Friday, December 22, 2017

Food Friday: Robin

Robin 620 Gough Street San Francisco, CA 94102

Hayes Valley's Robin serves unique nigiri, including this caviar atop a taro chip, rested above a bed of rice.

If there's one thing that you've probably learned about me over these past seven years, it's that my favorite cuisine is Japanese. My boyfriend, who also happens to be half-Japanese, declared very early on that he doesn't know anyone else who eats as much sushi as me. In fact, if I'm remembering correctly, he also stated that it's honestly a wonder that I don't already have mercury poisoning. This last statement, although troubling, should give you an accurate depiction of just how much I love sushi. Luckily for me, my boyfriend also loves sushi and humors me, every time I "surprise" him with a sushi restaurant (or a restaurant that offers sushi, lol) to take him to for his birthday. Our first year together, I took him to Roka Akor, our second year together I took him to Mama's Fish House, and just a few weeks ago, I took him to San Francisco's latest omakase hot spot, Robin.

Robin, which opened in July, is a "hip," omakase-only (meaning chef's choice) restaurant located in Hayes Valley. Its interior is beautiful - shades of pink tiles adorn the wall behind the sushi bar, gold paint drips from the walls, and vibrant plateware stand out once placed against the rest of the restaurant's blacktop tables. Even the wooden spoons used for dessert are cute enough to stick in your pocket (don't worry; I didn't). Omakase begins at $79 a pop and can run all the way up to $179, depending on your hunger levels. For San Francisco standards, $79 for 10-11 bites isn't terrible -- that is, so long as the food is good and you're decently satisfied. So, where does Robin stack up against the bunch? My review, after the jump.
A visit to Robin - San Francisco's latest omakase hot spot.
San Francisco's Robin serves up tasty dishes in beautiful plateware.

Truth be told, before making a reservation, I poked around Instagram and Yelp to get a sense for what to expect. The thing about Instagram is that everything on the platform is made to look beautiful. And, the thing about Yelp is that everyone thinks they're a food critic and more often than not, are terribly critical when it comes to their reviews. So, I knew that my expectations needed to rest somewhere between the deliciously depicted photography and complaints about how the dishes were presented. We opted for a reservation on the early side and arrived just as the restaurant was opening. It deemed to be a good choice, since the restaurant was still mostly empty and we got to take our time (i.e., I could take as many photos as I wanted without Derrick getting too embarrassed about his company, lol).

Our waitress brought out hot towels and we decided to start with the $79 tasting menu before getting in over our heads. Our waitress let us know we could indicate some of our palate preferences before the chef did his thing, but we didn't actually get to voice our unprompted likes/dislikes before the dishes started coming out. Although, she did ask if we had any allergies, and whether or not we were into uni and wagyu, which was appreciated, as a few of our dishes included those items. As we waited, we sipped on some wine, and nodded our heads to the beat of Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy?" (an interesting song choice for an upscale sushi restaurant, but who am I to judge). Our first dish came out quickly (pictured above) and our omakase experience began. It was a shared plate, reminiscent of ceviche - hamachi sprinkled with citrus, pistachios and pomegranate seeds. The pistachios and pomegranate seeds were an interesting and fun choice, I thought. "Interesting" and "fun" continued to be the theme of the night.

The first set of nigiri from our omakase tasting at Robin.
A5 waygu tartare and Asian pear, topped with uni on a crispy nori chip from San Francisco's Robin.

Our next two dishes came out, one right after the other. The first was a set of three nigiri bites, each. Each piece was perfectly sized for one bite (think smaller than your average nigiri) and topped with an interesting, seasonal garnish. Some garnishes included persimmon, sage leaf, and pickled jalapeƱos. I appreciated that each set of nigiri fell into the same fish family (e.g., tunas, white fishes, etc.). The third dish was waygu tartare and Asian pear, topped with uni on a crispy nori chip. I found this bite to be the best out of the three first dishes, but what's not to love about uni?

The second set of nigiri from San Francisco's Robin.
The third set of nigiri from San Francisco's Robin.
albacore tuna soaked in ponzu garnished with radishes from San Francisco's Robin.

Our next two sets of nigiri came out - each one heavier in taste and noticeably more tasty than the one  preceding it. Due to its fattier nature, I found the tuna pieces to be much more distinguishable in taste.  My favorite nigiri is sake, so I was surprised that the tuna scored above it for me this night. Truth be told, and at the risk of sounding like a pretentious a-hole, although the first two sets of nigiri were good, they weren't great. Many of my bites were overpowered by wasabi, which was problematic for me. When I have a bite of nigiri, I want to taste the fish, not the wasabi that holds the fish to the rice. After the nigiri sets, our meal was then broken up again with another shared dish - albacore tuna soaked in ponzu garnished with radishes.

Hayes Valley's Robin serves unique nigiri, including this caviar atop a taro chip, rested above a bed of rice.
Sesame noodles with black truffle shavings from San Francisco's Robin.

The most San Francisco-eque nigiri bites were saved for last. First one (above) being the caviar atop a potato chip. Don't get me wrong the bite itself was beautiful - I mean, do you see that purple potato chip? I believe it was a taro root chip. Unique and inventive, but so San Francisco. The second one (below) was seared A5 wagyu under foie gras snow. I'll let that one sit with you for a bit. A5 WAGYU UNDER FOIE GRAS "SNOW," lol. Again, inventive, decadent, and, yes, delicious. The final two shared plates were sesame noodles with black truffle shavings and my favorite from the night, the onsen jidori egg with trout roe in a soy broth. The soup was comforting and felt like a great ending dish to the meal. Before the final two dishes came out, our waitress was kind enough to inform us that our meal was coming to end, should we want anymore bites before desert. I do wish that she also let us know when we were about halfway, mostly so we knew where we were in the meal. We opted to end where we were and each had house-made soft serve for desert. The soft serve flavor that evening was truffle, which wasn't my favorite. A bit overpowering for a soft serve, but truffle fans definitely won't be disappointed.

Robin: Onsen jidori egg with trout roe in a soy broth
Robin: Nigiri - seared A5 wagyu under foie gras snow
Truffle-flavored soft-serve for dessert from Robin.

Overall, I thought Robin was a 3 out of 5 stacks. The decor is beautiful, the experience is enjoyable, and the sushi is creative and strives to be unique. After doing a whirl on Yelp and Insta, I noticed our dinner was just about the same as everyone else's, so I'm not sure I would go back if the meal was going to be the same, give or take a dish or two. (Although, I'm sure if you express that you've been before, they mix it up.) For the amount of food that you get, I thought the $79 price point was fair. The music (loud hip-hop, lol) perhaps demonstrates that Robin wants to be your young, cool date-night spot. And, it is; but for me, maybe the once is enough.

Have you been? If so, would be curious to hear your thoughts! Got a sushi spot that this Stacker needs to suss out? Slide into my DMs or share a comment below. 


1 comment

  1. Have you had Ju-Ni?

    Probably one of my favorite meals (omakase) ever =)


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