Sushi restaurants are very popular in the central valley, so even in the small town of Manteca, there's quite a few located in tucked away spots. The Matsuyama sushi restaurant is located behind the Spreckles shopping center in its own little corner near Petsmart. This small sushi joint has a very quaint, family-owned vibe to it, and would be great for lunch. For a dinner, it doesn't really have the ambiance that I'd expect when paying $60 for dinner for two, but it was good enough for a cozy Friday night date with my girlfriend.
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Ambiance At Matsuyama
The restaurant size was very, very small! I counted only 8 tables, plus a bar area with about 6-8 seats. All the tables were full the whole time. When one table left, another group took their place shortly. They are certainly not hurting for business, as it appeared with my last venture to Yukimi.
The cozy size of the restaurant reminded me of the tiny sushi joints you see in San Francisco. You know, the ones where the rent is too high to to support a large business so a family runs a small eatery just big enough to support themselves…dad makes the sushi while mom waits the tables…that type of vibe. It certainly had a bit of a hidden gem feel to it.
The quirky surf club vibe added enough uniqueness to make this place unforgettable. A surf club in Manteca? OK. Makes sense I guess.
Arriving & Ordering At Matsuyama
I don't know if the chef was on point the night we were there, or if they are always this fast. We had our first course ordered and delivered within 10 minutes of sitting down. That's good, because we were hungry!
But I quickly found that I couldn't type on my notepad fast enough to keep up with the food delivering. First came out the miso soup, then the tempura immediately after. My nigiri was delivered shortly after, then the teriyaki beef. Sashimi was last, but it was still in record time. At other sushi restaurants, I've waited 20 minutes after the appetizers arrive to get my sashimi. but I think we had everything from our order on the table within 15 minutes.
There are some good things and not-so-good things to report about Matsuyama in Manteca with regards to the quality and flavor of the sushi. The good news is that the sashimi was a hit. The salmon was one of the best I've ever had. It had a springy quality to it that I've never had before. Perhaps that's not standard, because I'm'used to a much more buttery texture, with a bit of fat flavor.
The other piece of sashimi I really liked was the red/white one shown below. I'm not actually sure what kind it is – something I haven't tried before – but it was delicious.
Although I like the texture of the smaller cuts of sushi featured on this chef's selection, I did notice that with some other restaurants you get a bigger cut of sushi for a similar price.
One of the negatives is that I felt like the quickness of how everything came out showed up in the quality of the sushi-craft. Flavor wasn't affected, of course, but for example the salmon roe was spilling out of the ikura nigiri, and the roll was a little lopsided.
I also was not a fan of the wasabi here. It was mixed heavily with some kind of liquid. It appeared, and tasted watered down. I like a bit of dryness to my wasabi, and the strong stuff where you need just a pinch for extra flavor. Scooping wet blobs of wasabi with chopsticks and getting it to stay put was a challenge.
The cooked foods were hit and miss. The shrimp tempura plate was delicious. Nice and crispy! But the pan friend dumplings were soggy, and the teriyaki beef was dry.
How Was The Service?
I'd give Matsuyama a 4/5 star rating for service. The nice older lady that took our order and brought us food was fast, friendly, and was joking with other customers as she busily walked around the dining area. I assume that she's one of the owners. She was a very cheery person!
I did have to catch her attention for extra water and wasabi though, and she seemed too busy to be able to check up on our table enough times to monitor those things.
Overall, I wouldn't go back to Matsuyama just for the food. The cooked food was mediocre, and while the sushi was worth the price, it wasn't amazing enough to keep my from venturing out and driving 20 minutes more to try a different place next time.
But if you're in the area and want sushi for lunch, this is a great choice. There are some tasty looking bento boxes and other unique sushi offerings on their Yelp page, where they currently have a 3.5 star review.