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Chawan Mushi at Takara [San Francisco]

pane Mar 19, 2012 09:55 PM

Headed to Japantown for an appointment, I read through the old Japantown threads on the board, and, as usual, didn't find much that looked great, and even fewer places open on Monday.

Windy had posted an excellent round-up of places she visited during the film festival based in that neighborhood, and in that thread I found a recommendation for the chawan mushi at Takara, inside the mall.

The chawan mushi can be ordered two ways--it's part of the appetizer menu (for $3,50 I think) and also comes with the set dinner service (it's listed as "cup of custard" in the list of set items).

I'd never had this dish before, or even noticed it on a menu, and now regret that I've waited so long to taste something so...right.

If you haven't tried it either, here's the background: chawan mushi is a steamed egg custard served in a tea cup, perfectly appetizer sized. It is savory, not dessert like at all except for the silky lightness you might associate with a well prepared egg dessert.

Break through the pale golden surface of the custard with your spoon and you find small pieces of meat and thinly sliced mushroom suspended below, with a tablespoon sized amount of liquid at the bottom (is that mirin?). The still-warm custard tastes faintly of soy. I think this is the first time I've eaten in the mall and been so excited about a dish.

As far as the other dishes, I had broiled fish, which was OK. I did like the two types of pickled vegetable served with the dinner set, but the chawan mushi was the star.

Takara
22 Peace Plz Ste 202
San Francisco, CA 94115-3611
(415) 921-2000

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  1. escargot3 RE: pane Mar 19, 2012 10:08 PM

    That's where I also had my first taste of chawan mushi many years ago. Glad it's still good. Perhaps I'll go back and see for myself.

    1. DezzerSF RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 08:19 AM

      The liquid is typically a mixture of dashi, soy, and sugar or mirin. I love this dish as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DezzerSF
        pane RE: DezzerSF Mar 20, 2012 09:32 AM

        Thank you for clarifying! I was curious but buried in a notebook whenever the waitress came round.

      2. r
        rubadubgdub RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 10:06 AM

        There are other excellent versions of this around town. Two of my faves are at Nojo (dungeness crab) and Mission Chinese Food (served cool with uni).

        4 Replies
        1. re: rubadubgdub
          pane RE: rubadubgdub Mar 20, 2012 10:40 AM

          Awesome--thanks for the tip! I live within spitting distance of Nojo, so that'll be easy to arrange.

          The cold version at MCF sounds less appealing--the warmth is part of the charm for me, but I guess if I return there I'd be willing to try it. It's got to be better than the last dish I tried there.

          1. re: pane
            r
            rubadubgdub RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 11:38 AM

            The MSF version is absolutely delicious. I would return just to eat that.

            1. re: rubadubgdub
              pane RE: rubadubgdub Mar 20, 2012 11:40 AM

              Ok, noted. I had some cold buckwheat dish that was awful and an OK Kung Pao pastrami, but we didn't finish anything of a reasonably sized order.

              And thanks, sfbing! Looks like I'm headed on a chawan mushi tour.

              1. re: pane
                grayelf RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 01:31 PM

                If you're lucky you'll find a version with a gingko nut lurking under the custard.

        2. s
          sfbing RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 11:19 AM

          Ame has a very good hot one which changes with the seasons. R&G lounge makes a Chinese version with clams that is quite good.

          1. p
            pauliface RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 04:46 PM

            Izakaya Yuzuki makes a great chawan mushi

            1. drewskiSF RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 04:57 PM

              Cha-ya has a vegan (tofu custard) version that I like. I think it's called Moon Garden on the menu

              2 Replies
              1. re: drewskiSF
                pane RE: drewskiSF Mar 20, 2012 05:11 PM

                Ask (of Chowhound) and ye shall receive. Thanks, drewski.

                Do you remember if it is cold or warm? I had a cold chicken custard in Istanbul that has made me wary of cold savory custards.

                1. re: pane
                  drewskiSF RE: pane Mar 20, 2012 05:29 PM

                  it's served warm :)

              2. b
                billsay RE: pane Jul 10, 2012 08:17 AM

                I wanted to reply though I've never had chawan mushi "out" before. and haven't had it since i was a kid. My mom, RIP, from Japan, made her downhome version with Campbell's chicken noodle soup and it was, well, great. Salty, replete with MSG, and the only version I've ever had. Though probably like a lot of things from childhood, reside in better form in memory than when tried again in adulthood (like Good Humor ice cream bars).

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