done as they made up for it eventually.
After all is said and done, you don’t leave Sudachi hungry — that much is for sure. Once in awhile, when the whole table is in the mood for it, we might order some tempura ice cream, available in green tea, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream. This thing is enormous, and hence, the entire table needs to agree to partake in consuming it or else it will quickly become a rather digusting mess before your eyes. I preferred green tea over the strawberry, and have never tried the vanilla.
While it’s clear I love food, there’s something to be said about having an overall great experience, even if nothing in particular made your palate sing during a meal. That is Sudachi’s draw and appeal, and there aren’t that many places in the city that can manage a group as big as you can take here. I tend to organize a lot of events, and with dinners, when it’s a group of 20 people, Sudachi is first on my mind. It’s a good joint in which to build lots of fun memories.
Sudachi is located at 1217 Sutter Street in San Francisco, and also delivers to the local area until late. Take a look at their vast menu! I’ve tried the delivery, and it’s nowhere near as appealing as a visit to Sudachi since it’s really not just about their food but rather, the experience. Their business hours vary by day of the week, with Friday and Saturday nights ending at 1 AM.
Give the place a try — I think you’ll like it!
Addictive Factor: 8.2/10
Overall Rating: 7.1/10