Wako Japanese Restaurant (Inner Richmond, San Francisco)
Images of some good looking plates and sushi crossed my timeline recently courtesy of a sushi ‘hound inspiring a visit last week to Wako to see for myself. Fortunately, my friend arrived before the 5:30pm opening time, as there was already a line of other walk-ins jockeying for seats. No sushi bar seating left, but he scored a two-top that we could use for two hours. For this first visit, we went with the four-course omakase, $43: small plates (2), bincho-grill (1), nigiri (7pcs.), miso soup.
The small plates were smaller than small, yet the exquisite preparation of these cold bites compensated for their petite dimensions. Housemade sesame tofu with a dashi gelee topped with fresh wasabi was paired alongside earthy mushrooms and sea vegetables in a savory yuzu-based marinade. The yuzu liquid was so intricately delicious, I picked up my bowl to drink the last drops.
Grilled dish was a good size filet of miso gindara (black cod). Though a cliché that I’ve ordered at many places including Nobu who popularized this dish, this was the best version I’ve run across. Juicy and cooked exactly on point with some nice caramelization, the seasoning and whiff of smoke highlighted and did not overwhelm the natural flavor of the rich fish. Brined celery and some fancy knifework on a daikon decoration filled out the presentation.
The seven pieces of nigiri sushi were plated together in pairs for us to share. The sushi rice had excellent texture and temperature, plus the right amount of vinegar for me. Here the sushi are presented with sauce, wasabi or other seasonings already applied. One can request additional soy sauce or wasabi, which the party at the adjacent table did.
The weakest spot in this assortment was the snow crab nigiri topped with a squiggle of miso butter. The cottony texture and stale flavor suggested repeated freezing and defrosting. Also, my piece had a long piece of inedible shell that had not been removed from the length of the crab leg.
My favorites of the nigiri were the slightly singed scallop --- so sweet and luscious.
And also the bluefin tuna spiked with jalapeño --- very rich and meaty.
Everything else other than the crab was good, although I felt some of the sauces were applied a bit too heavily and some of the sweetened ones had too much sugar. My only other criticism of the nigiri would be the absence of lighter white fish and serving only heavier types.
Final course was miso soup, and we had a choice of white miso or red miso. We tried one of each. Well-balanced dashi, butterscotch tones and mild sweetness marked the white miso. While the white miso soup tasted very familiar, the red miso was a different universe for me. Savory, herbal, darker and deeper, not sweet at all, and barely salted, the red miso soup made an ideal refresher after the sushi course.
To end, we shared the black sesame daifuku, $5. Housemade, a very thin layer of chewy mocha encased black sesame paste and cream. This was just the right tone and sweetness to end our meal.
With our check, a pair of complimentary homemade chocolate truffle. This made for an even nicer finish to a very enjoyable meal.
Ordering the set omakase was a good way to get a sense of Wako’s strengths. While the sushi was good, I was more impressed by the cooking. And my return visit will probably have less sushi and more cooked dishes unless I’m able to get a seat at the bar.
211 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tuesday — Sunday
5:30pm - 10:00pm
A shy 'hound forwarded a photo and these comments to post:
"I'm surprised you missed out on the kasutera tamagoyaki! It's comes with the 7-course omakase, but I'm sure you can order it okonomi. It was very moist, almost wet, but still delicious. Make sure you order it next time.
Also, agreed on the scallop, jalapeño akami and aged aka-miso..."