Sushi Groove Adds California Twist to Stellar Sushi

24 Jul

Sure, you can get your California rolls and Spicy Tunas and call it a day. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, Sushi Groove has you covered.

Even before I lived in the city, Sushi Groove was one of my favorite spots. Hiding behind the trees of Hyde Street in Russian Hill, the small space has a limited amount of tables, plus eight to 10 chairs at the bar—where diners get a front-row seat to all the sushi-making action.

Photo credit: OpenTable

The restaurant’s décor is pretty minimal, but the lighting gives it a soft glow. The music genre varies depending on the night, but last night we were treated to upbeat top 40 hits. And because the restaurant is designed to be a cozy neighborhood joint, you often find yourself making friends with your neighbors. Last night, my friend Maureen and I were seated next to a lively group of people celebrating someone’s 30th birthday, and they would not rest until we tried some of this:

Photo credit: Yelp

That’s sea urchin, or uni. And when I say they would not rest, I mean the birthday guy grabbed my hand, pulled me over next to him, and held a pair of chopsticks in front of my face until I picked them up. Uni is definitely an acquired taste—the texture is akin to a tongue, and to me it tasted like a combination of soap and clam bellies. The somewhat inebriated birthday guy attempted to eat the urchin spines before his friends stopped him.

The service was attentive and our food came out what seemed to be minutes after we ordered it. (Although our perception of time might have been distorted by the gargantuan glasses of wine, seen below.)

The menu is exhaustive and inventive, with a California cuisine spin to many traditional Japanese staples. The maki offerings range from your standard tuna roll (Tekka maki), to the Sake Kawa Roll (grilled salmon skin with scallions), the Oshinko maki (Japanese pickled radish) or the Shiitake maki (shiitake mushroom roll). Special maki rolls include the Wayne’s World (yellowtail, salmon, spicy sauce and cucumber, rolled inside out with tobiko and scallions) and the Pete’s Roll (spicy white tuna and scallions inside, layers of baked spicy salmon outside). The daily specials are particularly playful, as seen below (with apologies for the dismal picture quality).

We started with the Kamikaze roll (salmon with avocado, scallions and tobiko), the Spicy Tuna roll, and one of the special rolls, the Sunkist (avocado, aioli, and shrimp tempura, topped with fresh salmon and a slice of lemon). When I asked about nuts, she confidently assured me that I had no need to worry, they didn’t use any nuts in the restaurant at all. Those with sesame allergies should definitely steer clear though.

All three rolls were fresh and delicious, with a good balance of ingredients on the Kamikaze roll and a satisfying amount of heat on the Spicy Tuna (I could have used a bit more, but I think the level was chosen to suit the most people). Our favorite was definitely the Sunkist, with the crunchy shrimp tempura adding a great layer of both taste and texture. The salmon and lemon were a perfect combination, as the lemon was quite mild (a Meyer lemon, probably?) and added just enough acidity and tang to balance the salmon.

We weren’t quite full after those three rolls, so we went back for another small round, this time of the most Americanized sushi roll you can get—the Rollin’ Blues roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese, scallions and cucumber. This was probably my least favorite of the rolls, but still good nonetheless.

One of the best parts of Sushi Groove is that the price is pretty reasonable, especially for the quality of food. After four rolls and two glasses of wine, we each paid $35 after tax and tip.

So whether you’re in the mood to do sake bombs and dance along to some pop or reggae music, to spice up your sushi selection, or just to get some delicious, fresh rolls, Sushi Groove is a great bet.


  • Food: 8.5
  • Presentation: 7.5
  • Menu: 8
  • Service: 7
  • Ambiance: 6
  • Allergy-friendliness: 9
  • Cost: $$

Overall: 4 stars


Sushi Groove

1916 Hyde St
(between Union St. & Green St)
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 440-1905

1516 Folsom Street
(between 11th St & Norfolk St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 503-1950


One Response to “Sushi Groove Adds California Twist to Stellar Sushi”

  1. Janice July 26, 2011 at 8:46 AM #

    My, my! Seems like a great place to hang out and eat. I think it would be fun to have a neighborhood place like that. The sea urchin was a little scary however

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