It was 6:20 PM. My friend Dave and I counted the number of people ahead of us in the line and concluded that we were definitely in the safe zone. The two behind us were also safe, but numbers 11 and 12 were not so fortunate. The owner arrived at 6:45 and turned them away. Those who were left breathed a sigh of relief and excitement started to build. We were among the ten fortunate ones that got to eat at the no name sushi place (known as Tekka on Yelp), and we were in for a treat.
Tekka is a tiny sushi place that seats 11 max in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of SF. It’s unassuming appearance and lack of signage means that it is generally overlooked unless you’re actively looking for it. Operated by a lovely elderly Japanese couple (husband wields the sushi knife and wife serves the food), it’s charm has made it’s way to an intense cult following (me included!). It is only open Monday-Friday nights and only seats 8-11 people at 7PM and again at 9:30 PM. The actual number of people seated depends on the owner’s mood. I’ve also heard that Friday nights are only open to special guests and friends. Other quaint house rules include no complaining, no forks, no soda, no to go, no “rush service,” and no teriyaki or tempura. You want good sushi? Then you play by their rules.
The atmosphere is generally playful, as this is a small place and a sense of camaraderie is usually formed among the patrons while we all watch the chef prepare our food behind the bar. The chef and his wife have a routine built in. Once we are all seated, hot towels and tea are offered. The chef pops in a recorded concert from the 80s/90s, and the wife comes around to take our orders. The menu is limited and has none of the fancy frills you find at other sushi restaurants. This is what I would expect a traditional Japanese sushi bar would be like in Japan, but what do I know? I guess I’ll find out when I go on my Tokyo trip in June.
After being seated and ordering, my friend Dave promptly began photographing everything that was going on at the sushi bar. Our fellow patrons were nice enough to humor us, and the chef didn’t seem too perturbed that some dude was taking photos like a manic paparazzi.
There is intense anticipation among the 10 patrons as we watch the chef’s slow and practiced hands slice and place our sashimi.
For around $35, the sashimi combo plate included 3 types of tuna, salmon, squid, yellow tail, mackerel, octopus, scallops, and seaweed salad.
Dave is bug-eyed at the size of the nigiri. When I told him that they would be large, he didn’t quite expect pieces of fish that were the length of his iphone and the thickness of two. I call them raw fish steaks on rice. At the price of $3.50 a piece, we could’t afford not to over-order. I can till picture how amused the the owner’s wife was at our lack of restraint when we were ordering our food.
The walls are lined with old photographs and well wishes from past patrons.
Some pro tips from me:
- Sit at the bar. This is where all the action is since you get to see the chef prepare your food.
- Talk to the veterans and the newcomers. Since space is limited, you will end up sitting really close to other patrons. The veterans who come here are usually a friendly bunch. They will give you good ordering tips and generally make for fun conversation.
- Order the Sashimi combo plate to share between 2. This is the crown jewel. Every slice is raw fish is just buttery fresh goodness. #OMGIMINHEAVEN
- Order a few pieces of nigiri. As you can see from my pictures, these are GINORMOUS.
- Order the the hamachi kama (fried yellow tail jaw) if you think your stomach can handle more food. It’s tasty and you can’t get it at every Japanese restaurant, but saving room for fresh fish is still the way to go here.
- Skip the clam miso soup (nothing special) and the rolls (not the chef’s forte, they are a bit sloppy and too mushy in my opinion)