Dan, a Japanese place, Saratoga and Payne Wowed me! [San Jose]
We all know that the bay area has few places that really do it for you. We live in an area where it seems a carbon copy is the norm. Sadly.
Dan. It is a place at the corner of Payne and Saratoga. Oh my lord... it is a place you should check out.
We have all been to the carbon copy Japanese places. This is the breath of fresh air we have been looking for.
To start with, the sake drink menu is hidden behind barley and potato spirits. Don't order them on ice.
Massive selections for small plates boggles the mind. I am sure a bowl of udon is the norm for the regulars but damn there were too many fun things to order. I was a kid in a candy shop. Beef tongue, monkfish liver, grilled chicken skin, marinated cucumber salad, grilled duck, and many more that I cannot remember.
Absolutely a place where your appetite can exceed your wallet. Frankly they serve stuff you do not see many other places so it is fun to go hog wild and have fun ordering. I know I did. Gladly so.
Check it out.. I know it is a place that I want more.
If you like Dan Izakaya, you might enjoy the other izakayas on the Peninsula/South Bay:
I do feel the need to point something out though -- the availability of sushi is not the norm at izakayas. I have listed the places below that provide sushi/rolls, which some people might consider to be sushi restaurants that also do small plates.
Yume-ya (Sunnyvale) - like Dan, they do small plates and sushi. A good variety of homestyle and traditional Japanese dishes. They also have a white board of specials -- while most of the time English accompanies the Japanese, there might be some items written only in Japanese -- the staff can help with the translation. I am always pleased by their gratin dishes, as well as the mentaiko spaghetti and uni pasta.
Tanto (Sunnyvale) - lots of variety in dishes; this is one of the more difficult izakayas to walk-in to, and reservations are strongly recommended, mainly because the place is pretty small.
Luckily, En (Santa Clara) just down the street is run by the same people, and has most of the same dishes. En also offers many more grilled items than Tanto. The brightly colored menus are their specials menu, and are well worth ordering from.
Saizo (Sunnyvale) - grilled items and skewers are the specialty here, but they also do a variety of deep fried items and udon.
Hoshi (Santa Clara) - This is another izakaya with sushi; the walls are wallpapered with the items from the menu (both in Japanese and English). Has one of the more extensive sake menus I've seen the bay area; the list includes some very hard to find sakes. There's a large arrangement of sake bottles at the end of the bar.
Gochi (Cupertino) - Fusion Izakaya; they do a lot of unique items here; their specials change daily. They also have some tatami rooms for larger parties. Every now and then they will have Ootoro (extra fatty tuna belly) served several different ways. Their fusion pizzas are great -- the kinoko mentai pizza (crab and fish egg) is a good savory pizza, while the chasu miso fusion pizza is sweet.
Gokaku (Cupertino) - admittedly, this restaurant is more sushi restaurant than izakaya, but their variety of small plates is quite extensive. The chef is very creative in arranging his presentations.
Hachi Ju Hachi (Saratoga) - long bar, open kitchen, hard-to-find sake, and a good sized menu; the dish that I return for again and again is the chawan-mushi, a dish more often served at home, and rarely served in restaurants, a steamed egg custard with seafood.
592 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
246 Saratoga Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050
1335 N 1st St, San Jose, CA 95112
Hachi Ju Hachi
14480 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070
10789 S Blaney Ave, Cupertino, CA 95014
Thank you for the suggestions. It was not the sushi that I was after. I really enjoyed the large variety of grilled small plates. Also, I had no idea Izakaya was a type of restaurant. So much to learn and too little time.
Edit: The website someone linked above says that Dan was formerly Tanto.
I decided to give Tanto a try and was not as happy as with Dan. I ordered their duck (advertised as grilled but it arrived medium well, cold, and with the skin unrendered. It seemed more like a cold duck salad), squab (advertised as grilled but it seemed braised then roasted and very difficult to eat), yellowtail kama (I was happy with it other than the knife cuts in it which made it more difficult to eat), black cod (advertised as grilled but seemed baked), and a beef hot pot ( the flavor of the beef was lost in the sauce).
I am glad I tried the place but I felt that Dan dishes were superior, simpler (focused on the main ingredient) and more true to their descriptions. I was surprised that most of the Tanto dishes that were advertised as grilled did not seem grilled.
Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the meal and sake... but I felt a bit misled.
Edit: I have to admit the waitstaff were amazingly friendly.
Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
If you want Japanese dishes that are hard to find here otherwise, Kappo Nami Nami in Mountain View is a great choice. For modern yakitori, Sumika in Los Altos is also very fine. Both of these are well above the cookie-cutter type of restaurant you accurately describe. I'll have to give Dan a try as well.
Kappo Nami Nami
240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022
1306 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA
Thanks for posting. Last February, my brother and I checked it out. I’d heard about the name change and wanted to see what else might be afoot. Pretty much the same, it turns out other than a new sign outside.
Here’s what we tried . . .
Anago box pressed-style sushi, $11.00 – Whenever I see Kansai-style oishii sushi offered, I make a point to order it. From the Chef’s Recommendations list, the marine eel was a more unusual rendition, and a welcome one to give me a sushi fix that meets with my brother’s “no raw fish” rules. Just a scant brush of sauce over the delicate flesh plus very firmly compressed rice made both of us happy.
Karashi Renkon, $7.50 – The shrimp paste filled version had been one of our favorites here. The vege type filled with blazing hot mustard and miso paste, not so much, due to the overly greasy batter.
Gindara kasuzuke, $11.75 – Black cod filet marinated with sake lees was just a hair overdone and not quite as luscious as it could be. But we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Karaage, skin-on, $6.50 – Nice crunch, a treat for those who like crispy chicken skin,. The dark meat chicken was rather plain and overcooked.
Grilled tontoro, $6.50 – The blessed pork cheek, grilled expertly to impart charred aroma and flavor without blackened bitterness. Deliciously pork-y marbled meat with some typical chewiness. Totally crave-worthy.
Asari ramen, $10.50 – Feel like the kitchen was calling it in, not much love in this bowl. Not nearly as intense with clams as before, noodles softer than they should be, plus sloppy presentation. Dan’s ramen enters the ranking at #61.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
3. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
4. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
5. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View;
6. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
7. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
8. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
9. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
10. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
11. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
12. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino
13. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo (post-move)
14. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
15. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
16. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
17. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
18. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
19. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
20. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
21. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed
)22. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale
23. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
24. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
25. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
26. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
27. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
28. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
29. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
30. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
31. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
32. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
33. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
34. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
35. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
36. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco
37. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
38. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
39. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
40. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
41. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
42. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
43. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
44. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
45. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
46. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
47. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
48. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
49. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
50. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
51. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
52. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
53. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
54. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
55. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
56. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
57. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
58. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
59. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
60. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
61. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
62. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
63. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
64. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
65. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
66. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
67. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
68. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
69. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
70. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
71. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
72. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
73. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
74. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
75. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
76. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
77. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
78. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
79. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
80. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
81. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
82. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
83. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
84. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
1306 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA