San Francisco isn't really known as a sushi town, but it may be time to alter that notion. This year alone three standout spots opened — Ijji, Hashiri, Ju-ni — and now another is set to arrive this winter. From 1760 opening chef Adam Tortosa comes The Starling, a sushi restaurant that will riff on traditional Japanese techniques through Californian influences.
Located in the brand-new micro unit building at 388 Fulton St., The Starling will have a more playful atmosphere than traditional sushi temples (think Tupac blasting from the speakers), while keeping the focus on local, sustainable fish combined with seasonal Bay Area produce in an omakase starting at $79. An example nigiri might be Kinmedai (golden eye snapper) with torched skin, Cara Cara orange, chives, and smoked salt, though that will change with every weekly visit to the farmers market. There will also be a very limited menu of hot and cold small plates. It's a smaller space with just ten seats at the sushi bar and 20 at tables, something Tortosa planned to keep quality high with a more personal experience.
Tortosa is in a unique position to combine traditional Japanese techniques with more contemporary Californian flavors; he grew up in the state and worked for four years under master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi in Los Angeles, before cooking at New American restaurant Ink in LA and then opening 1760 here in SF.
While 1760 opened to successful early reviews, the power of Bauer was seen when the Chron critic poorly reviewed the restaurant, and Tortosa left shortly thereafter. Since then, Tortosa has returned to his sushi roots, spending the last year and a half at Akiko's, one of the city's best sushi restaurants, while creating The Starling's concept and finding a space.
"After that happened [Bauer's review and leaving 1760], I didn't want to be involved in restaurants. I stopped reading Eater; I stopped going out to eat. I was very over restaurants. But if I left, if I just went back to LA, I would lose this round," Tortosa told Eater. "At 1760, I felt like I needed to show off, to show that I had some technique or skill and that I belonged here. In the last few years, I've had some time to reflect and grow up. With The Starling, I don't feel like I need to 'fit in' now. It's more what I believe in."
The Starling is on track to open early winter. Stay tuned soon for many more details.