The “Where’s Waldo” of sushi restaurants
The most under-the-radar sushi restaurant –no, scratch that, the most under-the-radar restaurant of any kind is located in Cole Valley, near the corner of Cole and Carl Streets. It’s called Hama-Ko, a fact you wouldn’t glean from perusing the restaurant’s frontage, nor its menu. One is barely aware of its existence, being extremely compact with only six or seven tables, plus a sushi bar whose length a reclining Peter Dinklage would find barely accommodating . From the outside the only signs that suggest its identity as a culinary establishment are an Open/Close sign (more often than not turned to the latter) and a couple of giant, label-less and dusty sake bottles.
An old Japanese couple have owned and run this small temple to freh fish for over 20 years, and always with the same diffidence and aversion to publicity. The old man goes to the market everyday to hand pick his Hamachi, Maguro, Uni, Mirugai—anything fresh. He slices his catch into sashimi or nigiri with ease behind the bar while his wife takes care of the front of the house. Potential customers beware: if Hama-Ko were a speakeasy, Decorum and Respect would be the code words granting you a warm welcome; roll in deep with douchery blazing from the logo sewn onto your backwards ball cap, demanding sake bombs and deep-fried California Roll, and expect to be informed that there aren’t any seats available and that you should hightail it the fuck out. That’s why the unofficial title of the proprietor is “Sushi Nazi”, a title which overstates the case, in my opinion. If the Nazi platform consisted solely in demanding that restaurateurs (and by extension their establishments and cuisine) be treated with dignity and respect, all that silly mid-century kerfuffle probably wouldn’t have occurred.
Besides the edgy charms of its owners and the great fish, the other reason to hit up Hama-Ko, and to waste no time doing so, is that its days are numbered. After over a quarter century of doing business in Cole Valley, they’ll be shutting their doors later this month. You’d be wise to avail yourself of the this bastion of culinary integrity while the getting is still good.
108 Carl St.