1045 University Avenue, Hillcrest
After a protracted remodel, Kato Sushi Hillcrest (a spin-off of the original PB restaurant) opened in time for Pride. The budget-minded sushi joint replaces the failed Pita Jungle, which had already sunk a surprising sum into the big space near Rich’s on University. The visual ghost of Pita Jungle lingers, but barely. The Kato crew went more sports bar with the look than anything else. Lots of TVs glare down from the walls, and the floor space is wide open, almost raucous. It looks good overall, but less quirky than the Pita Jungle had it, which had a spiffy birdcage and modern art leitmotif going on.
Hillcrest’s nicest sushi restaurant is probably Ebisu. Azuki Sushi is good, but technically in Bankers Hill. Kato Sushi compares equally to RB sushi, though they don’t have the epic A-You-Can-Eat deal to sweeten the pot. Kato won’t delight sushi nerds any time soon, but it’s also not going to hurt the wallet. An $11 hand roll combo is a solid deal any way you slice it, and the fact that the restaurant doesn’t try to get 15 bucks for mayonnaise- and eel sauce-covered rolls speaks highly to Kato’s sense of fairness.
The restaurant feels a bit out of place in the neighborhood, truth be told. With beer towers full of domestic swill for sale, all those TVs, and a not-too-serious attitude about the food, Kato Hillcrest is a straight-up doppelgänger of its PB counterpart. It’s really not hip at all, but it just might find a niche in the local scene as an alternative to spots like the Fiesta Cantina. The cultural overlap between beach bars and gay bars is stronger than a lot of people recognize. Maybe sports and sushi can be a nice change from sports and nachos?