Google saves the day again

As if it’s not enough that Google Desktop regularly saves my heiny by finding long-lost files (I mean, really, why is it that Microsoft created two My Documents directories in XP, and then seems to randomly choose between the two?) or digging out an obscure email from Outlook (when you’ve got 100,000+ messages, a real-time index is a necessity). Last week, Google saved my butt again.

I was meeting up with Scott after the first day of Web Design World, where we’d go out for something to eat, chat, and catch up. (It’s been a couple months since he left Critical Mass for Yahoo.) Problem: I knew only one restaurant in all of San Francisco, and it wasn’t Japanese. Tradition said sushi.

Luckily for me, Amy knows San Francisco quite well. Or at least, used to. When I called her for a place to go, she couldn’t remember the name. Only that it was in Japantown, about a five minute drive from my hotel. I had no idea where Japantown was.

She had managed to give me a couple of hints. First, there was a “roof like a temple”, and it was near Geary and Fillmore. That was about it. Then, just before I hung up, she blurted out: “Sushi Buni”. It was supposedly the oldest sushi boat restaurant in North America.

After the last session of the day, I retreated to my room to wait for Scott (driving in from Sunnyvale takes a while). I dove into Google, looking for “sushi buni”. Nada. I tried “Japantown”. Gave me a little info, but nothing concrete enough with which to direct our evening.

I resorted to Google Local, looking for “japanese restaurants”. It gave me a plethora of restaurants, but nothing that seemed to fit the name of “sushi buni”. I tried several ZIP codes, each to no avail.

Yes, I’m a persistent searcher.

I switched to Google Maps, a service that continues to impress me the more I use it. I found Geary and Fillmore, though couldn’t tell I was around Japantown. This is where Google saved the day.

Just above the map search field is a link to “Local Search”. In a much poorer system, this would take you away from the map, and start you afresh. Google has the smarts to know that you just spent a lot of time localizing yourself already, and this is where you want to search.

“Sushi buni” still turned up nothing. But “japanese restaurant” produced a plethora of hits. Still none for “sushi buni”. There was one for “Mifune”, which seemed to me maybe the place Amy had been suggesting. It was in Japan Center, which she had also mentioned, and seemed like a likely choice.

Scott whipped us over there, and proceeded to investigate Japan Center. It’s a mall-like edifice with many stores and several restaurants. Part of the complex includes a “roof like a temple” — a small pagoda in the open square on top. We had to be in the right place.

As we walked into the complex, we passed by several stores (all closed) and several restaurants (all open). We found Mifune, but determined that it wasn’t what we were looking for. Doubling back, we stopped at the only sushi boat restaurant: Isobune. The first sushi boat restaurant in North America. (“Isobune” means “canal boat”.)

Why didn’t this show up in the results? Google’s great, but it’s far from perfect. The website for Isobune is for the Burlingame location, and not much exists for the Japan Center location. Hence, excluded from the results. Without Google, though, I doubt we’d have found it.

For the record, Isobune is neat, though the boats move a little too fast, and the J-Pop wears on you after a while. But I was there to visit with Scott. It could have been a Bee-Gees reunion for all I would have cared.

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