Similar to Ozumo in Oakland and San Francisco, but run by a Japanese chef cooking his grandmother’s comfort food, Sasa is the best new Japanese joint to land east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Chic earthy decor, the result of a $4 million-plus renovation, including a long bar with sports on TV and a thick book of chilled sake options, seems to attract salarymen procrastinating their return to the wife and kids. Fantastic small plates featuring high-quality seafood from Tokyo and beef and pork from the Walnut Creek Meat Market are a creative relief from all the other look-alike California roll-tempura-udon joints. Instead, mainstays are the Riverstone steak, served on a smooth hot rock balanced on four pieces of chopped tarot root, grilled yellowtail collar, and deep-fried panko-crusted pork tenderloin. Sasa just opened in the spring with twenty-year East Bay restaurateur Chef Philip Yang at the helm and a handful of businessmen behind him hoping to seriously reduce residents’ excuses for going to San Francisco.