BEST TRADITIONAL SUSHI - 2004
There are a number of great spots for traditional sushi in the Valley. But owner Yoshio Otomo's Shimogamo has the wow factor others lack. Maybe it's the energy that comes from being the new guy on the block, because, interestingly, this is Otomo's first venture into the restaurant biz. Prior to opening the upscale new eatery with its sleek black-and-gray interior, Otomo worked for a large Japanese import company, and as Japanese businessmen are wont to do, he spent a lot of time in Japanese restaurants. Though he's quick to tell you that he's no good in the kitchen or behind the sushi counter, like most of us, he knows what he likes, and Shimogamo reflects his experienced palate. Shimogamo's "traditional" sushi, or what we think of as being traditional for a sushi bar in America, is excellent, whether it's a spicy tuna roll, yellowtail roll, or octopus nigiri (the finger-size portions with the rice on the bottom). But where Shimogamo really shines is in its old-school Japanese appetizers like conch shell boiled in sake, or whole, pregnant smelt, which look like silvery sardines, their bellies filled with roe. Shimogamo's own innovations are equally impressive, whether it be teriyaki-drenched beef rolls wrapped around tofu, portabella mushrooms, and shishito (a mild Japanese chile pepper), or black cod topped with a persimmon chutney. One visit to Shimogamo, and you'll agree: As far as trad sushi goes, Shimogamo reigns supreme.