Masastugi Uehara labored for the biblical seven years in obscurity, doing a mostly takeout sushi trade for picnickers and young couples from a dark wedge of a tiny Mountain View shopping strip. And then, he saw the light of remodeling. And it was good.

Masa's Sushi still sites between Dittmer's Wurst-Haus and the Six to Midnight liquor store, but now it is a place to dine in comfort on excellent food presented beautifully, served cheerfully and priced reasonably. It's not all sushi, either. Even kids will find something to like. The teriyaki chicken dinner will easily feed two schoolkids or one fishophoic adult. The chicken strips are moist and tender, and the sauce is tangy/sweet but not gloppy.

The 26-seat restaurant, with seven seats at the counter, is still intimate, and decorated only with wooden paddles with kanji and drawings on them, replicas of passports once used by travelers from city to city in Japan, now sold as souvenirs. Regulars are welcomed by name as they walk in.

Uehara, 35, who comes from industrial Shimonoseki, learned the art of sushi in Yokahama restaurants.

We started with gyoza, the Japanese potstickers, ginger-flavored pork swathed in a tin dough.

The miso soup that comes with the dinners also was lovely, with fresh seaweed and tofu. The salad was the usual iceberg 'n' cucumber.

But the Spider Roll! Sliced into four giant discs, with the spindly legs of soft-shell crab flying out from the two outer pieces, the Spider Roll is finger food heaven.
You eat the whole crab, slightly smoky, wrapped with avocadoand warm, sticky rice in seaweed and overlaid with salmon roe. You mix wasabi and soy sauce in a little blue sphere painted like a fluke. You laugh at the little fish dish.

In the realm of dishware, every category of food gets its own plate ­ a tan fan, a bright blue oval, a bamboo plate set on feet.

The vegiterian among us had the sushi combo of cucumber roll, carrot roll and avocado roll, 18 healthful pieces set into a diamond pattern.

The Nigiri Deluxe also was terrific, with thin pieces of broiled eel, yellowtail, white tuna, salmon, shrimp, and three pieces of California Roll.

But the chef's sashimi plate was perfection. Uehara's selection that night included yellowtail, a sublime fatty tuna called toro, fresh and smoked salmon, live orange clams (still moving) and octopus (slices of tentacle, delicious, really). Raw fish can be very filling ­ perhaps because the oil is still in there and not cooked out ­ and leftover sushi is dangerous, so order carefully.

Our server was very helpful in explaining diskes like Screaming Chicken Roll (grilled, with lettuce) and the decor. Also she asked, if she could take away plates. She did not assume.

One suggestion, Masa: A better quality of napkin would make for less mess on the table.

We had Kirin beer with all this, and it was good.



Write Sheila Himmel at the Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190; phone (408) 920-5926; fax (408) 271-3618 or send e-mail to shimmel@aol.com.