Japanese (Beyond Sushi) in the South Bay?
My mother, who lives in Los Gatos in the S. Bay, recently visited me in my new Los Angeles home and fell in love with the Izakaya style of Japanese restaurant. On her most recent trip we went to Izayoi in J-Town and Place Yuu on Sawtelle. Both have decent sushi bars and a great selection of cooked dishes. Do these types of places exist in the San Jose area? She also loves ramen so I pointed her to Rameniac's website. All suggestions from trusted Chowhounds will be appreciated!
And while we're at it, does anyone have any decent Thai or Vietnamese (or any other Asian favorites) spots in the South Bay?
In addition to what Humbucker has listed (with Tanto and Gochi being more fusion like in nature) there are a few I'd say north of San Jose worth considering in addition but may not fall into the izakaya style category:
Sumika in Los Altos for high end yakitori, and many other great chicken based dishes (also good sake selection), zosui, mizutaki, the best oyako-don, karaage etc.
Kappo Nami Nami for Kyoto style Kappo dining mostly small plates, intricate dishes. They have raw fish for sashimi dishes as well.
Hoshi in Santa Clara is a real authentic izakaya, no fusion stuff, but have heard friends mention of a serious decline due to bad service and drop in quality. It is probably better to go with a fluent Japanese speaker (also to interpret the 200 or so dishes they have, all plastered in Japanese around the walls).
Kitsho in Cupertino has some decent small plate type appetizers, like special miso soup (nama miso made in house), in house made natto, in house made tofu (made with soybean, black and green beans versions too), although there might be an expectation and minimum order of sushi if sitting at the bar (also pay attention to white board specials by the entrance). Do not order the bento's, combo's teriyaki's tempura's and common fare off the regular menu (including sushi). Sushi must be ordered with the chef at the bar (and asked for recommendations on what's good and more importantly exotic) for the best mileage.
Curry House (a Southern Cal Japanese chain) has a branch in Cupertino (run by House Foods that makes the cook at home curries) and is way better than any Denny's or Asian Denny's.
Sushi Club in Sunnyvale (authentic mom and pop family type place in a strip mall servicing high tech companies) during dinner has some izakaya small plates. Here's the small plates menu:
Gyuniku Oroshi Ponzu (sauteed beef with grated radish and ponzu) - $6
Gyuniku To Ninniku No Me Pirikara (sauteed spicy beef & garlic sprouts) - $6
Asaparagus Bacon - $5
Shittake Tsutsumi Age (mashed shrimp stuffed fried mushrooms) - $5
Kakiage tempura (mixed veg slices & shrimp) - $6
Kawaebi Karaage (fried river shrimp) - $7
Salmon Skin Salad - $4
Nikujaga (stewed beef & veg) - $6
Gyutan Shioyaki (salt grilled beef tongue) - $6.50
Tsukemono Moriawase (mixed pickled veg) - $4.50
Moro Kyu (cucumber with moromi miso) - $3.50
Nira No Tamgo Toji (leeks & egg) - $4
Nasu Dengaku (miso on eggplant, baked) - $4.50
Konnyaku Dengaku (miso on yam cake, baked) - $3.50
Spinach & Egg sauteed in butter sauce - $5
Sauteed Shitake Mushroom (in garlic) - $4.50
Satoimo Inakani (simmered taro) - $4.50
Horenso Ohitashi / gomae (steamed spinach) - $4
Yaki Nasu (baked eggplant) - $4.75
Sake Kama (miso grilled salmon cheeks) - $6
Gindara Kazuzuke Yaki (sake marinated, grilled black cod) - $7
Iwashi Shioyaki (salt grilled sardine) - $4.50
Komochi Shishamo (grilled egg filled smelt) - $4
Karei Karaage (deep fried flounder) - $8
Kisu Umeshiso Age (plum and shiso wrapped smelt) - $6
Anago Tempura (fried sea eel) - $6
Teba Garlic (garilc grilled chicken wings) -$4.50
Agedashi Tofu - $4.50
Asari Garlic Butter - $5
Ika Sugatayaki (broiled squid) - $6.50
Kani Hakusai Yoshinoni (crab & hakusai cabbage) - $6
Ebi Shinjo (mashed shrimp rolled in seaweed) - $6
Aji Tataki - $6
Kahoo (highly rated by rameniac) in San Jose
Ramen Halu (rameniac didn't enjoy it as much) also in San Jose
Not much in actual San Jose area.
Kitsho in Cupertino (north of SJ by a few exits on the freeway) is pretty good although it was hit and miss for me last few times. Get there early, sit in front of the bar and have the chef decide (feel free to request some of the in house made soybean based appetizers I already mentioned), but do let him know preferences (Howard's got the best white fish selection if you are into that).
If you are willing to drive further north, Kaygetsu in Menlo Park has a very limited but high quality (and expensive) small intimate 6 seater sushi bar (the restaurant specializes in kaiseki). The sushi chef is also the owner of the place (along with his wife) and had a big cult following amongst Japanese expats since the 80s when he owned Sushi-Ya in Palo Alto and then Toshi's Sushi-Ya down the hill from Kaygetsu.
With the potential prices you'll pay at Kaygetsu that will easily land you over $120 to $130 if you want to be pretty full, either skip the sushi and do a kaiseki dinner there, or.....since your mom lives in Los Gatos, why not take her to Manresa, it's one of the highest rated restaurants in the entire SF Bay Area, loved by gourmets and bloggers alike, vegetables grown in their own private garden, and using some Japanese ingredients in their cooking. Fusion Cali French with some hints of Japanese. I've never been but if I were you I'd take advantage of going there instead.
re: K K
Manresa is fantastic! Last year when I was in town I went twice, both times for the tasting menu. It was so good when I went with my friend on Thursday I had to go back with my mother Sunday night. The only complaint (other than the cost) I had is that they didn't mix things up enough for me since I was there only a few days before. Next time I bring my camera and a full report for CH...
I really like Rokko in Sunnyvale (have never been to the San Jose branch), which I think compares favorably to what you might find on Sawtelle. They have a full sushi bar but also many izakaya type dishes and teishoku.