About a month after announcing plans to take over the matchbox-sized former Ichi Sushi space, chef Erik Aplin is ready to welcome diners to Chīsai Sushi Club beginning September 7. Aplin’s debut restaurant will bring relatively affordable omakase dining to the Bernal Heights neighborhood, as well as a full menu for vegetarian diners. Aplin formerly worked at some of San Francisco’s favorite sushi restaurants including Akiko’s and Robin, and also served as Ichi Sushi’s chef de cuisine for a number of years, making Chīsai a sort of homecoming for the chef.
In a city that’s crowded with high-end omakase experiences, Aplin hopes to fall on the more affordable end of the spectrum. The first menu tier starts at $80 for 13 courses with the option to spend $110 for 17 courses or $65 on a 12-course vegetarian menu. There will also be supplemental items available to add on to any of the omakase menus, which Aplin says he’d eventually like to spin off into a standalone a la carte menu once he’s settled into the swing of things.
For now, diners can look forward to some pretty inventive offerings. Aplin, whose resume also includes time in the kitchen at Matsuhisa Vail and Morimoto Napa, says he likes to use “Western techniques” to infuse his menus with richer flavors and ingredients than diners may expect. “I like to call this an American-Japanese restaurant,” Aplin says. “It’s not necessarily Japanese-American.” As an example, look no further than Aplin’s decidedly non-traditional uni carbonara, a rich small plate that will serve as the final savory course for the omakase menus. It’s only a three-bite dish but intentionally so as it combines fresh udon noodles with Cream Co. Meats bacon, uni cream sauce, and a thick blanket raw uni.
Each omakase menu will include three to four composed plates like the uni carbonara, several pieces of nigiri, and at least one hand roll — and Aplin’s taking liberties with the temaki format. Chīsai’s handrolls are open-faced and arrive in custom-made wooden holders. And these handrolls might be the most ambitious items on the menu with options including the BLTA filled with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado, and topped with yuzu kosho mayo, or the Seafood Tower that cradles a raw scallop, Fort Bragg uni, and ikura and is topped with melted nori butter. The vegetarian sushi leans on cured vegetables and more Western inspiration; there’s a “deli-style” hand roll made with cured carrot “lox,” cucumber, avocado, red onions, and capers. Other vegetarian options include tomato “maguro,” created by marinating tomatoes in shoyu to deepen the flavor and minic that of tuna.
For dessert, Aplin offers a little bit of fun: fish-shaped crispy taiyaki waffles made from corn muffin batter come filled with Nutella and topped with housemade hōjicha ice cream. Even the beverage options were selected with a price point in mind; there are wines on tap and a couple of local sakes. Aplin says he hopes Chīsai can thread the needle as both a destination for San Francisco sushi lovers (especially those who may be dining with a vegetarian friend) and an approachable option for residents in the area. “We really want to cater to the people in the neighborhood,” he says. “We really don’t want to price them out.”
Chīsai Sushi Club is located at 3369 Mission Street. The restaurant opens on Tuesday, September 7 and will be open for dinner from 5:30-9:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 5:30-10:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Reservations available online.