Deer-Free Sushi


Last Tuesday, I met my friend Tasha at Sebo—her hands down favorite sushi restaurant in the city, and maybe even the world. It was a timely visit since I had just read “Waiter, There’s a Deer in My Sushi”—one of the most emailed New York Times articles that day—about how chefs in Japan are dealing with the tuna shortage. Anyway, one extreme solution was to use smoked deer meat for its maguro-red color (ew). Horsemeat was another solution, but I’m not going there.

The flat refrigerated case at the sushi bar.

Back to my first dinner at Sebo…. we sat at the bar (note that the refrigerated case is built down into the bar instead of above it like at every other sushi place) and got the omakase. I’m guessing you’ll be relieved to know that while we did eat horse mackerel, neither Danny nor Michael—the owners and chefs at Sebo—served us anything four-legged.

Each course was intricately prepared, starting with just-in-season heirloom tomatoes and grilled octopus with a creamy sauce. Next out was a plate of nigiri starring baby yellowtail, the horse mackerel that I mentioned before, scallop, giant clam, sardine and halibut. Then we had mackerel two ways: sliced for sashimi and deep-fried. After that, Danny pulled out the torch, and prepared flame-torched fish wings over avocado and sunomono. Finally we got a bowl of soba noodles lightly dressed with a creamy uni sauce and topped with tobiko—it tasted like a gourmet version of mac’n’cheese.

Heirloom tomatoes and octopus.

From baby yellowtail and scallops to giant clam and sardines.

Mackerel two ways.

Danny with his torch.

Torched fish and sunomono.

Soba and uni.

Since Tasha knows my love for unagi runs deep, she insisted we get the unagi nigiri. Good thing because I’ve never had it so flavorful—and porcelain-colored! Danny also threw together a dish of eel, avocado, rice and bonito flakes. Last (we warned him that we could put food away), we ended our meal with a dish of mushrooms sautéed in sake and butter served over rice.


It’s pricey, and I thought the rice was on the hard side, but it was one of the most glamorous Japanese meals I’ve ever had—and prepared by non-Japanese chefs at that. (I think Danny actually mentioned that he’s from New Jersey.) And boy has their style really matured since the Midori Mushi at the Days Inn days. I also noticed on my one visit that it’s quite the industry destination—with regulars from Hog Island Oyster Company and Namu, a Korean restaurant at 5th and Balboa.

Next time you're in the mood for a culinary adventure, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Sebo.

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