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This New 10-Seat Omakase Counter in San Francisco Is Dry Aging Its Fish

Chef Ray Lee is serving up high-quality ingredients from Japan using a unique dry-aging method.

Omakase from Friends Only Ray Lee

Akiko’s in San Fransisco has long been one of the city’s best sushi spots. But it now has some stiff competition—from its own team.

Chef Ray Lee has finally opened a new omakase counter that he’s been working on since at least summer 2021, according to Eater SF. Friends Only is a 10-seat restaurant, serving up an inventive omakase menu that’ll run you $300 per person.

“What I’m doing is something a little different from what other sushi shops are doing: really just focusing on depth of flavor, texture,” Lee told Eater. “If people already know dry-aging meat, steaks, stuff like that, it’s almost the same concept. What I’m doing is just drawing out moisture, more flavor development, mainly on the texture of the fish.”

Friends Only omakase
17-day aged otoro nigiri with Kaluga caviar Ray Lee

While the menu will change regularly, it spotlights Lee’s dry-aging method on high-quality ingredients from the Toyosu Fish Market in Japan. A recent selection included katsuo (cherrywood-smoked skipjack tuna), zuke (10-day dry-aged, soy-cured bluefin tuna), nama hotate (Hokkaido scallop with flaky salt and colored sesame seeds from Kyoto), keiji sake (dwarf salmon with the same richness and flavor of the full-size fish) and kegani chawanmushi with horsehair crab and duck liver, topped with shaved autumn truffle.

To complement the selection of seafood, the beverage director Quade Marshall has devised a cocktail menu of classics with a twist. Japanese ingredients infuse drinks that diners might already be familiar with: The Cocomelon is a riff on the Manhattan featuring Suntory Toki, while the Foreign Delegate is Marshall’s version of an 1890s cocktail with Cognac, house-made toasted white sesame orgeat, lemon juice, Jamaican-style bitters and sesame oil with activated charcoal. Of course, sake will also be available, as will wine and beer.

A Friends Only cocktail
The Tenjin Collective (shiso-infused Roku gin, Meyer lemon juice, house-made plum syrup, egg whites, Bittercube bitters) Ray Lee

With two seatings per night Wednesday through Saturday, Friends Only is offering spots first to those on Akiko’s email list—hence the name of the new restaurant. Any additional seats will go up for reservation on Tock. For those who do get a booking, they should expect a convivial atmosphere as opposed to a studied meditation on food.

“We want to make it approachable,” Lee said. “We want to entertain, we want to educate you, and we want you to sit back like you’re in a first-class seat on a flight and we’ll just take you for a journey.”

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