218 E. 3rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
Sushi Sam’s is a popular Japanese restaurant in downtown San Mateo. We have considered them and Hotaru as the 2 best Japanese restaurants in this area that seems to have a Japanese restaurant on every block. There is a large Japanese and Asian population in this area. Our last visit was in January 2012.
Decor, Vibe – Sushi Sam’s is a small cramped space with generic Japanese restaurant decor. Many people waiting, tables full of families, couples, and small groups.
Sushi Sam’s Menu Pictures
Pretty standard Japanese restaurant menu with hot dishes, sushi, and sashimi. Where they really shine is the, Omakase sushi.
Sushi Sam’s Picks:
Omakase sushi or Chef’s Choice Sushi from eight pieces ($36.50) is their tour de force signature dish with a variety of different items that change on a daily basis. Blue Shrimp, Bonito, Butter Fish, Hamachi, Mackeral, Lobster with roe and Aioli, Toro, and deep fried shrimp. Be sure to ask for the lobster and the Toro as they are exceptional. This sounds like a lot of food but is actually a fairly light dinner! Sushi rather than sashimi is the best bet. Omakase also includes ice cream dessert.
Sukiyaki ($19.95) was served in a large cast iron pot. Lots of tender beef, green onions, nappa cabbage, Tofu, and glass noodles. A very good version of the classic dish.
Chicken Teriyaki Dinner ($11.50) with salad, Miso Soup, and Rice. Massive quantities of chicken. Sauce was on the sweet side, but chicken was cooked fine. Pretty standard bland salad.
California Roll ($2) 3 pieces. They used real crab in mayo instead of fake crab. Pretty rare at this price. You could easily taste the difference.
Ebi ($3.50) 2 regular sized pieces that had fresh shrimp, a little wasabi, and ok rice.
Chawan Mushi ($5.50) Their version of this hot egg custard has shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach. A lot more ingredients and buttery smooth.
Teba Shioyaki (Chicken Wings) ($5.25) were freshly fried. Crispy, yet not battered.
Wagyusuji ($5.95) or beef stew was delicious. Excellent broth and stewed meat. Be sure to eat it with rice. Lots of fat though.
Zaru Soba ($8.25) was cold soba noodles with sauce. Decent but basic noodle dish.
Black Sugar Panna Cotta ($6, Omakase +$2) with persimmon puree, Fuyu persimmon was very good. Smooth, fruity, not too sweet.
Omakase sashimi ($33) came with lots of different cuts of fish and a piece of octopus. The slices were large and fresh but were not well done. No delicacy and it resulted in too large pieces and poor cuts causing tendons. It came with desert at least.
Chicken Udon ($9.50) was a huge bowl with lots of chicken, green onions, and a small fish cake. Noodles were pretty thin and chewy. Broth was average. Hotaru does a better job.
Sauteed Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms ($6.50) was tasty but super tiny. I could eat it in 3 bites.
Chicken Yakitori ($4.75) was average. Chicken was not especially tender and sauce was mediocre.
Sushi Sam’s Service was slightly above average with lots of servers passing by. Food came out pretty quick. Prices are reasonable for a restaurant like this. Sushi Sam’s and Hotaru remain top choices in this area. Sushi Sam’s does have a more varied menu with Omakase (Trust the chef) available.