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We're moving to San Francisco! Now if only we had a decent Japanese place.

We've lived in Los Angeles for a decade and we're looking forward to all the great food in San Francisco. But the thing we're afraid of giving up is our favorite Japanese place: a small, mom-and-pop place, impeccably fresh, relatively inexpensive (in comparison to many of the other Japanese restaurant "scenes" here in LA). I don't mind getting around San Francisco itself, but Chowhounders, I need your help on this one: the best, under-the-radar (or on-the-radar), inexpensive sushi and Japanese restaurants in the city. And by the city, I want to avoid crossing a bridge or driving outside of town.

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  1. hey! there are a couple of places that i would recommend, both in the outer richmond-

    oyaji (http://oyajirestaurant.com/) is izakaya style and gets really loud and fun (or "fun", depending on your general disposition, i guess =


    there's also rumblefish, at 23rd ave and california st, which is always really quiet and more "dinner" than "tapas" know what i mean?

    both never fail to be fresh and delicious. they're not the cheapest, but actually they're pretty cheap, and you'll be glad to pay the difference once you discover some of the million other japanese restaurants out here. =)

    let me know if you find other great places!

    9 Replies
    1. re: mangophile

      Oyaji is really good and friendly. It's not loud earlier in the evening.

      I'm eager to try Nombe. I loved the chef's food when he was at O Izakaya.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Replying to a old post, because I found this reading about Rumblefish.

        I also enjoyed the chef's work at O Izakaya. Interesting fusion that beat my (initially low) expectations. I found O to be a comfortable place to hang out, enjoy sake and talk with friends while eating good food. Haven't tried since they have scaled back.

        I visited Nombe one time. I don't think that I'll be back. Here, the chef is doing more traditional Japanese food. It didn't work on the night I was there. In fact, a lot about the place didn't work. Only positive was the extensive sake list. We are still in need of a good Izakaya-type place in SF. But, we are fortunate in that we can drive down the Peninsula and into the South Bay for options.

        2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. re: jman1

          There's also Ippuku, easily BARTable from SF.

          2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Sorry, not very good with Chow and only now saw your reply. Sounds like I do need to try Ippuku (I've been putting it off). It still get's mentioned a lot. One reason I've avoided is that I'm usually disappointed with Japanese places in Berkeley area. Friends rave, I go and don't like. There are exceptions, but I don't think standards are as high as the West Bay. Maybe I've hit too many student places.

            Still, I need to branch out more given the current wave as Izakaya type places around.

            Izakaya Restaurant
            1335 N 1st St, San Jose, CA 95112

            2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

          2. re: jman1

            JMan, the food that you loved at O Izakaya was done by Chef Nick Balla. When he left, the restaurant scaled back and is pretty horrific now. They only kept one or two things that made it so good and have reverted back to a chicken wing-like menu.

            That chef, Nick Balla, IS the chef at Nombe and he is doing things that are far from traditional, in my opinion. Sorry you didn't have a good time, but it is the same chef and many of believe that at Nombe he is able to stretch his wings a bit and do some more experimental dishes that he was not allowed to do at O Izakaya.

            2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              Sorry for the late reply. I just discovered the response.

              Yeah, I realize that it was the same chef. Maybe he's moved into more creative stuff now, but the menu that I had was traditional. I just did a menu search, and I see there was a menu change last summer.

              I haven't convinced myself to try again since it was so wrong the first time I went. Just not my type of place, perhaps. Oh, and now I see that he's moved to Bar Tartine anyway. Maybe I'll eat his food there. Eastern European?

              Bar Tartine
              561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            2. re: jman1

              I wonder if the OP ever found what they were looking for. Looks like they've stopped posting on CH --- but if you're out there, blitzy...

            3. re: Robert Lauriston

              Oyaji is not very friendly when the chef/owner gets drunk. He is very belligerent, almost violent, urging us to eat our ramen faster. He even went as far as to slurp noodles from my bowl, in an attempt to teach me how to eat it the right way.

              That being said, their tonkotsu broth was very rich and tasty. The rest of the ingredients were just okay though. Ochazuke was also very nicely done.

              Oyaji Restaurant
              3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

              1. re: DezzerSF

                While the broth at Oyaji is excellent, I was extremely disappointed wiht the quality of the noodles to the point where I couldn't enjoy the broth.

                I actually enjoyed a lot of the less traditional/"weird" foods there more than the ramen, like the shiokara (raw fermented squid)

                Oyaji Restaurant
                3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

          3. I'd highly recommand "Sanmi" on Geary not far from the Bridge Theatre. It is family owned and operated. It pretty much fits your description. On any given days, you would see a few Japanese families there having a good time. At times, there could be a line, but we never had to wait too long.

            1. there used to be a great mom-and-pop place on 24th Street in Noe Valley years ago. It was run by a Japanese woman and her family. There was only room for about three tables. Plus she didn't really listen to you much when taking your order and tended to serve whatever was best that day. But the food was really good.

              Then I went back about four years ago and heard that the children took over the place. It was still cramped but a lot more modern -- more variety in rolls and tried to be more trendy. I still thought it was good but haven't been there since. Does anyone know if it's still there? It was probably near Sanchez Street on 24th, on the north side of the street.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ikb

                I know exactly what restaurant you are talking about. I went there as a child somewhat regularly and haven't been since the early 90s, but I share your fond memories ikb.

              2. okina fits your description. under the radar inexpensive sushi located in SF.
                otherwise, i like to go to Kiss, Ino, (Kabuto for fusionish foie gras sushi)

                1. You might try Tanuki on California, relatively inexpensive and fresh fish. They have the best chawan mushi I've had.

                  1. South of San Francisco in Redwood City is the best tempura with HOMEMADE tempura dipping sauce. I haven't found any Japanese restaurant yet in the Bay Area that tops their homemade tempura dipping sauce. If someone knows an equal delicious one or better, let me know! (especially if it's in the south bay area where I live now).
                    It's a deli-style place. Their name is Blue... (Blue something)...
                    2327 Broadway Street, Redwood City, near the train tracks. Phone number (650) 361-1172
                    You won't be disappointed : ) The drive from San Francisciso down 101 (with no traffic) is about 30 minutes freeway time, plus local street times added to that travel time.

                    1. San Francisco is one of three cities in the USA with a functioning Japantown. Try Suzu's noodles if you like ramen. Plenty of other places, but that one draws a crowd and has a wait.

                      1. Our daughter lives a few blocks from Ebisu, in the Inner Sunset. We've been there several times and it's always very good. Maybe a bit larger than what you're looking for, but well worth a try.


                        1283 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                        1. Try Maki in SF Japantown. Mom and pop, really small place...excellent quality and food. They speicalize in gyu wappa...a sort of hot bento. The teriyaki sauce is even house made.