Yuzo kosho is a spicy, acidic condiment that enlivens any dish and is commonly used in Japan. It’s also the inspiration behind Sushi Koshō, a Japanese jewel of a restaurant in Sebastopol, which recently reopened. When heavy rain flooded the industrial-chic outdoor market in February last year, Sushi Koshō was forced to close five months after opening, but chef-owner Jake Rand took it in stride and made use of the down time. “We were open just long enough to learn how to improve the customer experience,” he says. “We used this calamity as an opportunity to make design changes that helped us improve our operation.”
The newly-designed space offers a modern, warm vibe and includes a sushi bar where guests can watch the culinary team work, as well as a sake bar. Alex and I arrive on a Wednesday evening and begin with a glass of sake, Shichi Hon Yari, Junmai, which is served spillover-style for prosperity in Japanese tradition. Neither of us was sure how to approach the glass overflowing with sake, so our server, Kinder Weise, gave us a couple tips. In the spirit of the evening, we dipped our heads low and leaned over like two cranes to take a few sips, before raising our glasses to toast our Japanese-style adventure. A dry sake with fresh notes of grapefruit and melon, it was a refreshing change of pace. Afterward, Alex poured his in the masu box and drank from there, and I drank mine directly from the glass and used the box as a cup holder.
We begin with a selection of starters, one being the special of the evening—okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake with a lot of flavor and generously garnished with a mushroom medley and pickled ginger. “It’s a popular street food in Japan,” says Rand. A spectacular combination of flavors and textures, it’s served warm and is both delicate and crispy. This is a great starter to share, or could serve as a meal on its own. (And yes, it’s served with a fork, in case you’re wondering how to manage a pancake with chopsticks.) We also shared two additional small plates—trumpet mushrooms, served warm with eggplant puree, baby vegetables and soy-garlic butter, as well as the Bluefin avocado sashimi. Artfully plated, the avocado is topped with tuna and a crispy potato and served with onion dressing.
For the entrée, we shared one of Rand’s signature dishes, the double down roll, which includes a tempura fried shrimp with snow crab, cilantro and cucumber, topped with tuna and avocado. There’s definitely a studied art to sushi and this dish is an elegant and satisfying combination of flavors and textures, served with a wasabi that has a lovely, fluffy whipped texture. Chef Rand is passionate about the cuisine, which began as a child when his father worked for a company that imported and packaged Japanese food products. Later, he worked at Denver’s acclaimed Sushi Den, before enrolling in the Japanese studies program at the University of Colorado in Boulder and traveling throughout Japan. His passion for the culture and impeccable attention to detail is evident in each artful creation.
Most people I know either love sushi or could live without it, but Rand points out there are two populations within the could-live-without-it category—the non-sushi eaters and the sushi-curious, who are mostly unsure how to order. If you fall into either category, not to worry. Sushi Koshō is a low-key welcoming restaurant where the servers are attentive and unobtrusive in the Japanese tradition, but if you ask for recommendations, the wait staff is happy to lead the way. There’s something for everyone at Sushi Koshō. For the non-sushi eaters, try the wagyu short ribs—always a crowd pleaser—or the salmon tartar tacos when they’re on the menu. “We strive for fantastic sushi, but are also inclusive for the people and families in the community,” he says. “A go-to place for special occasions, small victories and Wednesday nights out.”
For dessert, we shared the matcha butter cake. Served warm from the oven, it’s a moist, lightly sweetened confection. Next time you’re going out for sushi—or even if you’re not—check out Sushi Koshō and prepare yourself for an extraordinary adventure where the cuisine is unique, varied, exciting and most of all, delicious.
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