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Feb 26, 2001 07:54 PM

Late night find in San Mateo

  • g

Last Friday night, my husband and I went to this Japanese bar we've been meaning check out and was pleasantly surprised.

The place is called Den, and is on B Street, around the corner from the new San Mateo train station and across the street from Trag's. I don't have the exact address with me right now, but if someone needs it, I can look it up.

They serve traditional and fusion japanese food. I personally think they are stronger in the fusion area. I had this great Indo Japanese fried roll, asparagus wrapped in pork and then fried, and also this lovely pork in a ginger and soy sauce mixture. Prices go from $5 to $10. But the best news is that they are open till 12:00 and take orders for food till 11:30. With my schedule, I think I am going to be going there a lot.

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  1. We went last night - and I must admit we ordered poorly because we were in the mood for sashimi - but it was terrible! As we walked out, several tables had dishes that looked very creative and tasty - but I'm inclined not to go back to try!

    The hamachi sashimi included portions of the fish that I've never had served as sashimi - the rubbery untender part closer to the skin. It made up as much as half of some of the slices and ruined the mouthfeel and flavor. The tuna was fine. We tried a dragon roll and found the sauce to be far too syrupy and sweet, the nori too rough and chewy. And we ventured into a hamachi with mountian yam sauce that was definitely not to my taste, an unpleasant experience (though maybe I am just not inclined to that type of dish - gooey stickey and bland except for the soy sauce and wasabi mixed in).

    The service was lacking as well. We've yet to find a Japanese place we really like around San Mateo and neighboring towns, so have to go into SF, Berkeley or even Sausalito when we're really craving it. Though I must mention Santa, which is on B St. and 8th and serves phenomenal noodle soups.

    Any suggestions? We've tried Sam's, Toki's, and many others and found them all to be mediocre at best.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Brad Kaplan

      Hi Brad:

      Sorry to hear you didn't have such a bad experience @ Den. I have to say I didn't have any of the more traditional stuff. And I probably wouldn't go there for the sushi.

      Have you tried the Kaimaru (Sp?) Grill? It's to your left on El Camino right after 2nd St. But again, I go there mostly for the grilled food and not sushi. Are you just looking for sushi/sashimi? The only really good place for traditional sushi that I have been to in the bay area is down in South San Jose. I haven't been fully impressed by any of the ones in the city yet.

      1. re: Brad Kaplan

        Santa is excellent, but it's a ramen bar which is another animal entirely. Very authentic according to 2 Japanese friends.

        Have you tried Mutsu for sushi? It's the best I've found in the San Mateo area. I'd rate it as very good, not great. When I feel like great, I go to Uzen in North Oakland. For hot Japanese food in San Mateo, I usually go to Kaimuki Grill.

        1. re: Larry Stein

          thanks, yes, santa is entirely different but I felt compelled to mention when saying I had found nothing great in the japanese arena! i did try kaimuki once and should probably get back there, and i'll look out for mutsu, too.

          1. re: Larry Stein
            Melanie Wong

            Is Mutsu the place west of Trag's? If so, this was one of the places we were able to entertain our Japanese collaborators after considerable trial and error (someone else took them to Benihana!). It's been a couple years since I've been there, but I found them competent, if a bit slow service wise at lunchtime.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yup, that's it. My main quibble is the specials on the sushi blackboard menu *never* change. Other than that, very good quality and large portions.

          2. re: Brad Kaplan

            Thanks for refreshing my memory, Larry. I meant Kaimuki grill not Kaimaru grill.

            1. re: Brad Kaplan

              There are several very good sushi places in and around San Mateo:

              Kaimuki Grill on El Camino near Second, San Mateo
              Sake on Primrose near Burlingame Ave, Burlingame (pricey, great choices of sake)
              Tomokazu on Howard in Burlingame (larger restaurant and menu.)

              I have discovered that Tuesday night is the night to go out for sushi -- Japanese family restaurant night. In some cases (like Tomokazu) the portions are much larger and the fish is noticeably fresher. I've also noticed I get better cuts if I don't order rolls, or if I order the sushi (in Japanese) first if I'm sitting at the bar. I think all is not equal in the cutting of sushi, and if you appear to be someone who doesn't know the difference between fake crab California roll and hamachi, they won't waste the good stuff on you.

              1. re: Anne Emry

                I don't think the sushi at Kaimuki is any better than good. Also, small pieces. I go there for the soba, udon and other cooked/grilled items.

                1. re: Larry Stein
                  Melanie Wong

                  In general, I agree with you. However, Kaimuki is the only place where I'll order a California roll as they make it with REAL crab meat and not surimi. Like you, I go for the noodles which I believe they make themselves. The lunch special combo of ramen or udon with a Calif. roll was one of my favorites when I worked down there.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Went to Kaimuki last night and was mighty impressed with the tuna poki - excellent flavors, the bite of the onions went wonderfully both texture and flavor wise, and a bargain, too! Had delicious grilled halibut, and a complementary dish of their cooked tuna which was very nice, with a slightly sweet marinade. Tuna sashimi was better than average. But the rolls were not the best - the spider roll was tasty but way too big to eat in any reasonable fashion, the rainbow roll (I should have asked I guess) had smoked salmon and octopus, neither of which are what I expect on a rainbow roll or what I like for that matter. I'll definitely be headed back to try more of their non-sushi items though.

                    1. re: Brad Kaplan

                      Keep in mind that Kaimuki Grill is Japanese food in the Hawaiian style. There will be a few unexpected twists along the way if you forget the island influence.