No. 22: Tataki's Faux-Nagi

Categories: SFoodie's 92
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Photo courtesy of Bart Nagel

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.
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There are people out there -- we've met them, we know -- who can't think of a sushi meal without a couple of orders of unagi. With its broiler-blistered skin and sweet, thick glaze, the freshwater eel has the immediate appeal of barbecued baby backs or maple-glazed ham.

But freshwater eel, even the farmed variety, is also in many seafood watchers' no-fly zones. And so Tataki and Tataki South, which serve only sustainably sourced seafood, have come up with a substitute that may be even better -- and we're not talking ethics. Their faux-nagi is actually slices of black cod, aka sablefish, a Pacific Coast fish that Californians have been late to appreciate.

Swimming in cold northern waters, the fish piles on fat with the ease of a Wagyu steer. That fat melts and begins to emerge from between the striations of muscle only when the fish is brushed with a sweet soy marinade and torched. There's none of the cloying, algae-and-mud flavors that lurk underneath the eel's flavor, held at bay by the barbecue sauce. Instead, the faux-nagi tastes of butter, deep ocean, and caramelized sugar. The rice at the base of the faux-nagi nigiri shows that Tataki's chefs may make American-style rolls as baroque as an Ed Hardy shirt, but they can do the classics, too. As long as they're made with the right fish.

Tataki: 2815 California (at Divisadero), 931-1182.
Tataki South: 1740 Church (at Day), 282-1889.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre
52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni
51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage
50: Lumpia from Hapa SF
49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck
48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana
47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca
46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh
45: Los Muertos at Gitane
44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions
43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square
42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja
41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery
40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles
39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's
38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg
37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie
36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo
35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery
34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay
33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich
32: Duck larb at Thai House Express
31: Lark Creek Steak's burger
30: Barbacco's chicken thighs with olives and almonds
29: Mow Lee's lap cheong
28: Dollar oysters at Bar Crudo
27: Fava greens from Tairwa'-Knoll Farms
26: Nopa's mussels with harissa
25: Salt-and-pepper crab at Kam Lok
24: Recchiuti Confections' caramels to the third power
23: Mandarin lamb from Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant

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