There’s a certain kind of desire for hole in the wall kind of places. Maybe it’s the thrill of discovering that it is not in the mainstream, maybe it satisfies one’s inner hipster, or maybe it’s rooting for the underdog. I think for me, hole in the wall places often represent something done well. An artisan kind of place where the proprietor eschews those who do not understand and deems those who are in the know to wander in to sample what they have to offer. Quality, over quantity. Care and precision vs. mass assembled food. Craftsmanship. There’s only so much space to work with and they have to do it well to sustain their living. I like these kind of places.
For those in the know in San Francisco, this Inner Richmond mom and pop shop is famed for it notoriety and strict rules. No pop/soda, no complaining, no takeout, no tempura, no teriyaki. 2 seatings a night at 7pm and 9:30. Minimalist menu. You can walk by there without purpose a dozen times and you would not notice it would be there unless you see the lineup of people waiting patiently to snag one of those coveted 11 seats the restaurant has to offer. Of course, these ‘quirks’ fuel the folklore about this place in the SF food scene. The locals here love to tell a story about obstacles and lineups.
The setup seems to ward off those who are seeking Japanese American food and seeks to educate the American public what good sushi should taste like. When I first heard this, I was stoked. I’ve yearned for a place like this in San Francisco. I never somehow found a Sushi-ya owned by Japanese people. This looked incredibly promising.
I lined up with some friends at 5:40pm and chit-chatted for a while. We found a quiet gentleman who said he never went anywhere else except this place and has done so for 10 years plus. Awesome! Around 7ish, the elderly couple came and briskly carried in a couple boxes. They quickly asked who was in line and how many people. We mentioned five, and the owner said, “we don’t do 5, it’s too many”. I had to hide my laugh at the absurdity of this comment. And it only fueled the legend even more at how offbeat and particular this place is. Our two friends came later and said that they’ll depart and go somewhere else, so the three of us walked in. Somehow in my mind it triggered the thought that this place is legit.
You walk in and it is TINY. On the walls you see the great raving messages that you see from previous guests. Great sign.
We waited and waited and finally the chef’s wife comes along to take our orders, I wanted to do the omakase but they only do it when they have it. We ended up having a hamachi, some softshelled crab and sashimi plate. When our food came, it was pretty decent. I gave the crab a try and was pleased by it after I kept reminding myself “Felix, this is not a spider this is not a spider”. The hamachi was good as well, though I do remember it on the slightly overcooked side. But that’s ok as well, I’m not here for the appetizers, I’m here for the raw fish!
The sashimi came in its colourful fashion and in huge portions. This is when it fell apart for me and I became disappointed. I truly do think sashimi (and therefore sushi) should be a pleasant room temperature to have a soft slightly warm texture and that’s when you get to taste the subtlety of the fish. It is important to note also room temperature does not mean that it has been sitting out to the point where it is kind of dry and questionable. Amateur hour sashimi to me is when they serve it to you and it’s cold and even worse, still half frozen. A majority of the sashimi I had that night was on the colder side, and a few pieces were still frozen. A greater ‘crime’ committed was that I even pulled out a few bones on a few pieces. Come, on.
That’s all I really can say about my Tekka experience that I had built up in my head. I desperately wanted it to be mindblowingly amazing, but what I found was that it’s ok to good at best. It’s definitely good value if that’s what you’re looking for, but if you’re looking for quality and precision, this is not the place for you. For such a peculiar and quirky operation, I imagined that their attention to detail must be fantastically high, but what I found was it was average Vancouver calibre sushi. It’s good, but not great, and that to me is disappointing.
I think there’s probably better Japanese places out here in SF, but reason you come here is to tell your friends about the quirkiness of the shop, not for the quality of fish. The hunt for extraordinary sushi goes on in San Francisco.