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photo credit: Krescent Carasso

The Shota review image
8.5

The Shota

$$$$

115 Sansome St, San Francisco
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The Shota is a 20-seat Japanese spot in the Financial District that blends two different formats into their set menu: Edomae-style omakase with sushi that’s been aged, cured, or seasoned in various ways, and kaiseki, a seasonal multi-course meal of intricately prepared and plated dishes. There’s only one menu option, which—before sake pairings or supplements like white sturgeon caviar—costs $295 per person. And for that $295, you only get to make one real choice: what you’ll be drinking at the somewhat stark white sushi bar. After that, you’re at the mercy of the night’s setlist.

Krescent Carasso

The Shota review image

With the kaiseki dishes, things are brought in shallow woven baskets, sauces are poured tableside, and plates arrive and are taken away in unison by the incredibly attentive staff. With the omakase dishes, sushi is made by one chef standing in front of you who might only be preparing food for two or three other people at a time. They’ll hand you things like intensely sweet scallops, blowtorched goldeneye snapper that smells like a whole childhood of barbecues, and a trio of tuna from lean to fatty, ending with a phenomenal hand roll (which you’ll receive only after the chef pulls out a model of a fish and explains where each piece came from). The most any piece of nigiri gets is some freshly grated wasabi, Japanese sea salt, soy sauce, or a touch of lime rind.

Even with the chefs working directly in front of you and each prepared course being delivered with some kind of flourish, dinner here can be pretty quiet—but it never feels overly serious thanks to the friendly staff. The only real talking you’ll want to do is a few quick words with whoever you’re here with about how good the last dish was. That’s how the experience will last for all 15 courses at The Shota, from the first dish that hits your table to the closing dessert.

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Food Rundown

The set menu at The Shota is a mix of kaiseki and omakase that changes seasonally. You can expect to see things like this.

The Shota review image

Sea Urchin

This “sandwich” of two profiterole halves is filled with uni pate, yuzu-persimmon marmalade, more uni, and topped with caviar. This is so good that if you stand up and leave after it, you won’t feel like you missed anything, even though you absolutely will.

The Shota review image

Awabi

A small bowl of silky chawanmushi and seaweed puree with tender abalone at the bottom and a dollop of roe on top. The abalone’s texture is somewhere between steak and mushrooms pretending to be steak, and the roe’s saltiness takes this over the top. This is all-around excellent.

Ainame

This seabass is a little difficult to eat, but it’s delicious. It’s marinated in miso, placed in a pool of squash puree, and served with a salted zucchini-stuffed fried squash blossom on top with some onion foam for good measure. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s a great couple of bites.

The Shota review image

Omakase

A little more than half of your meal here will be omakase-style, and you’ll get things like a trio of tuna that gets increasingly fattier and more tender until it has to be held together in a handroll with a bit of sorcery; a sweet rock prawn served with its crunchy fried head; and Hokkaido uni that tastes like getting hit with a water balloon made of ocean—in a good way. It’s all incredible.

The Shota review image

Matcha

The last course might be matcha affogato, made with matcha ice cream and matcha tea poured over the top. When it melts, the puffed grains taste like cereal with the matcha and ice cream serving as the milk, and it’s a refreshing way to end this marathon of a meal.

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