Ava and Zaira’s Sushi Quest
By Ava Francis-Hall and Zaira Vaquero
The city of Novato has an array of different cuisines available, yet sushi is by far its most interesting. So, Ava Francis-Hall and Zaira Vaquero took it upon themselves to visit four of the five main sushi places in Novato to uncover the best sushi in the hometown of Novato high schoolers. To review the restaurants accurately and fairly, we ordered salmon and tuna nigiri, a rainbow roll, and strawberry mochi from every place. For all of you sushi newbies, nigiri is raw fish placed on top of vinegar rice, and a rainbow roll is a California roll with an assortment of raw fish and avocado on top. For all you Japanese dessert newbies, mochi is a ball of ice cream encapsulated in a thick layer of pounded sticky rice cake. Let’s get rolling!
Taki: 4.5/5 Edamame Beans
Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center, 452 Ignacio Blvd
Ambience: Taki is a classy sushi restaurant that has an authentic feel, with a lively atmosphere and eye-catching decor. You are instantly greeted by some curious koi fish in a quaint little pond at the front of the house. When seated, you will notice the unique seating arrangements. In the rear of the restaurant are seating cushions placed on the floor; and in an orderly fashion, booths are laid out like keys on a keyboard. The lighting is romantic and warm, and the noise level is moderate.
Food: We ordered the tuna and salmon nigiri, as well as a rainbow roll. They came out promptly, within 15 minutes of our ordering, and we couldn’t wait to start eating these beautiful pieces of food artwork. The nigiri was buttery and delectable, and the rainbow roll had a healthy assortment of fish including shrimp, tuna, salmon, albacore, yellowtail, and avocado on top of a classic California roll. The California roll featured crab and avocado, and the raw fish on top provided a large chewy mouthful of seafood and vegetables. It was extremely obvious these fresh tasting rolls consisted of high quality ingredients. To cleanse our palettes, we ordered strawberry mochi. Our waitress offered us the choice of a whipped cream or chocolate sauce topping, a rare luxury that only amplified our liking for the restaurant.
Service: Our service was soy divine. Our waitress was extremely personable and warm as she helped us understand the menu. We arrived for dinner and were seated at a booth within five minutes. Hot towels were handed to us, to prepare us for a clean meal. It already felt like something special. Our food was brought out very quickly making for a rather fast dining experience.
Overall: Taki is a family friendly restaurant that has grown to be a favorite by fellow Ignacio residents, as well as Bay Area locals. The food was high-quality and fresh, and the service was friendly and helpful. We recommend heading to Taki for a family or friend dinner; just to be prepared to spend some money for a hearty meal. We paid a tab of $53.38 for 2 people, including an extra order of rolls and tempura. Our waitress recommended the crazy roll and the water roll, and strongly recommended the classic California roll.
Sushi Tri: 4/5 Edamame Beans
333 Enfrente Road
Ambience: It is cool as a sushi cucumber in the way that this restaurant sets up its dining experience. As soon as you enter this sushi joint, an artistic presentation of alcoholic beverages including various Saki bottles greets you. Its compact tables and refreshing outdoor seating is offered to restaurant goers who seek adventure and authenticity in their experience. The climate was moderately brisk with an overwhelming sense of professionalism demonstrated by the clean sushi bar and non-hectic staff.
Food: Our food was brought out within 15 minutes of ordering, and it was appealing! The sushi was fresh and delectable, and the nigiri was buttery, tender, and satisfying. The textures of the rolls were fluent and the flavors complemented each other very well. We ordered strawberry mochi (as always), which came with whipped cream, a stupendous addition. The food wowed us with its flavor and savory tastes.
Service: It was professional, friendly, and very relaxed. Our waitress laid out forks for us as if we were at a five-star restaurant. As we parted with our newly-discovered food friend, the chefs waved goodbye at us, merely demonstrating how well customers were treated.
Overall: Sushi Tri is a wonderful family restaurant that offers a cool and healthy sushi experience. It can look off-putting as it is on the side of the highway, but don’t be fooled, as this restaurant is just as tasty and classy as any other restaurant in Novato. Roll your way over to this restaurant for an affordable meal, as our tab was $40 for two people.
Sushi Holic: 3/5 Edamame Beans
Vintage Oaks, 112 Vintage Way
Ambience: As you enter Sushi Holic, you are immediately submerged into a world of bamboo plants and plastic Japanese decorations. The low lighting and shaded windows disrupt the casual vibe of the restaurant, creating a tired and almost confined dining experience. The setting is intimate, as the row of tables against the walls along with the larger tables are packed in tightly.
Food: We ordered the tuna and salmon nigiri. Considering the sloppy presentation of nigiri, the crumbling rice, and the chewy consistency of the fish, we were astonished to learn the price of the nigiri (each) was six dollars. As disappointed as we were with the nigiri, we were pleasantly surprised by the Alaskan roll, Sushi Holic’s California roll with raw salmon as the topping. It was addicting, and we were left feeling that we could eat another plate of it. However, we weren’t overly awed by the quality or freshness of the fish. We ordered mochi for dessert, a final necessity for any sushi outing. It was a total blast of strawberry freeze.
Service: Our service was excellent. Our waitress was very friendly and gave us recommendations. She also helped us understand the menu. We were one of five customers in the period of an hour, dining for a late lunch at 2:30. Our food came out promptly, about five to seven minutes after ordering, and it was obvious that the staff were organized and efficient.
Overall: A unique Japanese setting, friendly and fast service, and mediocre sushi make Sushi Holic a casual and quick fix for anyone craving raw fish. If you wish to grab lunch or dinner at this sushi joint, our waitress recommended the tataki attack roll, the tempura, and the toro sushi, saying they were all “very filling.” Our tab was about $31 for two people.
Masa: 1/5 Edamame Beans
813 Grant Ave
Ambience: Masa sushi is a claustrophobic restaurant that would most likely be found on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares. An out-of-place bamboo bench in the middle of the restaurant was an immediate eye catcher (in the worst way), which set up the pretense for most of the other decor in the joint. Cardboard boxes are stacked in the middle of the room, partly hidden by screen dividers; clearly a lazy solution for storage. Tables are way past “intimate” as they are organized back-to-back. We were seated next to a bulky fan in the forgotten corner which provided uncomfortable company, acting as a third wheel throughout our entire meal. Orange hues light the restaurant along with windows which covered the front wall.
Food: The sushi was rather stale. The nigiri and the rainbow roll were both served on the same plate, fitting the theme of the compact tables. The salmon nigiri had a rather soggy taste and the rice was extremely unproportional compared to the fish. The teriyaki salmon tasted as if they had taken pieces of those cardboard boxes and fed it to us. The consistency was rubbery and the fish was flavorless, indicating that the dish had been microwaved! The strawberry mochi tasted as if it had been in the freezer for months, as it was musty tasting and freezer burned. One bite of the mochi was enough to make us want to get up and leave without paying. The extreme lack of care or passion this restaurant had for its cuisine was obvious and disheartening.
Service: There were only two waitresses serving the entire restaurant, which might have been the reason why my water was never refilled. The waitress didn’t seem encouraged to interact with the customers, aside from taking orders.
Overall: Truly one of the worst restaurants we have been to in a long time. It is evident that this establishment has become lazy and careless, as they don’t appreciate their customers. We would not recommend dining at Masa, and instead implore you to visit Mi Pueblo or another downtown Novato restaurant that will not simply appreciate your money. Our tab was about $30 for two people.