New Year’s Eve brought a great omakase experience in both the food and the atmosphere. With so much competition in the realm of high end Japanese restaurants in Taipei, what I find rare are those places that add in a bit of character to their restaurant. That’s exactly what we were given at Yoinn Japanese Cuisine.
There are three price points for their omakase $1880 NTD, $2380 NTD and $2880 NTD. We went with the middle $2380 option thinking this would be a good sampling of the foods offered here. What I didn’t expect was the amount of food we got. It was pretty much a feast. And that was even before the chef decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us. With what he added to our meal, the price would have been well over what the top price had to offer. I mean, aged otoro, how’s that for an extra!
As for the service and décor, it was versatile and very attentive. Even with our ever changing courses, the servers kept our drinks filled and our area clear of used dishes. This while tending to other tables in this intimately lit restaurant. There are curtains for separators hanging from the ceiling. What’s really cool were the mobility of the curtains. They were made to be moved around according to the size of the party and table configuration. Pretty neat. Then there was the chef who was busy preparing dishes for everyone. However, he took the time to explain to me what fish we were being served. Though we had a language barrier, he was very patient.
After everyone left and only the people at the bar was left, Chef Isao opened up even more. We learned that he was the chef at several Japanese restaurants before opening up this one on his own. Those included a restaurant in Japan and one renowned one in Taipei – one of them acquiring a Michelin star. I forgot the names of them but after having his food, it was obvious we were dealing with an artist. One who doesn’t hold back sharing in his creation and gifts. We sat there through closing sampling his whiskies and scotches while having cured mullet roe “because it goes well with whiskey.” Yeah, this guy is a cool cat in my book. We will be coming back here.
Yoinn Japanese Cuisine (余韻日本料理)
Lane 366, Section 2, Bade Rd, 49號
Taipei City,, Taiwan
+886 2 2740 1088
Verdict: Yes! For quality sushi and a full stomach I recommend coming here.
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.
You may think finding good sushi in Japan would be easy right? Well, if you know Okinawa, you’re in for a surprise. It will take a bit of work, weeding out those that focused on rolls, to find a premium place offering quality fish and a dedication to the craft of nigiri. Enter Jirocho Sushi, a restaurant right by Araha Beach in Chatan.
Once I got to the restaurant I was eager to try out the omakase. Inside, the restaurant was big with about three sections, the bar, the center dining area surrounded by sunken seating around the windows, to the more intimate dining area located off the main area. It looked like most of the locals ate in that section while the foreigners, myself included, sat in the brighter sections of the restaurant. I chose the sushi bar like any other lost hipster doing what he’s been conditioned to do, which was fine for me. They brought out an English menu and maybe it was the jetlag, but I ordered a feast.
Service was great and the food hit the spot. I know I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to sushi. And while I left satisfied, I did enjoy the other dishes more than the chef’s selection of nigiri. It was the same variety of fish I find at most restaurants. Yeah, I wish I wasn’t this much of a snob. 🙁
Jirocho Sushi (次郎長寿司)
1 Chome-12-9 Nakagami District
Chatan, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0116, Japan
Verdict: An above average place when it comes to selection and quality.
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.