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Recs in Japan Center or the area

What are your favorite restaurants in the Japan Center and surrounding area? We have been going to Takara and like it, but want to try somewhere else. We have also eaten at Maki and Mifune Don and enjoyed both. Any suggestions? We eat pretty much anything. (True chowhounds...) Thanks!

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  1. I like Sapporo-ya as noodle houses go; it's on the second floor of the Kinokuniya building. All the restos on the bridge are fairly interchangeable ... but there is one that makes pretty good okonomiyaki. You know, it's the one with the plastic food out front. ;-)

    1. Izumiya in the Kinokuniya building is the place I've been going for years and years. It's great if you want casual Japanese food with a varied selection. They have Osaka-style okonmiyaki which is pretty good though their quality isn't as good as it used to be. I have some friends who complain that it's a bit Westernized but it's still good.

      I also HIGHLY recommend Over the Bridge between the Kinokuniya and Kintetsu buildings. Great place for youshoku -- Japanese takes on Western cuisine -- with the best J-style curry in the Bay Area, hands down! The place itself is pretty small and kind of cute-kitschy with all the anime posters and manga shelves. Not good for big groups but wonderful for groups of 4 or less.

      If you're looking for more sophisticated stuff, there's Yakiniku Juban on the first floor of the Kinokuniya building. It's been awhile since I've been there but if memory serves me right, they have an awesome yakiniku (think Korean BBQ, just more variety) selection including a very expensive plate of Wagyu beef. I believe it's actual imported Wagyu vs. Kobe-style beef but don't quote me on that. The price of $38/plate IIRC is indicative of Wagyu but who knows, they could just be overcharging.

      Oh and save room for dessert crepes at Sophie's in the Kinokuniya building. Best crepes in the Bay Area! Try a gelato crepe. To keep in with the Japanese theme, they've got a green tea gelato filled crepe with red beans. YUM.

      1. I like KuiShinBo a lot. I cannot believe no one ever talks about it. It's a tiny, Japanese home cooking restaurant next to the dime store in the upper building in Japantown - just order off the specials board and ignore the kind of surly waitress/proprietress, who will start being nice to you if you go in often enough. Perfect rice, perfectly cooked fish every time. Very reasonable prices.

        Across the street in the Buchanan outdoor "mall", I like Shabu-sen for shabu shabu.

        Also, I haven't been as I never splurge for sushi these days, but my friend whose opinion I rate extremely highly for Japanese food in general loves Ino sushi, also in the upper mall building across from KuiShinBo.

        1. I love Takara for traditional Japanese food and On the Bridge for the more modern stuff and Japanese curries. Seoul Garden has pretty good Korean food.

          1. I like Saporro-Ya as well. There's nothing better than homemade noodles, yummy. I recommend you venture beyond Japantown for other places, though.

            Don't get me wrong, there are some good restaurants in Japantown but there are so many Japanese and sushi places that are far superior to what you get at Japantown.

            Nagano Sushi on Geary and Arguello Blvd is great.
            There's the "no name" sushi place on Church and 15th.
            Tokyo Rose on 16th in the Mission
            Osaka Japanese on Fillmore
            Sushi Groove South on Folsom and 11th

            1. Cafe Kati, Kiss and Winterland are near Japantown and are well worth trying.

              1. Sapporo-ya's noodles are indeed housemade, but they're still pretty mediocre.

                1. Shabu Shabu at Shabu-sen is great comfort food.

                  There is a ramen shop 2 doors down that has great ramen, espcially their spicy miso ramen.

                  1. the only places i eat at in japantown anymore are... ino sushi, kappa, kiss seafood, on the bridge, and suzu.

                    if i get desperate i'll go to fukuzushi, iroha, or tampopo 'cause those places are usually open when others aren't. (i still don't understand why tampopo is always packed with so many nihonjin. maybe it's the variety?)

                    i thought shabu-sen was pretty mediocre as shabu shabu goes, but i have a friend who absolutely loves that place. she eats there so much i've started flinching whenever she asks me out to dinner.

                    1. If Kuishinbo is still owned by the same people, I agree it's underrated (unfortunately, it's been a while since I've gone).

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Debbie M

                        It is owned by the same people. The wife (waitress) was out for a few months for eye surgery but she's back now.

                        1. re: celeste

                          That's good to hear. It should get more business than it does. Everytime I go to Ichiban Kan, I always peek over to make sure it's still in business. I should make it a point to return soon.

                      2. Kiss Restaurant for sushi at Laguna and Sutter

                        1. Ino sushi in Japan Town center.
                          Won Mi BBQ by the Fillmore on Fillmore and Geary (for late night Korean) Get the sea bass spicy stew!
                          And not too far away is Quince on Octavia and Bush.

                          1. The best food is at Kappa, a hidden restaurant above Denny's with an unmarked door, and Maki, in the Trade Center. Both have exceptional flavor and style. Kappa is the restaurant in San Francisco that feels the most like Japan. If you haven't been there, and you appreciate Japanese food, you MUST go--get a reservation!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: TofuGirl

                              Any suggestions for really fresh traditional sushi and sashimi for a weekday lunch in Japantown?

                            2. Takara. And this is not the first recommendation in this thread.

                              1. I dunno, people, I think most of those J-Town places are the pits. I like nostaligia as much as the next guy but the family that runs that curry joint on the bridge are straight BONKERS and as for the curry itself, they may as well say Kukure on the menu. All you can eat and drink shabu shabu at Mum's is certainly fun, as long as you don't mind being punished for it the next day. Juban yakiniku is sort of eh, but the Korean joint upstairs is decent.

                                In general I like Country Station and Oyaji for excellent atmosphere with good food, Koo for really great food and decent atmo, and the fancy yuppie sushi joints like Tokyo a Go Go and Blowfish for superious fish quality and irritating atmo.

                                1. Thanks for the recommendation, Paul H. We had lunch at the sushi bar at Takara yesterday and everything was great.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: topcatwawa

                                    You are quite welcome, but I wasn't the only one in this thread to recommend Takara.