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A culture blog by Lauren Girardin, a San Francisco-based city girl who eats out and kicks about.

August 11, 2004

Midori Mushi . . . . . . . . . . restaurant review

465 Grove St (@ Gough)
San Francisco, CA 94114
partial menu

- Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10pm
- believe not in Citysearch, Midori Mushi is far from closed
- cash only

There’s a seriously casual restaurant that grows out from the edge of the Days Inn in Hayes Valley. Midori Mushi, meaning “green bug,” serves up common and weird sushi with whimsical tongue-in-cheek.

Though two friends and I were immediately seated on a Wednesday at 6:45, don’t bother heading into the 5-table-small space if you’re with a large, unreserved group. If a wait is necessary, there’s an equally tiny and cozy sake lounge up on the second floor that will do to pass the time.

If you haven’t yet heard, Midori Mushi has been variously acclaimed as the “Best of This” and “Best of That,” and “Best S/M Sushi Experience” while also being derided as hipster, cramped and trendy. Whatever, dammit: it’s about the sushi – and the sushi ain’t bad.

Our waitress said she’d have to serve as our drink menu since there wasn’t one available. Undaunted, I requested my favorite: cold unfiltered sake – which our trio quickly morphed into a large order to share.

Giving the food menu a look-see, my enormously hungry friends and I were immediately distracted by a special maki that took a basic Rock & Roll of unagi (eel) and avocado and smothered the outside in crushed BBQ potato chips. Potato chips! BBQ!! On sushi!!! The roll’s name had something to do with Metallica, which is a lovely incongruity in a sushi setting. Novelty induced us to order that as well as the Submissive Roll ($7, or like ours, $12), in which you put your gullet in the chef’s hand.

What is it about warmed sushi that makes me go cross-eyed? I fell in lust with the Dragon Ball Z, sweet inari (thin fried tofu) skin stuffed with a bit of rice and shredded crab, served warm; our quirky server had suggested one and a half orders so we could each have a piece and we were simply glad glad glad we listened. We finished off the orgy-of-warm with a Slammin’ Salmon ($12), a crab and english hothouse cucumber inside, topped with salmon, broiled, and overly drizzled with some spicy aioli.

Midori Mushi’s special rolls were all non-traditional and well-crafted using quality ingredients such as wild salmon and bought that morn’ produce. However, we found them a bit too XXL, preferring our maki to be more manageable single mouthfuls. On the upside, the special rolls were so thoughtfully well-flavored, without masking the taste of the delicate fish, that I was left with almost all my first-poured puddle of soy sauce, needing only a minor kick of the wasabi on most rolls.

Our Submissive roll draped a spicy tuna and mango maki with unagi and avocado, and on any other visit would have been a gratifying surprise. Unfortunately, the dish shared so many ingredients and flavors with our other that I thought the chef should have taken the roll less traveled by.

Perhaps the restaurant is suffering because the founder/chef shares time at The Oxygen Bar, which offers many of the same special rolls, making Midori Mushi seem not-so-special anymore. There’s really nothing wrong with Midori Mushi that a little less ADD behind the counter couldn’t cure. Personally, I plan on co-opting BBQ potato chips on my home-made sushi soon.
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If you liked this review, well, super! If you didn’t, then you’ll probably enjoy the ever-over-inflated Meredith Brody’s take on Midori Mushi. On her two visits, she was either (1) drunk or (2) digging the I-would-too-if-I-was-on-an-expense-account-like-her custom Omakase sushi.