izakaya yuzuki report [San Francisco]
here's a copy-paste excerpt from an email to a friend tonight about my dinner at izakaya yuzuki. sorry if it reads a bit personal in spots, but i don't have the energy to re-write my review:
"after trying to decide between various nice italian places i've been wanting to try (barbacco, cotogna) or going back to l'ardoise, i decided instead to go to izakaya yuzuki after studying the menu. so i went and was seated by a very warm, friendly staff. i ended up ordering the following
obanzai: these change daily, and are three different servings of "kyoto style" vegetables in individual cups. tonight these were burdock, lotus root, mountain yam, carrot and konnyaku in a soy broth. the second was honey-glazed sweet potato with black sesame seeds, and the last a thin piece of fried tofu and two chunks of simmered daikon in dashi. my favorite was the root veggies in the first cup, especially as i really like burdock and lotus roots.
tsukemono: rice bran pickled veggies. these were thinly sliced pickled cucumber, baby eggplant, daikon, baby turnips, and carrot. the eggplant was my surprise favorite. i'm so used to eggplant being fried in some way that this clean textured pickle was a nice delight. the rest: nice palate cleansers, but the pickling is mild, and maybe i wanted them to have more character.
chicken skewers: one tsukune, or chicken meatball, and one of chicken wing. i guess the restaurant prides itself on culturing its own koji, the spores used in the fermentation of soy products and rice for sake. the chicken is marinated in that and salt. i don't know how much it affects the flavor, but that was one tasty chicken wing. just wish there were more of them and for much less money. the meatball was good too, but not as good as the wing.
kakiage: shredded carrot and burdock wrapped in nests around shrimp and shiitake and deep fried. these came with a green tea salt and a squeeze of a type of japanese citrus, but not yuzu, along with grated ginger and radish and a dashi dipping sauce. its better with the dipping sauce. the shrimp were delicious, but i feel like at a place with a kitchen gunning for a certain caliber of cooking, these could have been just a tad more carefully fried. it was a little greasy, which i don't associate with fried japanese food.
chawan-mushi with uni. savory hot custard garnished with uni, a strip of yuba, or soy-milk skin, and a touch of wasabi. i'm just not a fan of uni. i get the idea of the dish. the rich, briny sea urchin roe goes with the creamy custard, almost smoky from the dashi its made with. but i just don't get uni. in fact after trying to eat a little bit of it with the custard, i just decided to swallow the entire uni and get it out of the way of the custard, which had a piece of shiitake mushroom and a chunk of their house-made fish cake.
a soymilk "panna cotta" with okinawan black sugar syrup. i liked this. it had the clean flavor of really good soymilk, and wasn't sweet. the sweetness came from the syrup on top, which was quite sweet but had a depth to it. it is not going to outshine a real panna cotta, but for an asian soy dessert i thought it was really good.
i had a glass of shochu as well. the problem? including tax my bill came to $64. which would have been perfectly fine, and in fact, quite reasonable if i had been sastified. but as i walked home i realized that i was still hungry. but...really really hungry. i had to eat something else when i got home. i could have easily eaten three or four more plates before i was just satisfied, which would have pushed my bill way up. so yes, it ranged from very good to delicious, but if i come back here again with some other people, i think i'd have to know and be comfortable with the idea of spending a minimum of $100 minus tip. so...very special occasion indeed.
i'm glad i went and it definitely threw off my glum mood. maybe even BECAUSE i was still really, really hungry after spending chunk of change. its kind of funny. if i could change my order i think i would swap out my chawan-mushi for the "salt-koji" cured and grilled aji. i saw one of those fish come out butterflied and charred from the grill. it just looked really healthy and delicious. "
any other recent reports here? i want to love this place. i just don't think i want to pay the $11 for the special pot of koshihikari rice to feel well fed.
I think I spent about the same or less as you (incl tip and two drinks) a few months ago and sampled most of the menu (no rice either). I wasn't stuffed but I was sated. Some of the dishes are definitely more filling than the others so perhaps a different mix would have produced more satisfying results for you? I wouldn't think it necessary to spend $100/pp unless it includes a generous drinks tab. I did go with 5 friends so perhaps the costs are spread out more with more people?
As I've written before, I love this place. Two things.
First, a question: Did anybody get to their New Years Eve prix fixe dinner? I wanted to go, but could not make it, and I am very curious to hear a report.
Second, a comment: I do agree that it is a bit pricey. But to my experience, any place of this quality Japanese is always at least this expensive, if not more. There are just not any others this good that I know of in SF, except for Wakuriya in San Mateo (and the now closed Kiku of Tokyo at the Hilton). But my other favorites in New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo would set me back way more than Yuzuki would. If I could, I'd eat at Yuzuki every week, but it is too expensive for that. So I've settled on a goal of dining here once per season, 4 times a year. :-)