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Is there anything good and inexpensive in Japantown these days? [San Francisco]

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OliverB Jul 24, 2013 02:44 PM

My apt. is less then a 10 minute walk from Japantown and I'm often craving inexpensive udon or soba, tempura, ramen, tonkatsu, tofu, unagi, bentos or cheap omakase lunch specials, but have never taken the time to really explore the restaurants and plaza in this neighborhood. I realize that there's generally considered far better Japanese elsewhere in the city (seems odd; is that because of high rents or commercialization or something?) but I'd be very satisfied with any recommendations for just good and cheap places that don't necessarily have to be the best in town. Preferably with authentic flavors. I'm not asking for mediocre or bland recommendations to be clear... I'm just asking for the best of what's accessible in the area. Is there anything worth the walk down Van Ness from my apartment? Are there any reasonably priced counter stalls in the Plaza? A good independent grocery or conrner store perhaps where one could get bento style lunches or cheap but fresh sashimi, hand-pulled noodles, etc? Any tips at all would be really appreciated!

  1. o
    OliverB Jul 24, 2013 02:48 PM

    Cheap to me btw, is $15 or under (before tax).

    Think food truck pricing.

    1. pane Jul 24, 2013 03:25 PM

      I also live nearby and visit a good amount. It's a strangely inessential foodie neighborhood considering the density of restaurants, but there are a few places I like enough to return. Sometimes it's worth it took look up from your bowl of mediocre noodles to see teenagers dressed as goth babydolls wandering aimlessly through the hallways of a worse-for-the-wear 60's mall.

      I'll note that I've never been to Japan and have no idea of whether what I'm eating constitutes an "authentic flavor" or not; this is just what I like in the area, not limited to Japanese food:

      Fat Angel
      I adore the smoked trout salad ($13) and liked the roasted red grape/walnut flatbread ($11).

      Roostertail
      Good chopped salads. I find them too expensive, but I think they do fall under the $15 mark.

      Mifune
      I like this as a working lunch restaurant. It's nice to spread out in one of their little cubbies with a bowl of sansai mountain vegetable udon. Under $10 I think.

      Yakini Q Cafe
      Good: iced yuzu tea, baked goods from Patisserie Phillipe. Don't know about their signature sweet potato latte, sounds too sweet for me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: pane
        o
        OliverB Jul 24, 2013 03:35 PM

        Thanks so much Pane, I'll look into all of these further and give 'em a shot; Mifune sounds good!

        1. re: pane
          d
          drinkmoretang Jul 24, 2013 10:11 PM

          The sweet potato latte is indeed too sweet! You can discern some sweet potato flavor out of the drink, but it's really just too sugary to enjoy.

          1. re: pane
            grayelf Jul 25, 2013 01:34 PM

            Thanks for mentioning the iced yuzu tea at Yakini Q, pane. I love all things yuzu, and this would be a good chance to try some stuff from Patisserie Philippe. We have never been to Japantown despite a dozen trips to SF (doh).

            1. re: pane
              t
              tofuflower Apr 5, 2014 08:47 AM

              I recently found out that you can request the sweet potato latte without the simple syrup added. Much better!

            2. d
              Dustin_E Jul 24, 2013 03:58 PM

              i also live in the area, and walk down there a lot.

              -okonomiyaki at mifune don

              -various at mifune (main)

              -sashimi platters from nijiya ($20 but could be split). nijiya also has various other less expensive bentos. i don't know if they are good though.

              -yakiniQ ($20 but good / all you can eat)

              -sophie's crepes

              -suzu noodle house is decent

              -doobu for korean is pretty good

              i've been to japan a number of times, and think the food is generally fairly representative / authentic, as does a friend who lived in tokyo for a few years.

              14 Replies
              1. re: Dustin_E
                o
                OliverB Jul 24, 2013 04:38 PM

                Thanks Dustin, I'm sitting in a booth at Mifune Don now, waiting for an okonomiyaki with pork, scallops, shrimps and squid! Looks great so far...

                1. re: OliverB
                  o
                  OliverB Jul 24, 2013 05:13 PM

                  Great okonomiyaki! Not the best I've had nor surely the best in town, but it was very good and packed full of fresh squid, large chunks of scallop, whole shrimp, and tender pork; it hit way above expectation!

                  I was about to post what a great deal that was for under $10 (I was certain it was 9.00 and change on the menu) but I just got the bill for $15+ so closer to $20 with tip. Still great although not as cheap as I'd thought! It might have been a mistake though; Ill pay more attention to the bill next time.

                  Btw, part of the reason for cost consideration is because I'm planning a 1.5 month delayed honeymoon across Japan next fall... So I've vowed to eat out less and not spend more than $10-15 on solo meals during the week. It's often hard because I'm working from home and an in a food wasteland (Van Ness and Clay!) but I'm glad to know there's an option for good okonomiyaki nearby!

                  Can anyone please recommend the best udon or ramen in the area? Also, anywhere for good bento lunches in the $12 range?

                  Thanks!!

                  1. re: OliverB
                    d
                    drinkmoretang Jul 24, 2013 10:23 PM

                    Relatively new Waraku makes my favorite ramen in the area, but it doesn't exactly have stiff competition; Waraku's ramen is passably good, but it's also not the cheapest bowl around. I like the firm, yellow noodles, the raw pressed garlic, and the fact that the broth has pretty good flavor without being at all salty. I did not really like the pork, and the whole bowl really wasn't hot enough, but it's still much better than the offerings at Tanpopo or Suzu.

                    Not a meal item, but if you're going to walk from Van Ness, Benkyodo is definitely worth a short detour for a mochi dessert- the chofu is my favorite. It's not available every day, but you can definitely get them on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

                    1. re: drinkmoretang
                      d
                      Dustin_E Jul 25, 2013 09:46 AM

                      i agree completely with this assessment of waraku.

                      1. re: drinkmoretang
                        soupçon Jul 28, 2013 07:45 PM

                        Waraku is a venture of Eiichi Mochizuki, the hyperactive chef who brought us Hime, Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, and most recently Raijin Ramen on Taraval. (He also recently acquired Shabusen on the Buchanan Mall and owns a half dozen Shabuway franchises from here to Los Angeles).

                      2. re: OliverB
                        vincentlo Jul 25, 2013 12:02 AM

                        Is buying from Nijiya and cooking at home an option? I'm sure they must have some ramen or udon you like. Just need to add some protein and/or veggies.

                        1. re: OliverB
                          d
                          Dustin_E Jul 25, 2013 09:46 AM

                          glad you enjoyed it -- what place in town do you think has a better version?

                          you probably got the combination okonomiyaki -- i believe the single-ingredient non-seafood ones are less expensive.

                          hope you will report on your journey across japan on the (borderline-dead) japan boards.

                          be sure to post back on any japantown finds -- would be helpful to find more decent things there.

                          1. re: Dustin_E
                            pane Jul 25, 2013 12:53 PM

                            I feel like IDing great food in Japantown could be a Chowdown challenge in and of itself. 20 people meet at the Japantown mall, assemble into groups of 2-3 and disperse. Your mission: find one excellent dish within mall or 1 block radius outside.

                            1. re: pane
                              Cynsa Jul 25, 2013 06:48 PM

                              My go-to one-dish for lunch:

                              Takara Japanese Restaurant for shio saba, Taramiso/black cod, Takara Chirashi
                              takararestaurant.com
                              http://www.takararestaurant.com/lunch...
                              validates one hour parking in the garage under the mall

                              Jitlada Thai Cuisine for the Mango Salad
                              jitladasf.com

                          2. re: OliverB
                            r
                            rubadubgdub Jul 25, 2013 10:39 AM

                            FWIW you can eat very reasonably in Japan, in the $10-15 range for casual lunch/dinner, unless you're planning on hitting name places only. They have a wonderful "fast" food culture.

                            1. re: rubadubgdub
                              o
                              OliverB Jul 25, 2013 03:59 PM

                              Yes I know, but we'll be traveling all over Japan for 1.5 months and are planning to balance out the cheaper blue collar Izakaya bars and market stalls with some really high end meals in the bigger cities like Tokyo. We're not eating exclusively at name restaurants but as its our honeymoon, were not exactly on a stringent budget. We're staying at some very high end ryokans and hotels and it is proving to undoubtedly be the most expensive trip I've ever taken... But it's been a lifelong dream and its a special ocassion!

                        2. re: Dustin_E
                          o
                          OliverB Jul 24, 2013 06:41 PM

                          Dustin, what do you recommend at Suzu?

                          1. re: OliverB
                            d
                            Dustin_E Jul 25, 2013 09:40 AM

                            so suzu is not a super strong recommendation of mine, but i believe it is inexpensive and decent -- it is at least very frequently crowded with a wait.

                            i've had various good noodle dishes there.

                            i think some of their other dishes are better than their ramen.

                            1. re: Dustin_E
                              i
                              IanW Jul 29, 2013 05:03 PM

                              Suzu's Udon used to be my go to in J-Town when I lived in the city many moons ago. At one point they made their own noodles I believe. Still looking for a great Udon place in the Bay Area...I miss U:don in Seattle and the great Sanuki in Gardena.

                              Sad to hear about Maki as that used to be the best restaurant in the mall. It was one of my splurge restaurants in the early 2000's.

                        3. r
                          rubadubgdub Jul 25, 2013 10:30 AM

                          Izumiya, across from the Kinokuniya bookstore in the mall next to the Kabuki, sounds like the kind of place you're looking for. I especially like the grilled squid w ginger; sushi is decent. Prices are very reasonable.Nijiya Market has an extensive takeout section in the front and also sashimi in the back. I think around 530-600 they discount the prepared items, which is handy for dinner or premovie.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: rubadubgdub
                            o
                            OliverB Jul 25, 2013 03:52 PM

                            Thanks so much! This is exactly what I'm looking for and I will give it a shot and report back next week!

                            1. re: rubadubgdub
                              Windy Jul 29, 2013 10:54 AM

                              I've been going to Izumiya for years but recently had two terrible meals there in a row. The okonomiyaki was greasy and overdone. Service, which has never been great, was really poor.

                              1. re: Windy
                                r
                                rubadubgdub Jul 29, 2013 12:24 PM

                                I still find them a reliable choice. Last meal there was only a couple of weeks ago and it hit the spot. One of the reasons I like them so much is you don't have to order a full meal, rather you can just order exactly what you want, even a small snack. But service is not their strong point, agreed.

                            2. o
                              od_sf Jul 25, 2013 03:21 PM

                              Some more recommendations for good cheap eats in J-town:

                              Japanese:

                              Kissako Tea - best bento box in J-town, by far!

                              Waraku - decent ramen, the best in J-town but that's not saying much.

                              Takara - my favorite in the area for basic cooked dishes like saba shioyaki or tonkatsu. Nothing to write home about, but decent lunch specials and authentic.

                              On the Bridge - makes a decent Japanese curry.

                              Tanpopo - don't get ramen there, it's terrible! But its a decent place for cheap beer during happy hour (5 to 7 pm weekdays) - $2 drafts, and their takoyaki and torikawaage are pretty darn good with a cold beer.

                              Also, note that Ramen Underground just opened a branch in J-town; haven't tried it yet.

                              Korean:

                              Doobu - good sundubu jjigae and cheap lunch prices.

                              New Korea House - my favorite hae jang gook in SF. All their soups are pretty good. I don't recommend the BBQ there, though.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: od_sf
                                o
                                OliverB Jul 25, 2013 03:54 PM

                                Thanks very much! I've been to New Korea House before for dinner and enjoyed it but the others are new to me. Great tips and much appreciated!

                                1. re: od_sf
                                  d
                                  Dustin_E Aug 13, 2013 10:37 AM

                                  have you (or anyone) tried much else from on the bridge?

                                  the shrimp curry don was decent, my main complaint is a too low curry / rice ratio.

                                  i had written this place off for years, just because i thought the fun decor implied bad food -- i was wrong.

                                  i don't know any other good yoshoku places in sf. are there any?

                                  1. re: Dustin_E
                                    o
                                    od_sf Aug 13, 2013 11:20 AM

                                    As far as I know, On The Bridge is the only place in town serving yoshoku style dishes. I've mostly had their veggie and chicken curries, but I've tried a couple of their spaghetti dishes too (mentaiko spaghetti, if I recall) and it was good.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                      i
                                      indigirl Aug 13, 2013 10:16 PM

                                      On the Bridge is our go-to place in Jtown. Usually get curry, but have also tried ume spaghetti & other things, never had anything we didn't like.

                                      1. re: indigirl
                                        d
                                        Dustin_E Aug 14, 2013 09:21 AM

                                        do you get their curry, or curry don?

                                        which versions of his curry do you like, and what spiciness level do you recommend?

                                        thanks.

                                        1. re: Dustin_E
                                          i
                                          indigirl Aug 15, 2013 12:20 AM

                                          Build your own curry, on the back of the menu. I get mild because of my tender Cantonese palate, so can't say what the hotter versions are like. Total comfort food!

                                          1. re: indigirl
                                            Windy Sep 13, 2013 09:12 PM

                                            Even the spiciest Japanese curry is very mild.

                                            1. re: Windy
                                              Tripeler Sep 14, 2013 06:56 PM

                                              Although, recently I got some packaged curries from our supermarket here in Tokyo marked "extra hot" 激辛 and they were surprisingly hot, though still easily eaten, but this is a rather new trend.

                                  2. ssfire Jul 25, 2013 03:47 PM

                                    Can anyone comment on the difference between the okonomiyaki at Izumiya vs Mifune Don.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: ssfire
                                      h
                                      hyperbowler Jul 25, 2013 11:14 PM

                                      I've not had the one at Mifune Don. The okonomiyaki at Izumiya are certainly hearty, but I wouldn't recommend them if you've eaten them elsewhere.

                                      1. re: ssfire
                                        g
                                        greymalkin Jul 26, 2013 12:11 AM

                                        Context: I fell in love with the okonomiyaki in Osaka at a small no-name greasy spoon, so I prefer that style and having a noticeable "fried" flavor from the griddle.

                                        I found the okonomiyaki at Mifune Don to be too thick, pasty, skimpy on the cabbage, burnt in spots, with overcooked seafood and no flavor. I really disliked it. The only one worse was the one at Sapporo-ya. At least this one didn't taste like it was reheated from frozen.

                                        The okonomiyaki at Izumiya is better than either, although my favorite there is their "Modern Yaki" which is a pile of yakisoba on top of an okonomiyaki, crowned with a fried egg and gobs of sauce. It's excessive and unabashedly unhealthy, but I like it.

                                        My favorite okonomiyaki in Japantown is the one at Kui Shin Bo. It's a little on the greasy side and isn't really traditional in texture. It veers a little close to tasting more like a latke, oddly. Which I love too but are not quite right. It's served in a hot castiron pan that gives it a bit more griddle flavor and a crispy edge that most others lack. It came the closest to capturing the flavor of the one I had in Osaka.

                                        Best would be to pick up a kit at Nijiya and make your own at home. It's fun! Even making the batter from scratch isn't that hard. I do it all the time.

                                        1. re: greymalkin
                                          p
                                          pauliface Jul 26, 2013 08:19 AM

                                          This recipe is nice, and quite easy:
                                          http://okonomiyakiworld.com/best-okon...

                                          i often use smoked ham instead of bacon, I leave out the chinese sausage and ginger, and I only use tempura bits if somehow they are handy.

                                          1. re: greymalkin
                                            o
                                            OliverB Jul 26, 2013 08:37 AM

                                            I agree that the okonomiyaki was too pasty at Mifune-Don. That was really my only complaint. It got a bit gooey and sticky and the texture was not as delicate nor the flavors distinct as a result of it melding together as such. But there were no parts that were overcooked or burnt and the last thing I could complain about was skimping on any ingredients as it was packed full of fresh seafood and greens. I enjoyed it a lot, but as mentioned, it's far from the best I've had and doubtful that it ranks as the best in the city. I will have to try Kui Shin Bo to compare (they don't have the highest health score on yelp though) and I will definitely be making a couple of trips to Nijiya market next week too!

                                            1. re: OliverB
                                              g
                                              greymalkin Jul 26, 2013 11:36 PM

                                              Hmm, sounds like I should give Mifune Don another shot. Perhaps their chef was still learning when I tried it almost two years ago. I like it when there's a lot of stuff and less batter. Thanks for the update!

                                              I wouldn't say you have to try Kui Shin Bo, it's a certain flavor profile that I liked, but it's pretty nontraditional. It might be an interesting contrast if you are really into okonomiyaki, but otherwise...ehhhh..... I think instead I'd encourage you to try Izumiya's, It's more traditional and I thought it was pretty good, if a little unexciting. Much improved by a pile of yakisoba on it :)

                                              1. re: greymalkin
                                                o
                                                OliverB Jul 27, 2013 12:01 AM

                                                Just be warned that it is still pasty and gooey/gluey as mentioned, which would be my main criticism. I still really enjoyed it, but it was far from the best I've had. It's not destination worthy I don't think, but it's a solid neighborhood option.

                                                1. re: OliverB
                                                  grayelf Jul 28, 2013 04:44 PM

                                                  Maybe they are using too much yamaimo?

                                        2. o
                                          OliverB Jul 25, 2013 04:02 PM

                                          I decided to stray from Jtown this aft and hiked down to Muracci's in the Financial district for katsu curry with spinach. Really good and inexpensive!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: OliverB
                                            Melanie Wong Jul 25, 2013 04:34 PM

                                            Since FiDi wasn't too far for you, maybe you'll check out Kare Ken on Jones too.
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7953...

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                                              o
                                              OliverB Jul 25, 2013 10:25 PM

                                              Thanks Melanie, that isn't far from me at all. I'm on Van Ness and Clay and don't mind walking 15 mins. for lunch. I really enjoyed Muracci's this afternoon and based on your rave reviews of Kare Ken (best in California is a mighty big statement!) I'll have to try it out as well! I didn't find the curry very spicy at Muracci's at all; are the heat levels comparable at KK? Similar prices as well? Thanks for the suggestion!

                                              1. re: OliverB
                                                Melanie Wong Jul 26, 2013 10:33 AM

                                                Those posts aren't actually from me. I've not tried Kare Ken yet, as it's been closed at the hours I've been nearby. But it's high on my list and I'd love to see an update from you.

                                                I love the Japanese take on curry. Japanese "hot" is not that spicy compared to Indian, Thai or Korean spice levels. It's more about the subtleties of the fruits and vegetables (assuming a homemade version) balanced with sweetness and some hotness.

                                                Also close to you would be 2G Brasserie, no reports for a couple years. A check of the website shows no breakfast menu any more.
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790187
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820682

                                                1. re: OliverB
                                                  d
                                                  Dustin_E Jul 26, 2013 10:57 AM

                                                  Kare Ken is really excellent.

                                                  their hot is definitely hot -- to me almost inedibly so, and i think my tolerance is pretty high.

                                                  curries+meat are ~$7 for pork, ~$10 for prawn. it is also byob.

                                            2. c
                                              Chowrin Jul 25, 2013 06:52 PM

                                              I'd recommend Suzu's.
                                              I'm not sure why folks want ramen that isn't salty...
                                              For my money, it's the best ramen in Japantown.
                                              I'd recommend the negi ramen.

                                              Do not order negi ramen "without green onions" though.
                                              (not my table. I know better).
                                              The results were hilarious.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Chowrin
                                                o
                                                od_sf Jul 25, 2013 07:03 PM

                                                Because tonkotsu broth shouldn't really taste salty. Shio? Yes. Shoyu? A little bit, maybe. Tonkotsu should not really taste "salty" though.

                                              2. CarrieWas218 Jul 25, 2013 08:33 PM

                                                When I lived in the area, I dined frequently at Takara for lunch (behind the hotel). Their bento box lunch was $10, tax included. I think they have raised it to $12 (total) and is a screaming deal.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: CarrieWas218
                                                  o
                                                  OliverB Jul 25, 2013 10:26 PM

                                                  Thanks, I'll check it out.

                                                  1. re: CarrieWas218
                                                    l
                                                    Lindsay D47 Aug 12, 2013 06:34 PM

                                                    Takara has been one of my favorites for many years because of that Bento box. When I first started eating there, it was only $6.95. Still decent Japanese food at a reasonable price.

                                                    1. re: Lindsay D47
                                                      escargot3 Aug 13, 2013 10:44 PM

                                                      I haven't been there in a long while, but I used to really enjoy the chawanmushi at Takara

                                                      1. re: escargot3
                                                        s
                                                        Shibi Aug 14, 2013 05:49 PM

                                                        I agree! But, I haven't had their chawanmushi in years. Just a few weeks ago, we stopped in for a Friday lunch -- but they don't serve chawanmushi at lunchtime so we went elsewhere (Suzu noodle house).

                                                    2. re: CarrieWas218
                                                      Melanie Wong Mar 30, 2014 01:33 PM

                                                      Friday's lunch was take-out bento from Takara. $8.50 + tax. I opted for the albacore sashimi, which turned out to be five thick and buttery soft pieces sliced from the loin. More than decent tempura though the dipping sauce was too watery. All in all, good value.

                                                       
                                                    3. p
                                                      pauliface Jul 25, 2013 09:31 PM

                                                      I recommend Shabu Sen @ 1726 buchanan (on the pedestrian block between post & sutter)

                                                      Their shabu shabu and sukiyaki are both great. Tasty and satisfying and fun to eat. I *think* either will run you about $15, and both have smaller versions for less money. Plus, I believe cheaper at lunchtime.

                                                      11 Replies
                                                      1. re: pauliface
                                                        o
                                                        OliverB Jul 25, 2013 10:32 PM

                                                        I'm not sure if it's the same shabu restaurant, but I went to one with my wife on the pedestrian street across from Peace Plaza and 2 orders of mediocre shabu ran us almost $100. It was a huge ripoff for the quality of meal. I don't remember if it's because I ordered the steak (it definitely wasn't wagyu) or perhaps a certain cut, but I found the meal completely overpriced. I didn't remember seeing any shabu meals on the menu in the $15 price range though. Are there two shabu shabu restaurants on that same street?

                                                        Also, has anyone tried the tonkotsu from Chotto in Cow Hollow? It's probably well above the price range I've laid out in this thread, but I'm just curious as it seems to garner a lot of good reviews.

                                                        I'm going to try Ramen Underground in the J-town mall next week and will report back!

                                                        1. re: OliverB
                                                          p
                                                          pauliface Jul 26, 2013 08:20 AM

                                                          They have different grades of meat at different price points. No need to order the pricey ones.

                                                          Someone should do a price check though, I could be wrong. Next time I'm there I will update my post.

                                                          1. re: pauliface
                                                            o
                                                            od_sf Jul 26, 2013 08:37 AM

                                                            I don't think they have different grades of meat. The small size shabu shabu order is $11, regular is $15.50. Small sukiyaki is $12, regular size $16.50. I believe they have an "all you can eat" option for $32 per person.

                                                            I ate there once and found it very underwhelming.

                                                            1. re: od_sf
                                                              o
                                                              OliverB Jul 26, 2013 08:44 AM

                                                              The one that I was at with my wife, which is also on that pedestrian street across from the mall, definitely offered varying grades of meat. I didn't order the wagyu as mentioned and I might have done a mixed grill with beef and shrimp (I forget) but it came out to an insanely high price for the quality of meal we had. I think we may have ordered sake as well. Regardless, we could have had a really great dinner at Nopa or somewhere similar for the amount we spent. It was definitely an underwhelming experience, but then I wouldn't have thoguht twice about it if it were an $11 lunch. It must either be a different place or I just made some costly mistakes when ordering!

                                                          2. re: OliverB
                                                            d
                                                            Dustin_E Jul 26, 2013 09:58 AM

                                                            >> tonkotsu from Chotto in Cow Hollow

                                                            i have. it is good. certainly not perfect, but one of the best in sf imho.

                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                              o
                                                              OliverB Jul 27, 2013 12:03 AM

                                                              Thanks, I'm putting this at the top of my solo lunch list for next week!

                                                              1. re: OliverB
                                                                Melanie Wong Jul 27, 2013 12:07 AM

                                                                FYI, Chotto doesn't serve lunch.
                                                                http://www.chottosf.com/contact/

                                                            2. re: OliverB
                                                              d
                                                              Dustin_E Jul 26, 2013 10:00 AM

                                                              i liked shabu-sen, but thought it was expensive.

                                                              wonder if it is less expensive for lunch?

                                                              1. re: OliverB
                                                                Melanie Wong Mar 30, 2014 01:36 PM

                                                                Not a fan of the tonkotsu ramen at Chotto, details here,
                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7559...

                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                  c
                                                                  calumin Mar 30, 2014 07:29 PM

                                                                  I didn't like much of anything I tried last time I was at Chotto.

                                                                  Have you been to any of the newer ramen places in Japantown, such as Yamadaya or Ramen Underground? I think the Ramen Underground on Kearny is very good. I have a friend who likes the Ramen Yamadaya in LA.

                                                                  1. re: calumin
                                                                    Melanie Wong Mar 30, 2014 07:45 PM

                                                                    I've been to Yamadaya. Disappointing as I was expecting much more, but it is good. I think it's another case of the Bay Area getting sloppy seconds. I'll try it again once I've made the rounds of the newcomers.
                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9302...

                                                            3. g
                                                              greymalkin Jul 26, 2013 12:38 AM

                                                              Great suggestions already- I haven't seen anyone mention yet the tai-yaki at May's Coffee Shop (definitely get them warm, they're no good cold and soggy from siting out) or the mochi at Benkyodo. Tasty sweet snacks for a few bucks!

                                                              The little coffee/tea stand at the bottom of the stairs by Kinyokuniya Bookstore has some nice onigiri, kushi dango, and tea if you want a light sit-down snack.

                                                              The Super Mira market has premade foods for a quick food grab-n-go. Onigiri, various foods on rice, and I think a little lunch counter in the corner. They are a bit pricier than Nijiya, and have a smaller selection, but they have a lot of organic items and they're a family-run corner grocery store.

                                                              Sadly two of my favorites for mid-priced lunches, Maki (wappa) and Bushi-tei Bistro (unagi don lunch special) are closed, so I am really happy to read all the other suggestions your post has turned up. Thanks!

                                                              20 Replies
                                                              1. re: greymalkin
                                                                p
                                                                pauliface Jul 26, 2013 08:21 AM

                                                                I like Super Mira as well. I feel their prepared stuff is better quality than Nijiya, though I also like Nijiya.

                                                                1. re: pauliface
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                                                                  OliverB Jul 26, 2013 08:44 AM

                                                                  Do they have good bento lunch boxes?

                                                                2. re: greymalkin
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                                                                  Dustin_E Jul 26, 2013 10:01 AM

                                                                  i also used to really love maki, but over the past two years it seems like the service just became really terrible to the point that i just stopped going. RIP.

                                                                  1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                    K K Jul 26, 2013 11:12 AM

                                                                    And now a conveyor belt sushi restaurant has opened up in its place.

                                                                    1. re: K K
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                                                                      Dustin_E Aug 13, 2013 10:39 AM

                                                                      i think the new conveyor belt sushi is at least a lot better than the old j-town one (with the boats.) the the later i found to be inedible. the new one is decent, though not much reason to choose it over other places (besides convenience.)

                                                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                        K K Aug 13, 2013 10:57 AM

                                                                        Heard the new place (Tenroku) is run by the folks from Sushi Raw.

                                                                        1. re: K K
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                                                                          od_sf Aug 13, 2013 12:57 PM

                                                                          Sure is. Simon Woo. http://www.abc.ca.gov/datport/LQSdata...

                                                                          Further evidence of the "de-Japanization" of Japantown.

                                                                        2. re: Dustin_E
                                                                          o
                                                                          od_sf Aug 13, 2013 11:16 AM

                                                                          Looking at the yelp photos for Tenroku sushi, it looks like they are serving escolar. Can anyone who's actually been there let me know if they're serving it as such, or passing it off as "white tuna" or toro?

                                                                           
                                                                          1. re: od_sf
                                                                            d
                                                                            Dustin_E Aug 13, 2013 12:49 PM

                                                                            well, it is placed on the conveyor belt rather than listed on a menu, so i'm not sure they pass it off as anything other than "yellow plate == $4"

                                                                            they didn't have toro when i went. They did have full trays of (decent) uni on the belt, though.

                                                                            i remember being particularly impressed with a white fish nigiri when i was there. don't know if it was that one exactly though.

                                                                            1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                              o
                                                                              od_sf Aug 13, 2013 01:03 PM

                                                                              Surely they must have a printed menu? What if you don't see the nigiri you want to eat on the conveyor belt? You cannot order nigiri directly from one of the chefs?

                                                                              1. re: od_sf
                                                                                d
                                                                                Dustin_E Aug 13, 2013 01:19 PM

                                                                                you can, and they probably do. but i don't remember them giving a menu listing the various types of fish -- just drinks and dish color / price key.

                                                                                1. re: Dustin_E
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                                                                                  od_sf Aug 13, 2013 02:11 PM

                                                                                  Thanks for the info, Dustin. I'm curious because I would NEVER give business to a sushi-ya that mislabels escolar as tuna or butterfish. Shady practice, and the sign of a unreputable business.

                                                                                  1. re: od_sf
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                                                                                    Dustin_E Aug 14, 2013 09:20 AM

                                                                                    thanks for the info -- i was unaware of the controversy surrounding escolar until now.

                                                                                    1. re: od_sf
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                                                                                      hyperbowler Aug 14, 2013 11:43 AM

                                                                                      If a place is legitimately serving "butterfish," what is the appropriate Japanese name to look for? I've seen the term "butterfish" get misused for both escolar (waru , of anal leakage fame) and sable/black cod (gindara).

                                                                                      1. re: hyperbowler
                                                                                        K K Aug 14, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                                                        Legit "butterfish" that won't cause issues, can sometimes be medai by some restaurants (not a good labeling), but at least according to wholesalers it is ebo-dai

                                                                                        http://www.trueworldfoods.com/product...

                                                                                        I just make sure that if I'm in an establishment that happens to have the pearly white block of fish, I pass on it or request that they don't serve that.

                                                                                        1. re: hyperbowler
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                                                                                          od_sf Aug 14, 2013 12:41 PM

                                                                                          Japanese butterfish is called Ibodai in Japanese. It's pretty rare to see it served as sushi.

                                                                                          I have never seen a fish called "Waru" in Japan. Correct me if I'm wrong, but "waru" means "bad" in Japanese, and is not a fish name.

                                                                                          1. re: od_sf
                                                                                            drewskiSF Aug 14, 2013 01:04 PM

                                                                                            I believe waru / walu is a Hawaiian name.

                                                                                            Also, the flesh of true butterfish is not that white, so as KK says, avoid the pure white stuff.

                                                                                            Here's a picture of some butterfish nigiri labeled as Medai
                                                                                            http://cookwithkathy.wordpress.com/20...

                                                                                2. re: od_sf
                                                                                  drewskiSF Aug 13, 2013 02:15 PM

                                                                                  Sushi Raw has Waru/Butterfish on their online menu, which is a common disguise name for Escolar. Might be the same @ Tenroku

                                                                                  http://sushiraw.net/menu/

                                                                                  1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                    K K Aug 13, 2013 02:21 PM

                                                                                    The late Toshi Sasaki (RIP) of Murasaki had escolar in his fish case in the past.

                                                                                    1. re: K K
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                                                                                      od_sf Aug 13, 2013 02:30 PM

                                                                                      That's true... and he fully disclosed what fish he was serving, as any reputable itamae would do.

                                                                        3. d
                                                                          Dustin_E Aug 13, 2013 10:33 AM

                                                                          ramen underground in japantown is great, but not inexpensive.

                                                                          we had (and loved) the spicy miso ramen, the gyoza, and the creme brulee ice cream.

                                                                          noticeably better than the downtown branch -- though perhaps i just like the firmer noodles.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                            Cynsa Sep 13, 2013 07:53 PM

                                                                            Ramen Underground in Japantown has my favorite rendition of takoyaki in San Francisco. The center of this octopus ball remains moist and creamy with bits of diced octopus in a hot and crispy ball garnished with katsuobushi/negi - bonito flakes, chopped green onion, and takoyaki sauce.

                                                                            http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisc...
                                                                            "Ramen Underground's chef spent seven years cooking Italian food in Japan before he came to the United States, and a number of items show this."
                                                                            I'm curious...omochi gnocchi, deep-fried cheese gyoza, grilled shiitake mushroom risotto.

                                                                             
                                                                            1. re: Cynsa
                                                                              grayelf Sep 14, 2013 09:24 AM

                                                                              Is it wrong that now I want takoyaki for breakfast? Thanks for posting on RU's, cynsa. It's hard to find a really good rendition.

                                                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                                                Tripeler Sep 14, 2013 06:57 PM

                                                                                Takoyaki would make a great breakfast, though I think hot green tea would be a better match than coffee.

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                                                                            OliverB Aug 13, 2013 01:07 PM

                                                                            Any idea how much the modern yaki is at Izumiya and is it sufficient and hearty enough for a lunch or early solo dinner?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: OliverB
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                                                                              greymalkin Sep 13, 2013 11:05 PM

                                                                              When I went, it was $10.25. I think it's plenty for a lunch or early dinner (maybe with an appetizer and drink).

                                                                              Here's a picture, it's about 7" across and piled high:
                                                                              http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/izumiy...

                                                                            2. o
                                                                              OliverB Sep 13, 2013 04:14 PM

                                                                              I just had the tonkotsu ramen with chashu, soft boiled egg (extra) and corn (extra and from a can).

                                                                              It was decent. I didn't really enjoy the noodles, which tasted undercooked to me. It was satisfying but not exceptional. I wanted to try Waraku but it was closed (perhaps only open for dinner?) but I'm going to give Suzu a shot next week to compare. Service wasn't great at RU, the waiter asked if he could take my bowl twice while I was eating and as soon as I finished and plunked my napkin in it, he plopped the bill down on the table. I would have ordered ice cream but didn't bother as a result. Anyhow, overall impression was that it was okay. Better than anything I've had in Montreal where I'm from, but incomparable to better places I've been elsewhere, including the East Bay.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: OliverB
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                                                                                greymalkin Sep 13, 2013 10:59 PM

                                                                                What a funny coincidence! I just went to Ramen Underground and came back to this post to mention it. I recently went there (first time) for lunch. I liked the thin chewy bouncy noodles, but then I really dislike mushy noodles, so this got huge bonus points for me. I also got the tonkotsu with egg. The broth was pretty salty for a tonkotsu broth, but it did have some depth of flavor and a nice creaminess. As much as I liked their noodles, Ramen Underground definitely has to be dinged for their boring and skimpy toppings tho. At $14 for the basic bowl plus one egg, I was hoping for more stuff than 3 leaves of spinach, a small scattering of chopped raw mushrooms, and one thin slice of chashu. I wanted more stuff in my tonkotsu but with the surcharge for every topping, I kept it simple. It would have been okay to skimp on the toppings if they were delicious but I didn't think they were that great. The chashu had no flavor, the eggs were runny inside but they tasted only of salt, no egginess.I didn't mind the raw mushrooms, they got pretty tasty in the salty broth, but I found it a little weird. Sounds like it's good I skipped the corn.

                                                                                You might like Waraku better. I recently went there and liked it. Their toppings were better than RU's, and their noodles were firm but lacked the bouncy chew I like best. If you like garlic, they have raw garlic and presses at every table for you to anti-vampire up your ramen to your preference. Warning that the staff is cheerful but a little raw still (my waitress hadn't learned the menu yet). And having a car plow through their front window probably hasn't helped matters.
                                                                                http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                                                1. re: greymalkin
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                                                                                  OliverB Sep 14, 2013 08:37 AM

                                                                                  Thanks and I agree about the toppings; I actually ordred extra chashu but the kitchen either overlooked it or forgot about it and I couldn't believe there was only one thin slice in the bowl. The egg was also salty and tasteless as you mentioned, but I did enjoy the broth very much. A bit too much salt, but otherwise it was pretty tasty.

                                                                                  1. re: OliverB
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                                                                                    greymalkin Sep 14, 2013 01:21 PM

                                                                                    I liked the broth too. I particularly liked that it was creamy without feeling like I was drinking liquid fat. Which can be good but not really for lunch.

                                                                                    Waraku's tonkotsu broth is actually a little undersalted, which I appreciated, but does mean it tastes a little bland compared to some if you really like salt. My friend got the shoyu broth at Waraku and loved it, so perhaps that is on the saltier side.

                                                                                    I hope you get to Suzu for a comparison, they're on my list to try also.

                                                                                  2. re: greymalkin
                                                                                    Cynsa Sep 14, 2013 03:05 PM

                                                                                    RU's tonkotsu with kakuni

                                                                                     
                                                                                2. CarrieWas218 Sep 14, 2013 09:52 AM

                                                                                  Not *in* Japantown, but on Post, just off Fillmore is Roostertail - VERY good and inexpensive roast chicken with a variety of sides.

                                                                                  Went with an old friend earlier this week and we each got a quarter white meat ($6.50) served with two sides; a chimichuri and nice, vinegar-based barbecue sauce. We shared shaved Brussels sprouts with bacon (large, $5.50) and sauteed chard (small, $3).

                                                                                  Finally, the crowning of the meal was a nectarine and blueberry crumble served alongside soft-serve ice cream. It took a bit for this to arrive and was obvious as it was baked to order and quite simply one of the best warm, fruit concoctions I've had in ages...

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