In my twisted little food-obsessed world, my daughters' sushi-eating exploits are just as important, if not more, than their academic achievements or athletic prowess. Your son scored two goals this morning? Whatever. My 8-year-old downed a fried shrimp head, eyes and all. Janie tested through the roof on her national achievement exam? That's nice, but my kid licks natto like it's a cherry ringpop.
But where to keep our girls in training? Most of San Francisco's best sushi chefs aren't exactly Mr. Rogers. I'm a huge fan of Ino, but somehow I don't see chef Inoue, once termed a "sushi bully" by the Wall Street Journal, digging my girls' Katy Perry impressions. Oyaji? The last thing kids need to see is a hammered sushi chef cursing out his patrons. Sebo? Yeah, right. And don't you dare suggest sushi boats. We made that mistake a few years ago, and now our little one regularly begs to go back like it's Disneyland. Wait, it kind of is. Only Disneyland's sushi is better.
No, our regular family sushi spot is ICHI in the Outer Mission. First of all, my wife and I would happily eat at ICHI sans kids, and often do. Tim Archuleta serves pristine fish free of silly names and cutesy rolls, and plays an awesome mix of old- and new-school hip-hop. He's also an absolute sucker for kids, laughing at their jokes (even when not funny) while happily accommodating requests for no wasabi or light tobiko.
Like any intelligent
drug dealer sushi chef, Archuleta doles out tastes of halibut, squid, and even uni to get them hooked help our daughters build their sushi repertoire. Small touches like animal-shaped rice bowls and kitty-cat chopstick holders are especially appreciated by the third-grade-and-under crowd (okay, I love them too). The hip-hop stays mostly instrumental until around 8 p.m. so there's no need to have your kids do "earmuffs" every few minutes. Many early evenings, we're not the only ones with children. Numerous young families from nearby Bernal Heights meander down the hill for an early supper.
Lest you think ICHI is some kind of nigiri romper room, it's actually a small, stylish restaurant unfit for little ones who are loud or overly fidgety. However, if you're looking for the right spot for an inaugural family sushi meal, or you just want your kids to hang out with a genuinely nice chef who will get them to try something not called a caterpillar roll, you can't do better than ICHI. Thank the sushi gods and Tim Archuleta for saving me from the boats.
ICHI Sushi: 3369 Mission (at Godeus), 525-4750.
Other outings in this series: