Need a place for a quick bite and drinks after your tough work week in the FiDi? Well, if you don’t mind spending a little for some high quality bar food, we found such a place for happy hour. Roka Akor, once Michelin recommended, has been on my list for quite some time. Given that it was Friday afternoon with no plans made and a few friends ready to start the weekend, we decided to check out their happy hour.
The restaurant was huge in comparison to most Japanese restaurants in the city and that was only the upstairs. We headed downstairs to the bar, where I’d like to think we all belong. I mean we, as in us soon to be drunks. Away from the public eye and away from the classier patrons in the dining room. Okay, I may be going overboard. The downstairs was setting was still pretty nice and large. Plenty of small tables surrounded by lounge seatings with one bar stealing the center stage. We found seating easily and had plenty of attention from the wait staff.
Although the full menu was offered, their happy hour selection gave you a good sampling of their menu. We had to order at least one thing off the dinner menu. Not to say the discounted selection was bad, it wasn’t. It’s just their dinner menu looked pretty damn good. I couldn’t pass up trying at least one thing. You won wait staff. Now I have to come back for dinner.
801 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
+1 (415) 362-8887
Verdict: For happy hour food and drinks it’s a great deal. If you’re looking to mingle, you’ll have larger crowds elsewhere.
When Ino Sushi in Japantown closed down last year my heart sank. There went a great little shop that specialized in traditional nigiri, simply fish and rice with hardly any additives. It will be missed. However, moving into the space was the former owner of Koo, Kiyoshi Hayakawa. A place I loved for, you guessed it, traditional sushi. Not that the new trend of unique tasting sushi wasn’t good. It’s just sometimes, you’ll want to taste more unadulterated fish. That’s what Koo brought, and now that’s what An Japanese Restaurant brings back to Japantown. Though at a higher price of $80USD for their 12 piece nigiri set with an appetizer and salad.
We didn’t make a reservation and decided to walk in right when they opened to make sure we got seating at the counter. It’s a small place which probably seats around twelve people comfortably. During the Ino days seating was quite difficult to get if your timing wasn’t right. Throughout the meal, there were still seats available. So if you’re looking to try this place out, you should swing by soon as I’m sure things will get busy. They have only moved in for about a year and seem to be still adjusting. I’ve seen them referred to as Sushi An. Now it’s An Japanese Restaurant. The omakase pricing changed as well, though a very modest increase from $75. I speculate that’s due to the unique fish they’re able to offer. But then again, maybe it’s the rent.
Anyways, the experience was still fantastic. The chefs were very quick to keep the nigiri prepared, one bite at a time, while the waitress made sure the sake glasses were kept at an adequate level. Love their spillover cups. And what makes this dinner so great in a space like this, you get to talk to the chefs. No really, you get to talk to them. There’s only six people at the bar and you’ll get to know more about the unique cuts they serve. Trust me, I was that annoying guy asking everything from the type, to the region, and even the pronunciation in Japanese. Yeah, they didn’t mind at all and even wondered what I’ve eaten before. That’s getting to know your soon to be repeat customers.
An Japanese Restaurant
Japan Center East Mall, Upper Level
22 Peace Plaza #510
San Francisco, CA 94115
Verdict: A win even with a few misses and a high price point, check this place out. You’ll love the cozy atmosphere.
Time for another night of omakase and tonight we are checking out Sakae Sushi. It’s a modest size establishment on the corner of Burlingame, right across the street of the Caltrain station. So if you’re traveling by rail, this place would be convenient. But if you’re driving here, you should be able to find parking around the area. There’s even a small paid parking lot nearby.
Last year I had visited this place and got the lesser priced sushi omakase which had a delightful selection of nigiri. I’ve been wondering about their $115 option after trying this price point at other places around San Francisco. Here it includes two appetizers, a ten piece selection of nigiri, and soup. We went ahead and ordered that and within minutes the first course came out. The pace was pretty quick. By the time the nigiri came out, we weren’t even finished with the second course. Granted we were busy chatting away, so timing may have been perfect. The only drawback of the meal were some bits of slip ups in the nigiri preparation. Some particles of of other dishes on the pieces. Not anything to be up in arms about, but I was expecting some fine craftsmanship. Timing wasn’t an excuse since we were there early in the evening. Maybe it was a new chef. I’m not sure. I wish we got a seating at the bar. I don’t think this would have happened there.
All in all, it was a solid meal. Service was good and the selection of fish was good. Can’t complain there.
243 California Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010
+1 (650) 348-4064
Verdict: I can’t really say this was worth the $115, but they do offer a $75 option which I’d recommend.
Saturday was about the perfect weather you could have the “Lumpia Palooza” Food Festival at the SOMA StrEat Food Park. Clear skies and sunny. So we had to get there early to secure seats and, of course, take advantage of our $35 all-you-can-drink tickets. Seating at this event was pretty tough to find. In the middle of the food truck park was a covered area with several large tables. The park itself wasn’t quite large and with over 15 vendors, things were quite packed at this event. We had lucked out on seating.
The event to celebrate the wonderful Filipino food staple of the lumpia was well received. Most vendors had their own rendition. But like all true foodies, and there were a ton of them there, they were there to check out the Filipino food vendors. Unfortunately for us, the lines for the beer were as long as the popular food lines. We had to choose and beer won, and as a consolation prize, we had lumpia. Those were much easier to obtain. I wish I had a chance to try the lechon. I guess that warrants another trip. Stay tuned for that.
Overall, a great little eating venue to start the night before heading out into town. Bonus that there are plenty of bars within walking distance.
SOMA StrEat Food Park
San Francisco, CA 94103
Verdict: A good glimpse into the food truck scene and worth a try.
Sushi in kaiseki style is the theme of the omakase at Kusakabe. And that drew us here. Along with the fact that it was finally a bit easier getting a reservation. That is of course, if you don’t mind four weeks advanced booking for a table at opening time. We certainly didn’t.
Inside there was seated and given a tasting of dashi as the waitress explained the meal. There were two types of omakase. The normal included 19 items with a price of $95USD a person while the Grand included 25 items with a hefty price tag of $150USD a person. It was a Friday night so why not? We went for broke and got the Grand Omakase. Also we didn’t want to sit there after the meal wondering what six items we had missed. That’s the real eater’s remorse. After we ordered the server explained that we should eat the nigiri with our hands and clean our fingers with the oshibori cloth she provided. I always heard that sushi was meant to be eaten with your hands but never tried it. Now I could say I have and now understand why. You can read about that below in the pictures.
Throughout the meal I realized many of the dishes we had we weren’t going to find around the city. There’s not many serving kaiseki for one, then with sushi, that brings the number to about two in my head. What we were having was a meal to remember. And as I’m writing this I’m already thinking about when I’ll be able to try it again. Way to bring this level of food to the city Kusakabe!
584 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94111
+1 (415) 757-0155
Verdict: Yes, it’s worth the wait, the hype, and the price.