Steamer and I had company for our latest outing: my SF-livin', freshman-year roomie, Syd. Both parts of the equation begged for sushi: Who in Cali doesn't like platefuls of sashimi? As for the roommate part, I woke one morning to a big bowl of unagi in our mini fridge (the thought of which is much cooler now than it was then). But company calls for a little somethin'-somethin' extra, so we decided to hit up Coast Sushi Bar, a BYOB-with-a-scene spot that ranks among the city's chi-chi-est barless eateries.
The constant chill and rain have all but dropped the axe on our white-wine days, so I grabbed a bottle of Five Rivers 2004 Central Coast Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir from Binny's ($7.99), figuring it goes well with salmon, so sushi must follow. We arrived to a 35-minute wait (on a Monday, no less), took in the cherry-blossomed walls, the gauzy lounge-like lobby and the richly styled dining room before grabbing a table near the back.
Coast knows how to serve your wine. We were asked if we wanted to chill or open the bottle straight away while waiting, and as soon as we sat our Pinot was immediately poured into clever glasses that floated circular bubbles throughout. Very classy. As was the wine: Killing the notion that there's no such thing as cheap Pinot, the Five Rivers is lightweight and easily palatable, and I allowed myself a moan or two about our single-bottle status.
Our simple start was my favorite part: a whopping $2 bowl of spicy miso, with a floating slice of jalapeno and a spicy kick to match. We sipped while debating our order. Syd opted for the salmon teriyaki, which we all gave a good 15-second stare at: two large pieces artistically draped over a hip rectangle of rice, studded with asparagus spears.
Steamer and I, always out on the sushi prowl, tried the signature ceviche maki, with lime-marinated scallop, ebi (cooked shrimp), tako (octopus), mango, jalapeno and cilantro. Fresh, for sure, but surprisingly meaty. The spicy scallop maki and a medley of nigiri (mackerel, unagi, sea bass, fatty hamachi and white tuna) rounded out our noshing. All was fresh, which pretty much trumps any other associated characteristics (the maki was appropriately sized, nigiri was healthy but not whopping).
We forked over a reasonable $70 for our dinner, which, using my clever math skills, I'd break down as $55 for dinner, $15 for ambiance. Those extra few "vibe" dollars make Coast a wise choice for impressing a date or living up a night on the town with a group that spent a good chunk of time over the question of wardrobe. On my sushi-hungry nights (read: gimme everything you got) I might trade a bit of the glitz for a little more fish.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants.