Miso Challenge

Sebastopol's Sushi Kosho delivers on Tsukiji-worthy bites

October 2018 was a sad month for sushi fans around the globe. Tsukiji Market in Tokyo—source of the world’s freshest fish—closed after 83 years of continuous operation. Tsukiji was so famous that, no matter where you were in the world, if you ever paid more than $8 for a single piece of sushi, you knew exactly where the fish came from.

On an unseasonably cold, rainy morning in the summer of 2014, I navigated Tsukiji’s narrow alleys full of styrofoam crates, wholesaler stalls and frantic fishmongers who blared their horns as they sped by at breakneck speed on electric carts carrying the day’s catch.

Using the map a friendly police officer had handed me at the market’s entrance, I found rows upon rows of sushi restaurants near the harbor. After waiting in line at one establishment for over an hour, I took a seat at the sushi bar and ordered raw salmon over rice. That deceptively simple dish had a flavor I’ve been chasing ever since.

So when Sushi Kosho in Sebastopol opened last month, I wondered if chef Jake Rand’s menu would be worthy of Tsukiji. Also, could the restaurant compete against Hana and other popular Sonoma County Japanese restaurants? Sushi Kosho’s initial reviews looked promising, and I made a lunch reservation.

Walking into the restaurant on a quiet afternoon, I recognized that the restaurant’s designer had blended modern fine-dining with touches that suggested northern Japan: dark hardwoods that evoke a feeling of warmth even in the coldest Japanese winters. As I took a seat, chef Rand was preparing a sashimi plate while sous chefs chopped radishes, eggplant and other vegetables for the donburi rice bowls.

I ordered the sushi lunch ($26) and a glass of Minakata Junmai Ginjo sake ($9). The sake—its taste evoking hints of blueberry and banana—arrived in a wine glass. A bit untraditional, but it paired well with the miso soup. For those unfamiliar with Japanese restaurants, you can learn everything you need to know by trying the miso soup. In my experience, if the miso is good, everything else should be, too. And let me tell you, the miso soup at Sushi Kosho is excellent. The balance of onions, mushrooms and miso paste makes for a satisfying broth, something that should only become more delectable as the temperature drops in Sonoma County over the next few weeks.

I ordered another sake to go with a lunch that featured seven pieces of nigiri and six tuna rolls. Sushi Kosho uses red-wine vinegar to flavor its sushi rice, chef Rand explained, which lent it a color that suggested brown rice, though there was no discernible difference in taste. The meal, regardless, was excellent. Each piece of fish melted on my tongue, the rolls’ nori crunched, and the flavors indeed brought back memories of Japan. My only critique: the rice could have been a tad warmer.

As is the case at most Sonoma County sushi outposts, the price point is on the high side and renders Sushi Kosho a place best reserved for special occasions (especially for a freelancer on a budget). Yet the price is just right when it comes to satisfying that sushi craving and experiencing a bit of Tsukiji in Sebastopol.

Sushi Kosho, 6750 McKinley Ave., Sebastopol. 707.827.6373.

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