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Not Entirely Impressed: Shimo Sushi

Shimo Sushi in Outer Richmond

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Nice sake collection at Shimo Sushi

On a slightly drizzly night, my friend Bill “the BFC” took me out for dinner.  I chose the cuisine — Japanese, and he chose the place — Shimo Sushi.  This place had apparently been here awhile, though Bill’s last visit was a few years ago. First off – parking was difficult on this evening.  We arrived past 8 P.M. and drove a 3 block radius many times before finally finding a spot. 

Battling the drizzling rain (which I hate), we walked to Shimo Sushi and entered. It’s a quaint little spot in Richmond with a sushi bar in the center, and tables along the opposite wall.  It’s pretty basic but I noticed on this weeknight evening, there were still quite a few patrons there.  I am all about neighborhood joints, and I figured if there are this many people eating here on a Tuesday night, the least I can expect is fresh fish. I’m extremely picky about sushi, and even trying out a new sushi joint, I find that I hesitate because so rarely do I have good things to say about a sushi restaurant.  

Don’t you hate it when you pay good money to eat one of your favorite things and it tastes horrid?

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Ankimo: Monkfish Liver

Anyway – we sat down and ordered a bottle of sake to share and placed our order.

The Ankimo was the first up.  Ankimo, for those of you who do not know, is Monkfish Liver.  The liver is steamed w/ sake and thoroughly “cooked”.  This dish is usually served with a ponzu and green onion sauce, but let me tell you — when this dish is prepared well, you need for nothing else.  Ankimo is served as sashimi or nigiri, and at Shimo, we opted for the sashimi.  I like ordering this dish because (1) even when prepared shabbily, it still tastes pretty decent (albeit flavorless); and (2) when prepared perfectly, it seriously might be the best sashimi/nigiri you will ever have. 

See my previous review on Ino Sushi for the best Ankimo I have found to date in San Francisco.

At Shimo, the Ankimo was pretty good.  Nicely cooked, I think it could have been infused with more sake, but the quality of the Ankimo was good.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Hamachi and friends

We ordered some sushi.  The hamachi was good but I found the taste to be lacking.  It didn’t have the buttery goodness I expect from Yellowtail; this is most likely due to the origin and type of Yellowtail (and perhaps the season, too) rather than the restaurant’s issue, but most of the time, this will depend on the source of the fish.  Whoever Shimo uses didn’t provide them w/ the quality fish that other sushi restaurants in San Francisco use.  My friend likes cucumber maki, so we ordered that.  It served nicely as a palate cleanser.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Hamachi Kama – yellowtail collar

We also ordered Hamachi Kama, which is usually referred to as Yellowtail Collar.  When the right piece of Yellowtail that is cooked and seasoned properly, this dish is usually enough to make you forget all of your worries while you’re chowing.  Again, Shimo provided Yellowtail that was lower on the flavor scale, and once cooked, I could also tell that it had a low fat content.  Healthier, it may be, but good hamachi is highest in fat content. When cooked, this fish should have released all kinds of oils, but it was drier (though cooked correctly) and completely underseasoned; it needed way more salt.  While I put salt on it while I ate, it doesn’t make up for lack of seasoning during the cooking process.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
More sushi choices

The other sushi we had all remained within the mediocre level.  Keep in mind that my idea of mediocre, when it comes to sushi, is quite possibly someone else’s idea of excellent — but there’s better sushi to be had in San Francisco. That is, until the Toro came out.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
On what miserable planet is this TORO?

I expect to moan and groan while I eat Toro.  Shimo offered a Toro that, at best, was decent Maguro, which is unacceptable when you’re charging for Toro. Look at the piece above, and then take a look at what REAL toro looks like:  

shimo sushi
This is a real Toro. Look at that marbling of fat! (Photo credit: Tracy Chang)

Toro is the premium tuna belly that costs a fortune but tastes like nothing else in the world.

Of course, there’s great toro and lesser toro, but tuna belly is good even when it’s not from the most prized tuna’s belly.  You cant charge the premium that Toro demands for a piece of fish that doesn’t have visible fish oils, was rather dry, and offered exactly NONE of the usual flavor that good Toro offers.  This order was a disappointment; this order was basically fraudulent.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Really fresh uni

What Shimo sushi did offers was very fresh Uni on this evening.  Uni is sea urchin, and we ended up ordering several of these beauties throughout the evening.

All in all, Shimo was decent.  Other than the Toro, there was nothing serious to complain about, but there was also not much to write home about either. Service was also just decent; nobody impressed me but nobody really messed up either.

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
I missed real sushi rice.

But the rice?

Sushi rice is what makes or breaks a restaurant, almost as important as having fresh fish.  Shimo seems to use plain rice.  With quality rice, this isn’t bad, but without actual nigiri rice that is simply perfect, it’s tough to catapult yourself into “amazing sushi” category.

I would be fine getting together with friends here to eat sashimi and some good sake.  It’s a fun spot, and the vibe is on the livelier end of things. The place is quite bright, and roomy enough for a crew of about six people to get together for a good night. The prices were reasonable enough, though far from cheap.

But for a good sushi dinner?

Shimo Sushi | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Sake and sushi at Shimo

I don’t recommend Shimo. 

Of course, the places I’m thinking of for better sushi will almost always cost considerably more than Shimo, but my motto regarding sushi is simple: “Pay whatever you must to have the best sushi possible.” 

When sushi is good, it’s so incredibly good that I’d rather skip three mediocre sushi dinners to have one great dinner.

Shimo is located at 2339 Clement Street in San Francisco. Street parking, as mentioned, can be a bit difficult. There appears to be a Shimo Restaurant II located on Taraval Street, which I should divulge that I have never tried. They are opened from 5pm to midnight from Tuesday to Saturday, and only until 10:30 PM on Sundays and Mondays.

Service: 6/10 Ambiance: 5/10 Food: 6.5/10 Addictive Factor: 4/10 Overall Rating: 5.8/10

Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

  1. I have eaten more time than I can remember at Shimo’s and ordered torro every time. I can attest that what you were served was not the norm.

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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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