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Ken Lowe may have discovered the perfect marriage for discriminating palates with a taste for technological gadgetry: the Sushicam.
Far from being edible, the Sushicam is a video camera that offers intrepid Internet surfers a peek at the action at Ace Wasabi Rock ‘n’ Roll Sushi, Mr. Lowe’s popular 18-month-old restaurant.
While the prospect of watching others eat raw fish may not send everyone running to the computer, patrons at Ace Wasabi crowd in front of the camera to broadcast messages to friends who couldn’t make the trip.
”I had a guy in here last night who called his friend in New York from his cellular phone and told him to click on the site,” said Mr. Lowe, 33. ”A minute later he was standing in front of the camera, smiling from ear to ear.”
Gimmicks aside, the food and atmosphere have been drawing hordes of young, style-conscious San Franciscans to Ace Wasabi in the trendy Marina district.
The restaurant is a far cry from traditional sushi establishments: diners sit on bar stools at high tables while Miles Davis, the Beatles and the Red Hot Chili Peppers pour out of the sound system. At happy hour, there’s bingo with free sushi for the winners, and later in the evening, bartenders line up blackberry-infused sake shots.
The menu offers an array of sushi and sashimi ($2 to $4.50), and playful oddities like the Philly roll ($4), with salmon and cream cheese, and the Flying Kamikazi roll ($9.50), an elaborate assemblage of spicy tuna, asparagus, scallions and ponzu, a Japanese citrus sauce.
Kiyoshi Hayakawa, Ace Wasabi chef, who was born in Tokyo, has also created East-meets-West-Coast salads, including soba noodles with julienned vegetables and baby greens ($5.25) or tiger shrimp with spinach noodles and peanut sauce ($6.95).
Mr. Lowe, who grew up tending the till at his parents’ grocery store in nearby Salinas, Calif., said the idea for an upbeat, whimsical sushi bar came to him while he was toiling as a medical supplies salesman.
”I was selling bone plates and facial screws,” Mr. Lowe said. ”I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ ”
Ace Wasabi Rock ‘n’ Roll Sushi is at 3339 Steiner Street, just north of Lombard Street; (415) 567-4903; (the Internet address is www.kpix.com). The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 P.M., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 P.M. and Sunday from 5 to 10 P.M.
If you can get past the fact that this Marina sushi place sounds like it was named by a Guy Fieri acolyte, you will become a convert and come here all the damn time. Our favorite things here are the sake role with crispy kale (just go with it) and the kamikaze with spicy tuna and asparagus. They do excellent sashimi and nigiri, too, and the fish tastes absurdly fresh for a place that does 50% off wine some nights. The staff and owner are super friendly, and it’s a fun enough spot for a kind-of-rowdy Saturday night. Also, they have bingo.
Ace Wasabi Keeps On Improving on a Classic
All too often a successful restaurateur expands too quickly, opening new restaurants at the expense of the others.
Marina spot offers fun mood, good sushi
When Ken Lowe opened Tokyo Go Go in the Mission late last year, I wondered if Ace Wasabi, his Marina restaurant, would suffer. But if a recent visit is any indication, it looks like Ace Wasabi is doing just fine.
It still packs in the Marina crowd, even on weeknights. The front area, with high tables and chairs, gets filled quickly with people crowding in for drinks or waiting for a table or a seat at the sushi bar.
The best seats are still in the back room, which a friend refers to as the living room. It feels comfortable, almost like a college student union with its brick walls and casual red and black Formica tables. The handsome crowd and youthful wait staff add to the feeling.