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best Kaiseki in Bay Area?

Looking for best Kaiseki in Bay Area. thanks!

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  1. Wakuriya... no contest.

    Although not really a Kaiseki, I really loved Kappou Gomi when I went there a few weeks ago. Beautiful presentation... the food was very reminiscent of a lot of the meals I had in Japan on vacation last fall.

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    1. I have reservations at Wakuriya next month (finally!) and am really looking forward to it! Could you give me an idea of what to expect cost-wise for 2 people?

      What do you like at Kappou Gomi?

      Their menu is pretty extensive and I'd love some recommendations on what they do best or what you've tried that's really good. I'd like to go for dinner next weekend.

      Thanks!!

      3 Replies
      1. re: OliverB

        It cost us ~ $300 with one sake tasting and a plum wine.

        At Kappou Gomi I loved almost everything we had... I was my first time there. It was peak asparagus season, so asparagus was in everything in some fashion.

        My favorite dish of the night was an uni crab salad like dish that was amazing... Unfortunately I can't remember the name of anything. I also loved the vinegared seaweed salad with a quail egg (it was the slimiest thing I've ever eaten so probably not for everyone).
        The natto with Hamachi, an ankimo dish, and tempura pike eel were also great. The macha and homemade mochi we ordered for dessert were great too. The only thing that I was a bit disappointed in was the very very expensive japanese bonito that they seared (to my dislike)... it was ok, but not worth the price.

        1. re: OliverB

          What's the best way to get a reservation at Wakuriya? I've tried several times exactly one month out, but they're always booked. Do I really need to leave a message at midnight?

        2. Hmmm, if it was during the day, I'd say go to Fioli gardens, but they close at 3:30pm.
          San Mateo is a great town to live ( cute town with great food, japanese markets, farmer's markets, etc..), but if I am looking for a special/romantic cultural thing to do, I go to the city!

          The ocean isn't really nearby unless you want to stop in Pacifica... and there are lots of nice hikes in the mountains near San Mateo, but your wife may be wearing heels and not want to do too much walking around.

          Also, you will be at dinner until ~9:30; there will be nothing open then.
          Not much help... Sorry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lrealml

            Thanks so much for all the tips; I'm really looking forward to our meal! I've been wanting to try Wakuriya since I've moved to the Bay Area last year and we're in the process of booking our honeymoon to Japan for next fall, so this is timely.

            1. re: OliverB

              Your 2013 is looking like my 2012... we went to Wakuriya in the summer (July) and then to Japan in the fall!

          2. Wakuriya is more of a California style modern kaiseki.

            There is also Mitsunobu in Menlo Park that replaced Kaygetsu (new owners, executive chef from Kaygetsu stayed on). This is the other Cali/kaiseki restaurant in SF Bay Area, but I have not been yet.

            For some slightly downscale Kyoto style cuisine, namely kappo ryori 割烹料理, but still done at a very high level (and can confuse those not too familiar with kaiseki), there are a few other choices

            Kappou Gomi (already mentioned)
            Kappo Nami Nami (Mountain View)
            Hachi Ju Hatchi (Saratoga. The chef there Suzuki-san is a trained kaiseki chef)

            There are also a number of other trained kaiseki chefs in SF Bay Area, or who have worked in the kitchens of countryside inns in Japan (ryokan), but aren't pushing their craft much due to the business they are in...I can think of Jun-san at Sakae in Burlingame, the owner of Sushi Kuni, and Kaneko-san at Jin Sho Palo Alto.

            17 Replies
            1. re: K K

              Well, if we are going to introduce restaurants that are not strictly Kaiseki, then Izakaya Yuzuki must be mentioned. Their food is at once soulful and refined. And, if you order properly from the menu and request that the courses be brought one at a time, you can cobble together your own near-kaiseki meal quite nicely. They have preparations that fit all, or nearly all, the requisite course styles.

              1. re: pauliface

                If we are including koryori-style home cooking places, then I would put Kappa at the top of the list in SF.

                1. re: calumin

                  And I most certainly would not.

                  I prefer Yuzuki, Kiss, and Kappou Gomi to Kappa. Went to Kappa once and have not returned.

                  Kappa does have fans. Dustin (another fan) and I have been through this on another thread.

                  Perhaps I should try it again...

              2. re: K K

                Rioji-san at Sushi Aka Tombo was also trained as a kaiseki chef in JP rather than as a sushi chef.

                1. re: od_sf

                  I've been to Aka Tombo before and had a lovely meal, but didn't think it was anything special and not any better or worse than Ino, which for the same cost I still prefer if not for the atmosphere alone. I didn't order anything a la carte and just asked the chef to feed me. It was very good for but not especially memorable and I've had much better elsewhere.

                  1. re: OliverB

                    You prefer Ino to Aka Tombo for the atmosphere? To each their own I guess. Ino is, in my humble opinion, insufferable, while Ryoji-san is one of the most likable itamae I've ever met. Yes, I would say that food wise they are comparable. But Aka Tombo is definitely cheaper than Ino, and, in my opinion, a much more fun meal.

                    1. re: od_sf

                      I just meant the environment and room itself. I agree that the chef at Aka Tombo is more personable and fun. I've been to Ino many times and so he is quite friendly with me, but you don't get the full treatment there. I mostly frequent it because I think the sushi's great and I like the "coziness" of the room. I don't think either are world-class sushi destinations however, but they're the best I've had in San Francisco proper.

                      1. re: OliverB

                        Ah, ok, understood. Have you tried Koo in the Sunset district? It's become my favorite destination for nigiri in SF, over Aka Tombo.

                        1. re: od_sf

                          I haven't but thanks for the tip - I'll add it to the "to try" list!

                          1. re: od_sf

                            Koo is in the Inner Sunset, and the food is great. The service is very good as well. Worth checking out.

                  2. re: K K

                    How does Sakae compare to a place like Wakuriya versus restaurants like Ino or Aka Tombo?

                    Sakae has been number one on my "to try" list for many months, but I haven't made the trek out to Burlingame yet. Is it a completely different kaiseki experience to Wakuriya?

                    You say it's more 'California kaiseki' - is that to imply that it's more of a fusion experience? There are more contemporary/modern kaiseki experiences throughout Tokyo, like Saito, Araki, Yoshitake, etc. Is this a similar experience?

                    Would you say that Sakae is more akin to the experience you find in a traditional Ryokan in Japan? Is it considerably better than AKA Tombo or Ino?

                    Thanks!

                    1. re: OliverB

                      For what it's worth, I ate at Wakuriay once and absolutely loved it. I would *not* regard it as modern or california style. The chef worked at Kitcho Arashiyama in Kyoto, and to me Wakuriya is closer to that style than anything I've tried in the bay area. It was wonderful and the only reasons I have not returned are expense, distance, and difficulty in acquiring a reservation. But certainly not because of the food!

                      1. re: OliverB

                        I just want to point out to you that most of the places you are listing are not kaiseki places, but are sushi bars.

                        1. re: OliverB

                          Sakae is a pure sushi (with some interesting appetizers).
                          Jun-san trained in kaiseki in Japan but unless you reserve the backroom or are friendly with Jun-san, I doubt you'll get served it.

                          1. re: Cary

                            Thanks Cary,

                            Speaking purely of sushi for the moment, is Sakae comparable to the others mentioned (Aka Tombo/Ino) or is it another level entirely?

                            I definitely want to try it soon!

                            1. re: OliverB

                              I haven't been to Aka Tombo or Ino, so can't provide an answer to that, sorry.

                              On a per nigiri chomp basis, Sakae is one of the most expensive places, so eating omakase at the bar can run up a bill real quick. That being said, the experience and fish at Sakae is my #1 in the Peninsula. One of my favorite requests of Jun-san is the akami-zuke (which is kind of a soy marinated "preserved" blue fin tuna). Even the ordinary tamago becomes a good rendition here. Eating there on a weekday night is recommended.

                              At a very cynical level, most of the sushi bars in the bay area source fish from the same distributors...so the actual quality of fish among the top joints is about the same. Sakae manages to get some more exotic and uncommon stuff, as does Sushi Sam. One time during salmon season, Sakae had three to four types of wild salmon (coho, sockeye, king, and I think chum or copper river) on their white board.

                              1. re: Cary

                                I maintain that Sakae is the #1 sushi house in the Bay Area. If you want to be cheap, you can get their fanciest chirashi (with uni but not raw shrimp, etc.) for $25. I think their omakase sushi with a couple of appetizers runs around $60-70 as written on their board. If you go all out for the best omakase experience, including Japanese beef and all that, it's about $150--expensive but not outrageously so. I've known Jun-san since I was an undergrad at Cal, and I'm sure he can cook you a nice kaiseki meal if you give him advance notice, and preferably on a night when he won't be too busy at the sushi bar.