The crack team behind popular Van Ness omakase sushi restaurant Hinata is back with a new spot in Japan Center: Sasa, serving a mixture of sushi and modern Japanese cooking in a 39-seat space on the second floor of the East Mall. It opens next Tuesday, December 11, with lunch and dinner options.
Hinata partner Weida Chen (Sushi Ran, Ijji) has been quietly working on Sasa, named for a bamboo leaf, for about six months. The team has redone the former Izakaya Umai space, and brought in Jing Huang, an alum of Sushi Ran, Kusakabe, and two Michelin-starred kitchens in San Francisco. Huang is a longtime friend of Chen and his Hinata partner Gavin Leung (who previously worked at Zushi Puzzle and a sushi pop-up from Saison).
During the day, Sasa customers can order a Japanese brunch, with eight items from both the sushi bar and kitchen. At dinner service, Sasa will serve a la carte dishes and a $60 tasting menu. It’s all “based on traditional kaiseki cooking techniques with American influences,” says Leung. The tasting menu starts with one hassun, a traditional platter course in kaiseki cuisine (served here with five items), and it’s followed by eight pieces of sushi.
A la carte appetizers include shigoku oysters, A5 wagyu beef tartar (with seaweed rice cakes and egg yolk), and corn kuzu tofu agedashi with masago and Hokkaido snow crab. Some larger dishes on a sample menu (offerings will change seasonally) include tea-braised octopus and angel prawn confit in smoked wagyu fat.
In the past few years in San Francisco, omakase sushi offerings have exploded in popularity and prevalence — though notably, Hinata has retained its original $78 price tag in a high-flying market where tasting menus can set diners back a full paycheck. But at Sasa, Leung says he’s excited to show off more kaiseki dishes. There’s a fuller range of Japanese cuisine to put on display, he says.