Address: 127-H Serramonte Center, Daly City
Cuisine: Contemporary Japanese
Dining Partner: Mila and Mo
SUSHI. Food fit for the Gods. Seriously. Fish in their purest form. Delicious and decadent. I have discovered sushi relatively recently. When I first heard about it, the first thing I thought was, “Raw fish. Gross.” If only I knew what I was missing. So for the first time in my late teens, I tried sushi, and I was hooked ever since.
Barracuda opened its Serramonte location in Spring of 2007. Basically they gutted out the area where Blockbuster and Sports City used to be, between Target and the Elephant Bar, and added some good places to eat. It was a good idea since they have started gutting out the food court inside the mall. Now patrons have a place to eat while their favorite indoor eateries are being renovated. I have heard that this new food court, which is set to open during the holidays in 2007 will rival the design of the Food Emporium at Westfield Centre in San Francisco. I’m not sure if that is going to happen since the area in Westfield is bigger than Serramonte. But we’ll see.
Back to sushi. When this location opened, I had mixed feelings because they were on the pricy side. Yes, they did have innovative rolls, but was I willing to spend some major cash for rice and fish? Apparently I am willing to because I have been here a lot.
-Visit 1: June 17, 2007-
The first time I ate there, I was really reluctant because I was not too familiar with how they did their thing there. I never sat at a sushi bar by myself, and the only things I seem to order at a Japanese restaurant were bento boxes. Being the wuss that I am, I got intimidated and I marched over to my workplace, though it WAS my day off, and asked my coworker, Mila, if she already went on her break. She said she could use a break (not too sure if that meant she did not already go on a break) and we were off to Barracuda. We got seated at the bar, and I was beyond happy. Doesn’t the fish look awesome?
What was supposed to be a 15-minute break turned out to be a 45-minute visit to Heaven. Each of us decided to get a roll. On my way to kidnapping her, I had a chance to look through a menu that I swiped at the restaurant before I chickened out.
There was a specialty roll in there called the “Nice & Easy” ($9.95) which looked really interesting. In the menu, it says, “snow crab & avocado roll tempura’d, covered with chopped unagi and mozzarella cheese.” Cheese and unagi? Interesting, huh? There is some rule in Italian cooking where it is not appropriate to eat cheese with seafood, but this is neo-Japanese, so I guess that rule does not apply here.
Mila ordered the “Rainbow” (10.95) which is described in the menu as, “crab & avocado covered by a colorful array of raw fish.” The raw fish on top are red tuna, salmon, white tuna, prawn, and albacore. This is a fish-lover’s DREAM.
When I got my roll, I was surprised to see how mundane it looked. It may be different for some people to eat a fried sushi roll, but since I had a fried roll before, it was not all that unusual to me. I also was thrown because I was expecting it to look different. I imagined that the crab and avocado were rolled inside the rice and nori and then fried in tempura batter, which was true, then the unagi sprinkled on top of the fried roll, and then the mozzarella cheese melted on top. I am so used to mozzarella melted over everything, but in this case, everything is inside the roll. I was expecting it to be a little more grand looking since it IS a specialty roll, but the grandiose aspect of this roll comes from the flavor.
In proper Japanese sushi-eating etiquette, you are supposed to eat each piece of sushi in one bite. It seems to me that these rules were made when American-style were not around because some of these rolls are HUGE. Sometimes you need to break a piece up before you can put it in your mouth. This roll is no expectation.
When you do eat it though, OH MY GOODNESS. First you feel the crunchiness from the tempura. If you know me, you will already know that fried foods and I are best friends. What I love about this roll is that the fillings are a little warm. By all means, it is not HOT, but the temp is warmer than most sushi rolls. The snow crab was so delicate and sweet. The avocado was warmed from the frying, which made it breakdown into a ribbon of avocado silkiness in my mouth. The unagi is awesome, as usual. The mozzarella melted into the other ingredients, and made itself a type of glue that held everything together. It was actually really good with the eel. Overall, I loved it! All I could do was go, “MmMmMmMmMmMm.”
Mila’s Rainbow roll came out beautiful. We sat at the bar, so our sushi chef was right in front of us when we tried our sushi. He asked us how it was, and I was glad to say it was awesome. When I took a bite of the rainbow roll, I believe it was the albacore piece I tried since I already knew what the other fish tasted like, I rolled my eyes back in pure happiness. Seriously, it made me happy. Raw fish makes me happy. The fish he used in the Rainbow roll were so fresh. It was the right temperature, and the presentation was just beautiful. I eat with my eyes and if it looks as good as it tastes, I am very happy.
For dessert, our sushi chef made us a simply-intricate orange. It was a regular orange, but it was cut so prettily. =)
First visit - complete success.
-Visit 2: June 24, 2007-
This time I wanted to go solo. I didn’t sit at the bar this time because I wanted to eat something other than sushi. I was thinking about getting the bento box, but it would be priced at $16.95 for a two-item bento box. I was thinking that I could get a bento box almost identical to that one for only 8 bucks. I was not ready to spend 17 dollars for something I tried already.
For some reason, I wanted something exciting and light. The Sizzling Salmon Teriyaki looked awesome ($14.95). What you get is two salmon filets on a bed of julienne cabbage, onions, bell peppers, and carrots all on a sizzling iron plate. A bowl of rice and miso soup come with it. The miso soup came right away, and it was yummy as usual. =) I haven’t met a bad miso soup…yet.
They sat me at a table against the wall in the main dining room. The décor was very cute, I thought. (The diners’ faces have been covered for their protection.)
The walls are decorated with bamboo and the booths looked very modern, yet warm at the same time. Looked retro to me.
The best part was that my seat was facing the bar and the huge flat-screen television showing the Giants game. =)
Seriously, I could hear my food coming even before it got to my table. They topped the salmon with the teriyaki sauce right before service, and when that sauce hit the plate, a cloud of steam erupts. The salmon was done perfectly. It was not overdone. I think it was good because a piece of meat continues cooking on the hot plate. My fish was delicious. I could only finish one filet, so I brought the other filet and the remainder of the veggies home.
Second visit - success after convincing myself that 20 bucks on lunch (and take home dinner) was worth it.
-Visit 3: June 30, 2007-
Mila and I headed for sushi again. She has seriously become my sushi date. We sat at the same exact seats we sat in the first time we ate there, and we had the same sushi chef, too, which was good because we knew we were going to have a good product.
This time, there was a cocktail and dessert insert in the menu which I knew was not there the first two times we were there. Our sushi chef, Shige, informed us that they are adding a lot more to the menu and trying out some new things. That’s all good in my book. Initially, I wanted to get another specialty roll, but since dessert was an option, I opted to get a small, simpler roll and a dessert. So I got myself a Salmon Skin Roll, which is a simple roll with “cucumber, sprouts, shiso, burdock root, and scallions” ($4.50) and the Duo Chocolate Mousse ($5.00). I was debating whether to get that or the mango pana cotta, but the chocolate looked too good.
Mila ordered the “Gangster” roll ($11.95), yes the GANGSTER roll. In the menu it is, “yellowtail, cucumber, green onions, covered with unagi & salmon topped by two kinds of colorful tobiko and unagi sauce.” She also ordered the Duo Chocolate Mousse, and I was pleasantly surprised when she ordered the “Salmon Lover” roll ($11.95), which is “tempura salmon, mozzarella cheese wrapped with seared salmon and creamy sauce.”
What was funny was that we got our dessert before we got the sushi, but that was okay. =) I got my Salmon Skin Roll and there were 5 pieces, two end pieces that had more of the vegetation running through them, and the three remaining pieces were the middle portions of the roll. I ate the end pieces first and that was a mistake because I was not aware of the flavor these greens had. And…I didn’t really like it. I ended up taking the sprouts out of the middle of the roll because I just wanted the salmon skin, rice, tobiko, and nori. Once I did that, I enjoyed it. =)
Mila got her Gangster roll and from looking at the black and orange tobiko on top, I said it should have been called the “Giants” roll. But then I looked at the menu again later on, and saw that they already had a Giants roll. I must say that this roll is very good. Forgive the bad photo.
If you have a perfect piece, you’ll have both the salmon and unagi on top, and you can see the yellowtail tuna and cucumber inside. YUM! I love how the tobiko pops in my mouth. Mila said they are like pop rocks. Ha. Japanese pop rocks. I like tobiko because they’re sweet, yet have a little saltiness to them.
Mila’s other roll, the Salmon Lover, was really cute, very girly looking. First off, salmon and mozzarella cheese are rolled in nori and then the whole thing is dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried, so that the cheese melts and the salmon is cooked on its edges, yet still has a raw middle portion. Rice and seared salmon are wrapped around the fried roll and a spicy remoulade and tobiko top it off.
It doesn’t say on the menu that the sauce is spicy, but it really is. The roll itself is warm, and very soft in the mouth. I enjoyed it, but the sauce had a little too much heat for my preference.
I started digging in my Duo Chocolate Mousse even before I finished my roll. Most places keep their mousses in the chill-box until the order is made. So when the mousse comes to the table, it is still pretty firm from the cold temperature. I like my mousse light, airy and not too cold, which is one reason why I ordered the dessert with the meal. I also think I taste things better if they are not too cold. Let me tell you, I love this dessert. It is very simple. The “duo” part of the name pertains to the two types of chocolate used. The top is white chocolate and the second layer is milk chocolate. You can’t see it in the picture, but the two mousses are layered on top of thin chocolate cake, and in the middle of the mousses are small maraschino cherries. They were a pleasant surprise. I would order this again, for sure.
This time, our sushi chef, Shige, talked to us since we were talking so loud already. So that was cool. We seemed to interact more with him than our waitress. So service on his part was great; however, the regular wait staff, not so much. My manager at work gave me a 10% off card for Barracuda since I am an employee of the mall. How sweet. So every time I go there, I am eligible to get 10% off the total bill, or pass on 10% to anyone I am dining with. The thing was, our server did not know how to use it, and told us she was going to ask the manager. Hmmm. This card might be something new since the servers do not know a thing about it. We got the discount anyway, which was cool. Saved a dollar! Holla!
Third visit - 100% success
-Visit 4: July 9, 2007-
Again it was Mila and I succumbing to our craving of sushi. We sat at the bar again, but our usual sushi chef Shige, was leaving when we got there, so we sat more toward the middle of the bar. This time our sushi chefs was a gentleman we didn’t know and Charles, who happened to make one of our sushi rolls on our first visit here.
This time, Mila ordered a bento box, which I did not take a picture of, surprisingly. I ordered the Giants Roll ($10.95) because I am a Giants fan! Holler! In the menu, the Giants Roll is described as, “shrimp tempura & albacore tuna with green onions sprinkled with tobiko, topped by unagi sauce.”
In actuality, the shrimp tempura is rolled in nori and rice, then topped with the albacore and sprinkled with tobiko and green onions. I did find it looking a little too sloppy, the green onions were sprinkled haphazardly, one piece had tons of it, and the next had but 2 strands. And in the picture, you can see that some of the tobiko fell off, and the tuna does not look like it was placed evenly on each piece.
I really do believe that this roll is named wrong. The Gangster roll from our previous visit fit the name better because of the black and orange tobiko. But eh. This roll is awesome though. I love the fried tempura’s crunch in the middle, and the albacore tuna on top was beyond buttery. The meat is so fleshy, and it got me full real fast.
After we were done, I ordered a dessert of us. We decided on the Tempura Ice Cream. Basically, it is green tea ice cream that is dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. And it came out like this:
Okay, so I did find the ice cream to be refreshing. BUT the tempura was cold. I would have thought that they made these fresh, but it seems to me that they make a bunch of these beforehand and then serve them when one is ordered.
You can even tell in the picture that the tempura was a little undercooked. It looks too light in color to me. I like my tempura a little more tan. Maybe I was thinking like it was a funnel cake-type thing. The reason I ordered this was because I thought it was be nice and warm and toasty on the outside and cold inside. They sure did get the cold part right. The tempura was soft and almost gritty, like you can tell that the fat it was cooked in has solidified. I skipped the tempura and ate just the ice cream. Disappointment.
BUT! Something happened to make everything okay again. Even before we got our ice cream, Charles was working on something and we were watching him while we were waiting. Our backs were to the door, so I did not see who came in and out of the place. I thought he was working on something for a customer. Then our dessert came and I got all disappointed, but maybe a little before midway through the dessert, he hands me the plate of sushi that he was working on:
Isn’t it just gorgeous? I thought he was kidding, and I kept asking him if he was sure. He said he was and I asked what the name of it was. He said, “You name it!” WTF? That’s awesome. He told us that since we were loyal customers, he decided to make us something. We were thinking the “Macys” roll, but that was eh. So it is called the “Roll That Charles Made for Jo and Mila” roll. Fitting.
I analyzed it, and it’s basically crab and cucumber rolled in nori and rice, then topped with alternating slices of avocado and mango, drizzled with unagi sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. We were so full off of everything else that we ate earlier. But this was too good to pass up. FREE SUSHI. Come on! Loved it! That sure made up for the sub-standard dessert.
Fourth visit - Success after a couple glitches
-Visit 5: July 13, 2007-
This time, Mo and I came here. Mo is a coworker of mine, and we were listening to 94.9 all day, and St. John, one of the radio personalities, was doing this thing at Barracuda where people could enter a raffle to win Comedy Jam tickets. Mo was so excited to go, so I accompanied her. There were a lot of people there, a DJ set up, and Happy Hour specials. $2 Sake Bombs! So we did that. Yeah, drinking on our lunch break. Awesome.
I went for the Ichiban roll ($7.95) which the menu states as: “white tuna, cucumber and green onion covered with unagi and avocado topped with unagi sauce.” I sure do love that unagi sauce.
It was a real simple roll, and I loved it! It is pretty straightforward. The tuna was good (as always), and the unagi was perfect. Who knew that eel could taste so good? I was so amused by the look on Mo’s face when I had a bite because she does not do sushi. She had the veggie potstickers, btw.
So by the end of this meal, I was my sushi craving was satisfied. We did not get tickets, but we did get on a couple of guest lists to some clubs and a T-shirt. In essence, we did get hooked up because our waitress forget to add the sake bombs to our bill. She went to fix it, but said forget it, and hooked it up with free alky. FREE ALKY! Come on. Can’t beat that! Shige (head sushi chef) was there also, and when he noticed that we did not have dessert, he had one of the sushi guys cut up a fancy orange for us for a sweet ending of our lunch. Sweet. All-in-all, it was good. But I think the fun started when we got back to work because that saki really does creep up on you. Holla.
Fifth visit - success. Freebies are a way to my heart.
P.S. Quote of the day from the guy who put us on the guest list upon hearing my last name:
“You come in here with the whitest last name ever, and you’re Asian. You’re going to go far in life with that name.”
But I still choose to work hard, thank you very much.