1042 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087-3754
Executive Chef / Owner: Steve Sawa
Sawa Sushi is not for everyone is a massive understatement. It is not about a Japanese experience a la Urasawa. It is not about finesse. It is not about ambiance. It is very, very, very expensive. It is about eating fish in large quantities.
Sawa Sushi is located in a nondescript strip mall. There is a large sushi bar, but unlike the normal sushi bar, there is no fish on display. The entire sushi case is empty. Placemats are plastic with pictures of standard sushi items. There are no servers. There is only Steve who handles everything by himself. One young man showed up without a reservation and was politely met by Steve at the door and when told the price of admission, left immediately. The only diners this evening was our party of 4 and 2 women “regulars” who sat at a table.
Sawa Sushi Ambiance:
It was very difficult to get Steve to explain each item and how he sauced it. To be honest, it was like pulling teeth so even though I tried, not all descriptions are complete. All photos represent portion size for one person. Note how large the portions are.
Monkfish Liver – Steve said he makes his own ponzu and doesn’t use vinegar. For him, it is all about the citrus. He also said to notice the smoky taste of the monkfish.
Madai (Red Sea Bream) – This was served with deep-fried Burdock root (Gobo). The only seasoning Steve used on the Madai was a little lemon and salt.
Salmon – The saucing for the salmon is a 2-day affair. The first day, Steve deboned the whole salmon, cooking the bones. The next day, he uses the gelatinous parts of the bone for the sauce. I must say I am a little unclear about this, but this is what my notes say. In any case the sauce for the salmon is the “bone stock” mixed with cream and mustard. On top was topiko (flying fish roe) mixed with citron.
Steve displaying Salmon Eggs:
Salmon Eggs with Grated Radish:
Minima Hom Maguro (Baby Southern Japanese Blue Fin Tuna) – Toro next to the neck – Steve explained that this fish has more oil, but is much sweeter.
Baby White Sweet Shrimp with Wasabe and Sesame Oil with Pickled Blue Eggplant:
Bonito with Red Onion Slices, Fried Garlic Chips and Wasabi – the garlic chips just about obliterated the taste of the bonito.
Steve Attacking and Winning the War with a Scottish Lobster:
Scottish Lobster Sashimi:
Snow Crab with a sauce of tofu with sesame:
Hirame (Halibut) Sashimi:
Samma (Pike) with Garlic, Green Onion and Sesame Seeds:
Toro, by the neck, with Uni – to be honest I didn’t taste this. I hated to waste the food, but I had hit the wall.
Conclusion: I wouldn’t go back to Sawa Sushi ever. I was appalled by the way Steve treated his fish. Watching Hiro handle his ingredients is like watching a ballet. Watching Steve is like witnessing a murder. Some people praise Steve for the quality of his fish. But, sushi is more than hunks of fish. Where Urasawa is a Zen experience, Sawa Sushi is a glutton’s gorge. This meal was completely out of balance. The size of each piece of fish was so huge that you couldn’t savor the taste or the texture properly. If anything, I thought that Steve was disrespectful to the ingredients. There was no denying that the quality of the fish was excellent, but the meal felt more like punishment. Sawa Sushi has absolutely no Japanese sensibility, neither in aesthetic, nor approach, nor quantity, nor progression.