Top non-Japanese sushi chef in the U.S.
Top non-Japanese sushi chef i...

Top non-Japanese sushi chef i...

The world presented by the top non-Japanese sushi chef in the U.S.
By Elli Sekine

I found out about the owner/chef Tim Archuleta through a Japanese TV program. He was appearing on a program about gourmet foods I accidentally watched when I was visiting Japan. The program was featuring non-Japanese sushi chefs who work for popular Japanese sushi restaurants overseas, showing the quality and technique of their sushi making, and how they handle their customers. Among the non-Japanese chefs chosen from the three countries from all over the world, Tim, who runs "Ichi Sushi" in San Francisco, represented the United States. His restaurant is very popular, and has been selected for “Diner’s Choice 2015”, and one of the best 100 local restaurants in the local paper in 2013.

This popular restaurant moved to a bigger new location a year ago, and doubled its seating capacity. There are two other Japanese restaurants on the busy street where it is located, but this restaurant stands out with its sophisticated appearance. Tim greeted me as soon as I stepped into the restaurant, and kindly received my interview with a pleasant smile as I remembered from the TV show. He was born and raised in the Bay Area, and first experienced sushi when he was 18. He was so drawn to sushi, and got himself straight into the Japanese food industry. He started to self-study sushi making while working in various restaurant kitchens, and then moved to a high-end Japanese restaurant and diligently studied the traditional sushi making technique for many years under the owner/chef. He feels he owes the owner/chef teacher for what he is now. Tim became independent in 2006. He started as a caterer and gradually gained a good reputation as a sushi chef. From the catering business, he moved to run a delicatessen in a facility to support local enterprises, and at the same time, opened a sushi bar. He currently runs a shop in the Mission district where hip young people gather. He received the invitation to appear on the TV show last year. He is a person of big curiosity, and played the role of a TV cast very well.

The concept of this new shop is “Arts, Sushi, and Drinks”. The displayed arts are pretty unique. The messages about how to eat sushi such as “Eat sushi in one bite”, “Pick up sushi graving the sides”, “No need to dip sushi in soy sauce”, etc., are the part of the arts. Those messages are most important to Tim for his way of offering his sushi. No soy sauce is provided on the tables. He is educating the American customers of the right way to eat sushi by pre-flavoring with yuzu, ponzu, or salt to enhance the original flavor of the ingredients. His menu does not include a lot of sushi rolls you would normally see in Americanized sushi bars. His attitude to mainly serve high-quality nigiri sushi is well accepted. He aims for creating the traditional Edo-style sushi. He says, “Many Americans used to dip sushi deeply in soy sauce with a lot of wasabi. Here, I serve the kind of sushi that is eaten in one bite and tastes delicious without soy sauce.” I bet you can rarely encounter such a truthfully authentic American sushi chef in the whole U.S. Up to a while ago, true sushi lovers would only choose restaurants run by Japanese people. I feel that the times have changed. Just like Tim, more and more American chefs are building sushi making skills, and there will be more and more cases of flourishing sushi shops in the San Francisco area.

"I would like to offer a sustainable and enjoyable dining experience.”says Erin Archuleta, the co-owner, and wife of Tim, cracking a beautiful smile. Erin has studied the long sustainable business operation strategy. All the locally caught fish for the shop comes from the sustainable environment. They are the pioneers in this area who have been maintaining this ideology since 2006. Another reason that attracts regular customers to this new shop is the bar section. The bar menu has a wide variety of sake and wine. The expanded bar area allowed them to offer Happy Hour so people can come after work in a carefree manner. In addition, the owner couple’s cheerful mannerism seems to be contributing to the nice ambience of the store as well as the happiness of the staff who work there.

Aside from the main nigiri sushi selection, the wide variety of the menu includes rolls and a-la-carte plates. One of them, “UMI MASU IRIDASHI” ($13) tastes very classy with a sweet bonito-dashi flavor. The rich and fatty UMI MASU (salmon trout) is so tender and crumbles to the touch of chopsticks. The topping is the traditional grated daikon and ginger. A nice contrast to this dish is the “MISO ASARI CLAMS” ($11), which is flavored in a rich broth combined with ground meat and black sesame. The ingredients of the many nigiri sushi come directly from Tsukiji market. Because they are so fresh, it is common sense to have them with yuzu or salt instead of soy sauce. More and more Americans admit that they have developed a taste for this style of eating, and have become bigger fans of sushi. Their “Omakase” menu ranging between $70 and $170 is created with great passion by Chef Tim.

“Ichi Sushi” is successful maybe because of the owners having a background in American culture, which adds a playful hint to the creation of the shop. Also because of them being Americans, they never stop pursuing and studying their deep interests in Japanese food, and that sincere attitude is definitely reflected in the operation of the shop.

米トップの “ノンジャパニーズ”寿司シェフが繰り広げる世界

私が「Ichi Sushi」 のオーナーシェフ、ティム・アーチュレタ氏を知ったのは、日本のテレビ番組だった。帰省中にたまたま観たグルメ番組にティム氏が出演していたのだ。内容は海外に展開するノンジャパニーズの寿司屋のシェフを日本に招待し、本拠地の寿司クオリティーや技術、接客法などを紹介したもの。世界3カ国から選ばれた外国人のシェフの中で、米国代表がサンフランシコで「Ichi Sushi」を経営する ティム氏だった。同店は、予約サイト「Open Table」の「diners’ choice2015」や地元新聞のベストレストラン100(2013)にも選ばれている人気店だ。





メニュー構成は握り寿司がメインで、ロール、一品とバラエティに富んでいる。その中で「UMI MASU IRIDASHI」($13)は、カツオ出汁が効いた甘みのある上品な味だ。脂が乗ったウミマスは箸を入れると崩れるくらい柔らかく煮込んであり、トッピングには大根おろしと生姜というとても伝統的な一品。これに対抗して「MISO ASARI CLAMS」($11)は、ひき肉と黒ごまオイルを組み合わせたブロスでパンチの効いた味付け。メインの寿司ネタは築地からの空輸が多く、ネタが新鮮なので醤油をつけずゆずや塩で食べるのがここの常識になっている。アメリカ人客もこの食べ方に変えて寿司がもっと好きになったと定評がある。Omakase ($70-$170) はシェフ、ティム氏が腕によりをかけて創作する。


Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar
Address: 3282 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 525-4750

Mon—Thu 5:30—10 PM
Fri & Sat 5:30—11 PM
Closed on Sunday

NI Bar Happy Hour: Mon - Sat 5:30—7 PM