Food Porn: Deep-Fried Shrimp Heads At We Be Sushi

Categories: Food Porn

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Place: We Be Sushi (538 Valencia St. between 16th and 17th)

Occasion: Dinner

Style: Japanese/Sushi

Price: Mid-range. Check the menu here.

Rationale: Funny story. The first time I ever had sushi was at We Be Sushi, in 1999, after spending a landlocked, Midwestern youth eating primarily four-legged friends. And while it wasn't love at first sight, it was (I later realized) a fantastic place to gobble my first piece of nigiri: consistently good and not crazy expensive. Definitely one of the best no-frills sushi joints in town. It grows on you, and the kooky catchphrase "Like Mom Used To Make" rings true in some bizarre personal way, however ironic the intention. You can eat there every week, order the same meal, and never notice a difference in quality.

Follow the jump for the up close and personal ...

Favorite Dish: Sake Nigiri (fresh salmon)

Least Favorite Dish: Rainbow Maki (tuna, prawn, salmon, tobiko avocado on California roll) I'll explain later.

The Skinny: Unassuming and decked out in quaint Japanese sushi-bar decor, both locations of We Be Sushi are good, although by extensive trial-and-error I've come to prefer the 538 Valencia St. location -- it's more spacious, and offers a nice selection of fried dishes that I haven't seen at the 1071 Valencia St. spot -- specifically the diced crispy chicken ($5.50), the perfect foil to an otherwise sushi-licious meal.

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The seaweed salad ($3.50) -- also known as wakame -- is a staple in my sushi ritual, right up there with steamed rice, miso soup, soy sauce, and chopsticks. Always a great way to start: It's refreshing, crunchy, and cool, with a great blast of sesame flavor.

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Ahh yes, this is the true money shot from this particular meal: deep-fried shrimp heads ($1.50 for 2 pieces), as an accompaniment to the Amaebi Nigiri (raw shrimp). I'm not the biggest shrimp fan in the world -- something about those beady eyes, those spindly legs -- but I found something highly cathartic about crunching down on these little buggers. Basically it tastes like a shrimp-flavored fistful of french fries. Mmm, shrimp brains. Tastes like knowledge.

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Behold the mighty Rainbow Maki roll ($9.95), a big old bundle of tuna, prawn, salmon, tobiko, and avocado, all beautifully wrapped around a California roll. Would I frame it and hang it on the wall? Hell yes. Would I order it again? Eh, maybe. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the elements, but in this case the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. As often happens with these special maki concontions, there are too many flavors flying around together and in the end it prevents you from enjoying any of them fully. I recommend dissecting the thing and making yourself a nice sashimi sampler.

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Amaebi Nigiri -- raw shrimp -- ($3.50 for 2 pieces). With the heads deep-fried to a perfect golden crunch, it seems only fair that the bodies arrive raw (see yin yang: the unity of opposites) . And it was a good dining choice too. The raw meat plays out sweeter and more tender than the usual light poaching.

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Sake Nigiri -- fresh salmon -- ($3.15 for 2 pieces) is the pinnacle of sushi pleasure, as far as I'm concerned. Mild, buttery, slices of fat-striped perfection with a palpable melt-in-your-mouthiness that's irresistible.

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Hamachi Nigiri -- yellowtail -- ($3.50 for 2 pieces). Again, beautifully, simply presented; a little chewier and fishier than the salmon.

-- Brian Bernbaum

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