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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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CultureFood & DrinkGood Taste: Pushing the vegan sushi envelope

Good Taste: Pushing the vegan sushi envelope

Roll up to these three exemplary local spots serving much more than seafood substitutes.

Welcome back to Good Taste, your menu of fun and surprising Bay Area food finds. This week, we’re sharing our playbook for where we go for the best vegan sushi. 

Most sushi places offer at least one or two vegan rolls, usually with avocado or cucumber inside, but there are a few places that seem to be actively pushing the envelope with flavors and textures. I sincerely hope that plant-based sushi gains even more of a hold in the Bay Area, where healthy, sustainable innovation is appreciated.

As an amateur sushi maker who loves making vegan creations, here are the places I’m getting inspiration from right now. If you’d rather roll your own, so to speak, check out these easy vegan sushi recipes that I published here back in ‘21.

VEGAN SANCHA SUSHI

Sancha Sushi’s Castro location offers a vegan menu alongside the seafood offerings; it’s separately marketed on delivery apps as Vegan Sancha Sushi, but it’s better to order directly from the restaurant. The vegan rolls and inari here are made with purple rice, which is a bit more robust than regular white sushi rice, and my favorite references a 1982 jam by British act Musical Youth. 

Pass The Dutchie has fried asparagus and fried onions on the inside and yam on the outside. I also love the Royale With Cheese, which has shiitake mushrooms, spinach, plant mozzarella, and a special sauce and somehow manages to taste like a cheeseburger. A standalone Vegan Sancha Sushi restaurant is slated to open sometime this year at 564 South Van Ness, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Izanami at Ginza Sushi

GINZA SUSHI

It’s not a new place or anything, but I’ve been lately working my way through the veggie options at this omnivorous Haight-Ashbury restaurant for home sushi making inspiration, because some of the selections are off the beaten path.

Good for them for not succumbing to Barbiemania and renaming their pink soy paper-wrapped Izanami, which has red shiso flakes asparagus, cucumber, pickled radish, pickled gobo, jalapeno, and kaiware sprouts. It’s got a beautiful bitterness that is a great foil to sweeter rolls such as Yamato, which has tempura tofu, enoki, green onion and slices of sweet inari (bean curd) wrapped in sesame soy paper.

Tane Vegan Izakaya’s Ewa

TANE VEGAN IZAKAYA

This delightful Berkeley spot is just over a year old and is an expansion of a concept born in Honolulu. The standout roll for me is called Ewa, which is a neighborhood in Honolulu County. Ewa nails all the textures I like in a roll, with crunch from matcha salted enoki tempura, pop from yuzu seaweed pearls and creaminess from avocado and smoked beet aioli. 

OTHER OPTIONS TO CONSIDER

Tane has an excellent sister restaurant in San Francisco called Shizen that offers different vegan specialty rolls that I would also recommend on principle, but haven’t actually had a meal there in several years, so I don’t have current feedback to share. Ditto for the veteran vegan Japanese restaurant Cha-Ya in San Francisco and Berkeley, which offers vegan sushi combos made with brown rice and may have been the first in the Bay Area to highlight the deliciousness of plant-based rolls.

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