Savvy San Franciscans who love omakase but seek out high quality at a good value may already be familiar with the various neighborhood restaurants of the Mins group, from Tamashisoul in the Marina to Sushi Hon in the Mission. As previously reported, the Mins group is in expansion mode these days, having opened two restaurants during the pandemic with Sushi Hakko in Cow Hollow and Izakaya Hon in SoMa. And now, the team is debuting their biggest concept yet: Sushi Sato opens next Tuesday, November 2, and it’s the first of three new Japanese restaurants in one triple-restaurant combined space wrapping around a corner in the Tenderloin.
The first of the three restaurants to open, Sushi Sato is debuting with omakase at an accessible price. Executive Chef Alex Kim, coming from Sushi Hon and Sushi Hakko, crafted this new menu at Sushi Sato, as well. He says he has a fish buyer on the ground in Tokyo, who texts him every day at 3 a.m. from Toyosu market to confirm specific selections before shipping overnight. But as at the other Mins restaurants, he combines the best of Japanese and Californian ingredients, with sushi rice grown in the Sacramento Delta, fatty tuna from Baja California, and uni from Santa Barbara.
The Chef’s Tastings run a reasonable $40 to $55 for six to 10 pieces, while the Sato’s Tasting is $80 and rounds it out with starters, sides, and desserts. While the other Mins restaurants focus on prix-fixe, Sushi Sato boasts a full a la carte menu, so you can sip cocktails and snack on toro tartare or fatty tuna and sea urchin piled on crispy rice crackers. Click through for the full menu.
Sushi Sato will also have a full bar pouring party-ready whiskey and cocktails. Beverage director Derek Li joined the group to craft the drinks at Izakaya Hon this spring, and before that came from the elegant Cold Drinks Bar at China Live. He’s starting with a cocktail list of six drinks, which will eventually expand to 16, starring lots of Japanese spirits and ingredients, from black and green teas to shiso leaves and peppers.
The Rakuen features Kikori whiskey infused with oolong, coconut, and housemade pistachio syrup, for a rich and nutty iteration on a martini; and the Sakura highball refreshes Tori whiskey with a floral house cordial made from sakura or cherry blossoms. There’s also a selection of 80 different types of whiskey, with great ambitions to grow to 150, including a Yamakazi 18 year and Nikka 21 year, or “the king of whiskey,” Li assures.
Stepping in off Post Street, Sushi Sato opens into an unexpectedly minimalist but warm space. It was formerly Bitter, Bock & Rye, but designer Ron Stanford of Step 3 Studio says they “stripped it to the studs,” flipping the bar to the other side of the room — “The chi was off. We wanted warm minimalism. Clean but emotional.” Now the space is filled with exposed brick, polished wood floors, deep blue paint, and the amber glow of backlit whiskey bottles. The long bar runs down the left, with a top made of cream porcelain, and open iron shelves and hypnotic light fixtures floating overhead. Two tables drink in the natural light at the big front windows, and more tables run down the right side of the room. Slatted screens made of Baltic birch separate a lounge area in the back, with low couches for more whiskey sipping and the occasional live DJ.
Sushi Sato is a respectable 2,500 square feet on its own, but all three restaurants combine for 7,500 square feet total. Still to come: Through the back right, Bar Kuro will be a separate dedicated whiskey bar, hoping to open in a couple of months, and all the way through the back, Kuro will be a more upscale omakase counter, slated to open in early 2022. Below ground level, there’s additional production space, to potentially brew sake. Sushi Sato faces out on Post Street, while the whiskey bar and omakase counter will have fronts on Polk Street, and although a separate business inhabits the actual corner, the three all connect through the block.
The Tenderloin — an area that is already challenged by a severe lack of resourcing for its unhoused residents — has struggled through the pandemic. But it’s also truly one of the great restaurant neighborhoods of San Francisco, and the Mins group is far from the only restaurant betting big on this end of Polk Street. Maison Danel, the new patisserie and tea salon, is just across the street, and Son & Garden, that fresh over-the-top garden party, is a few blocks down. Half a mile away, the new La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, run by the nonprofit that features female and immigrant food entrepreneurs, was also one of the biggest restaurant openings of the year, and it’s got a cool new bar with a happy hour scene, too.