ideas needed for visit- Nihonmachi-Japantown
please share any favorite places -either in the mall itself of the surrounding blocks
This has the makings of a very usedul thread, as previous queries have been generally fragmented by type of eats, and a comprehensive and current "best of Japantown" is really needed. Git 'er done!
I'll start with Kui Shin Bo, which is a great place for a bowl of ramen, if you don't have issues with the eccentric lady that runs it. I plead ignorance on sushi, but Kiss Seafood on Laguna seems to have a lot of partisans.
re: Xiao Yang
Also want to praise Kui Shin Bo. They have 3-4 daily specials which are set meals in the $12-18. It's usually some type of cooked seafood or meat along with small sides, miso soup, and rice. Sounds like your standard Japanese bento but the entree portion is Japanese homestyle food that you seldom find elsewhere. Some of the best grilled fish, fried seafood, and teriyaki dishes I've had anywhere. The sushi is OK but the cooked dishes and daily specials are the real gems.
A lot of commenters remark on the "rude" waitress. I wouldn't say she's rude - just old-fashioned. Service can be a bit slow and don't ask for substitutions, menu changes, or extra condiments. Just have some more sips of your tea and take your time.
I also like the karamiso ramen and ankake ramen at Tanpopo. Skip the plain miso and shio ramen items - they can be a bit salty. The karamiso ramen is a spicy version of the miso ramen. Tasty but can get a bit oily. The winner is the ankake ramen which is shio ramen with an extra helping of veggies with a somewhat thick starchy sauce on top. Doesn't sound appetizing but it's actually super tasty and helps balance out the broth.
1740 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA
Yakisoba (fried noodles) at Sapporo-Ya.
1581 Webster St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Maki Restaurant. Wappas meshi, unique. Perhaps the best miso soup I've ever had. It's definitely one of best IMO. Here's a quick review off another thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49787...
I've heard a lot of good things about Honu's Island Grinds but haven't been yet.
Beyond, that, yes a thread about the best in J-town would be good. If I'm there I usually go to default places and sometimes am disappointed.
We rarely eat in SF Nihonmachi anymore because the food has deteriorated so. A while back we ate at Izumiya, which was always okay in a pinch, but the food was so inferior to what you can get on the Peninsula and further south that we swore we wouldn't go back. Same with Takara, which is just so-so. However, I've heard good things about Kiss Seafood and Ino Sushi, but have been to neither; I assume they mainly specialize in sushi, which I do like, but we prefer more izakaya style places or noodles. Of course there's Kappa (on top of Denny's), which I also haven't been to, but it's very expensive and more a special occasion place, I suppose. Maki has always been good, though I haven't been for a long time, but I dislike the seating choices: the very cramped inside or else having to sit outside in the mall. I sure wish they could change their location. For many years, sadly, SF Japantown has not been the place for good Japanese food and that's a shame.
Ino Sushi is open only for dinner. Here are some tips I wrote a year ago on the place: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37402... Your mileage will vary and I might even have to add to that, the mood of the chef that night who appears to be less cheery than before.
In terms of a quick sweet bite/snackage and specifically: Benkyodo outside the main strip for wagashi. Maybe Kissako Tea in the complex lower level for a matcha (green tea powder) based drink. May's Coffee Shop inside the complex for a fresh off the grill tai yaki (pancake like batter with red bean inside, shaped like a mini fish); specify a freshly made and not one sitting in the cabinet.
Juban Yakiniku for Japanese style Korean BBQ, ground level. Although it is not cheap, but only game in town for this specified fare. It's nice once a while, marination is lighter where you can taste the freshness of the meats. If your preference is more roasty robust flavors and depth of marination many original Korean BBQ restaurants (charcoal grill especially) you will have more choices well outside along Geary and further away.
For ramen and izakaya the best places are in the south bay, though for izakaya type fare, the best place in SF according to others appears to be Sozai in the meantime.
re: K K
As usual, KK is right on the money. :-) I've never been to the Juban in Nihonmachi, but have been to the ones in Burlingame and Menlo Park and they have always been good. Yes, Benkyodo for wagashi and Kissako of a bowl of matcha -- there are still a few good Japanese things to be had in J-town.
re: K K
I've friends who also swear by Kui Shin Bo, and while I have yet to go, they say the best thing to do is check the daily specials and focus on those (even if a few might be something ordinary) but at least they do the basics right. The problem with me is that in the past, whenever I was at this part of SF J-town for dinner, the temptation at Darth Ino is so high I succumb to the dark side and get sucked into the entrance:-).
Otherwise the sushi bar at Takara called to me when it was lunchtime and I was jonesin for nigiri, who I hear they changed ownership (the family who also owns Sho Chiku Bai sake in Berkeley I guess sold the restaurant, but is still under Japanese ownership).
I've never done a comparison with the various locations of Juban, though I can only hope SF J-town's is very similar to Burlingame and Menlo Park (otherwise I'd be forced to eat my words at the recommendation).
Some might like On The Bridge, for the only game in town serving Japanese style western food (is it called wafu?) and other stuff like curry rice, but only if you are into this kind of fare.
I'm a big fan of Maki, but it is a bit pricey (I can spend $50 all by myself and not even eat sushi!). Ino and Fuku are my two favorite sushi joints for immediate needs. When I have time to make reservations, Kiss and Kappa are hands-down the BEST eats in Japantown. Another fan of Kui Shin Bo as well - the service never bothered me...