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Apr 27, 2011 12:29 AM

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.

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  1. Would that be Dan Izakaya Restaurant in San Jose?
    1306 Saratoga Avenue
    San Jose

    1 Reply
    1. re: wolfe

      Yes, that is the place that Wowed me. I am so happy that I decided to give it a try.

    2. 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

      Izakaya Restaurant
      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

      5 Replies
      1. re: mhuang

        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.

        1. re: GregSJ

          It was another branch of the Tanto mhuang mentions.

          "formerly known as Tanto" on the website makes it sound like name change with the same owners.

        2. re: mhuang

          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

          1. re: GregSJ

            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

            Dan Izakaya
            1306 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA

            1. re: GregSJ

              I agree that Dan's strength seems to be the grilled dishes.

          2. 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.

            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

            Dan Izakaya
            1306 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA

            3 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks for sharing your findings, Melanie. I needed a reminder to head back here. ;)

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Wow-- that's a lot of ramen! :) Very interesting. Thank you for posting.
                Have you been to Shoki Ramen House in Sacramento (I personally like the new location downtown better than the original). I would be curious to see where it fits in your list. Good eats!

                1. re: li fu

                  Yes, I've been to both locations but only once each. They're worthwhile. I owe you a post on the California board.