In Praise of Sushi Zone's Baked Sea Bass
Sushi Zone is one of San Francisco's hidden gems. Located on an alley off Market Street on the edge of Hayes Valley, the tiny restaurant holds only two booths and eight bar stools. The owner, who goes by "Ao," mans the raw sushi bar six nights a week, rolling up some of the freshest sushi and maki rolls for the price point. But the rolls aren't the only thing that draw the crowds.
The cash-only sushi joint opens at 5 p.m., and fills up quickly with regulars and new comers alike. We stopped in for an early dinner Wednesday night to nab a single seat at the bar before the chalkboard waiting list filled up. On a weekday you might get lucky, as we did, but on a Friday or Saturday night expect anywhere from a one to two hour wait -- no reservations accepted.
So what's all the fuss? Aside from the warm friendly staff and the delicious fresh fish, the baked sea bass is the small plate that has San Franciscans raving. Thinly sliced white sea bass sits atop diced mango and is served in a half shell mussel. The mouth-watering dish is finished with special spicy mayo and fish eggs, and then baked. The mayo forms a crisp layer on top of the fish, but still oozes creamy deliciousness with bite.
The distinctive dish has just the right combination of sweetness and salt to make it an ideal appetizer or even savory decadent dessert. At $6.75 a plate, the baked sea bass seems to have its own cult following -- almost every seat in the restaurant was lapping up a plate.