ajyi2012's Profile

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Saison and Benu 3 stars [San Francisco]

My one experience at Benu was that it was pretty good but if they took out 3-4 weaker courses and dropped the price a bit then I would have left with a better impression than I did. As is I'm baffled at how it's worthy of three stars. Maybe previous/recent incarnations of the menu are better?

What's the word on Kirimachi Ramen on Broadway? [San Francisco]

Oh awesome. I remember liking Kirimachi in their old North Beach location. Hopefully it'll be much better than Ramen Bar...

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place...Kusakabe a disappointment...

If you don't like saucing or creative preparations then you definitely won't enjoy Sushi Ran, which is where Kusakabe used to work at. My meal there included lots of aged, marinated, charred, and smoked fish. Still one of the best sushi meals I've ever had, but I wouldn't call it traditional.

Shunji without Shunji?

Had been planning on visiting Shunji while I was in town for a concert, but it sounds like the eponymous chef will be visiting Japan that weekend. So does anyone have experience with the quality at Shunji when he's not in the kitchen? Is it still worth a trip or should I switch to another restaurant?

Oct 20, 2014
ajyi2012 in Los Angeles Area

Longtime resident at a loss for a favorite sushi place...Kusakabe a disappointment...

Just to offer a contrary opinion, I thought the amount of food served was about perfect. I had to basically force myself to eat extra nigiri at the end just because I wanted to taste some of the options they offered. I skipped breakfast and had a light lunch so I wasn't exactly full either. I guess the food amount depends on the person. You really don't want to be eating sushi until you're stuffed.

Kusakabe is pretty creative with the fish but IMO it's always been well balanced. Compare to Ichi who can be heavy handed with the acid or shiso sometimes.

And the non-nigiri courses were far better than anything you'd get at Maruya or Akiko. I think it compares favorably to Benu.

As for pacing, well it wasn't as if Kusakabe was ever standing idle. And sitting at the bar, it's always entertaining watching them prepare the courses (he gets this wicked grin when he breaks out the blowtorch). It was a bit slow but I was never bored.

The Ramen Bar opening 6/30/14 & Pabu opening 7/1/14, SF 101 Calif Street

I'm curious if anyone's tried the sushi at Pabu. Neither of the founders seem to have any pedigree in sushi so I'm wondering if the omakase is any good.

Value sushi spots and Thai spots with reliable service [San Francisco]

Saru in Noe Valley is a good suggestion. I like Akiko in Financial District as well.

Best Burger in Bay Area?

I like this burger a lot as well.

For cheap burgers, I really like the burger at Split Bread. The balance between burger, bread, sauce and veggies is good.

Ramen Yokocho in Bay Area! (San Jose)

The Tatsunoya bowl was decent for a street festival thing but I don't think it comes anywhere close to Orenchi. The broth wasn't as thick and rich, minimal toppings, the noodles were thinner (different style), and I felt like it didn't absorb the broth well. Maybe because it wasn't drained well? The chashu was very good though.

Regarding the festival itself, the express ticket was indeed an insane value. Being able to skip a line with 50 people in it is absolutely worth $20 IMO. But after three partially eaten bowls I was stuffed. I thought attendance was shockingly low compared to the Japantown festival. The biggest line was for Kohmen and that was maybe 50-75 people?

The noodles I ate were all decent, even the champon which I generally don't like. Unfortunately it's a pain to get to San Jose from here so I probably won't return.

neighborhood restaurant recommendations for November in SF?

I don't recommend staying in Mission simply because there are not many hotels here, and the ones I have seen look pretty run down.

I guess you could risk an AirBnB if you wanna go that route.

Noe Valley is not the best location to stay because you're at the mercy of irregular Muni schedules with no BART access.

I honestly recommend staying downtown close to a BART station. There are plenty of great restaurants in Financial District and SoMa and North Beach/Nob Hill/Tenderloin are not far away. You can always stay late in Mission and catch an Uber back (which pretty much everyone else does anyway). You could even theoretically walk back if you wanna experience the really-not-that-bad underbelly of San Francisco.

Ippuku - Izakaya in Berkeley

That depends on what you want.

If all you want is yakitori, then Ippuku is pretty good for that.

If you want upscale non-sushi Japanese, then I prefer the food at Yuzuki Japanese Eatery. The styles aren't really the same as Yuzuki is mostly refined kyoryori, but I think they execute at a much higher level than Ippuku. Yuzuki arguably has a better sake selection also.

Ippuku - Izakaya in Berkeley

Been here twice now. It's pretty decent (and a great date spot) but it's just pricey enough and not quite good enough that I don't think I'll be coming back (it doesn't help that it's a bit of a schlep from downtown SF).

Good things: any of the chicken skewers, gingko nuts, shochu and whiskey selection, ambiance

Okay: Zaru soba (too cold imo), leek pancake

Misses: Yamaimo, gyutan (is tongue supposed to be that chewy?), camembert (barely heated through), chicken gyoza (no flavor), karaage (barely marinated chicken and crappy batter)

Help finalizing restaurants, deserts, cocktail/speakeasy, as well as opinions on SF staples

I wouldn't go that far. Chipotle is by no means authentic but it's still pretty tasty, and I've had plenty of bad burritos in the Mission.

Papalote is notable because the meat is cooked to order, and they have some esoteric fillings. It's hard to argue that they taste fresher than a lot of taquerias that serve meat that's been sitting in a container for a few hours, but this is a distinction that perhaps only matters to a few. I'd consult the list at Burrito Eater (http://www.burritoeater.com/taquerias...) and see which one interests you.

And make sure you're ordering a super burrito, not a naked one.

The FiveThirtyEight Does Burritos

Wow. I don't get it. I've only tried the carnitas burrito once at La Taqueria and what I had was fairly good but there just wasn't enough filling to put it anywhere anywhere near the same league as Cancun or even La Espiga. I guess the silver lining is my favorite places won't get mobbed with tourists...

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

I guess I'm used to inflated prices in San Francisco. I compare a nigiri-heavy meal at Maruya compared to something at say Keiko or even La Folie at similar price points and I prefer Maruya. I know, different cuisines, but I just want to contest the idea that Maruya is somehow a poor value proposition.

I've been to Maruya twice and my experience has been this: great nigiri, but their otsumami stuff (the vegetables and the pickles) is forgettable. I understand they're trying to duplicate the traditional kaiseki style courses but either the vegetables here aren't that good or my taste buds are too Americanized. Kusakabe is much better in this respect.

Also I don't understand the obsession with purity when it comes to sushi here. Fact of the matter is we Americans will never get the best quality fish. Even stuff flown in from Tsukiji overnight will have been sitting in an icebox for half a day. So given that constraint, is it really that audacious to dress up sushi a bit? Do we criticize a restaurant for serving a Niman Ranch strip with a complex sauce? I frankly loved the smoked fish (I think it was bonito?) served at Sushi Ran. It was better than the mediocre but otherwise naked toro they served.

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

I'm eager to try sushi in LA (I assume Kiriko, Mori, Shunji?) and Tokyo (trying to get reservations at Iwa, Kanesaka, maybe Kyubei) because I think the sushi I've had at Kusakabe, Ran, Maruya, et al to be really tasty. It's hard for me to imagine sushi being, say, 2x better than any of these places.

The FiveThirtyEight Does Burritos

Nice writeup of El Castillito. Interestingly they like the Mission location, despite it not doing so well on Burritoeater's list.


Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Damn, I didn't realize they had katsuobushi on the side. This version was pretty good I thought, it just needed more components because it was a little bland. Katsuobushi, more sauce, more fresh benishoga, maybe a fried egg...

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Agreed. I've never had okonomiyaki in Japan but imo the Namu Gaji version was too sour, and I felt like the oysters didn't add anything. They really need to rebalance the flavors. I think kimchee can work in okonomiyaki (it certainly works in Korean pajeon) but you need fewer elements going on.

Hopscotch (Oakland)

I've had the kimchi fried rice here for brunch and wasn't impressed. Underseasoned and lacking the acidic bite of good aged kimchi. The rice wasn't spicy at all. I liked the use of soft boiled eggs but I wish they were a bit warmer.

We had the spicy miso wings for an appetizer and this was disappointing too. Small wings and the skin was soft and rubbery.

Week in SF - Critique this list and suggest a meal

Mission Chinese is still worth visiting at least once. I think people are just tired of the hype. I was there a few months ago and had a fine meal.

Week in SF - Critique this list and suggest a meal

Agree with Namu Gaji. I've eaten probably half the menu and I've eaten tons of Korean food, and in my mind I would barely call Namu Gaji Korean. The flavor profiles and textures just aren't quite the same.

In the MIssion I'd suggest Range.

Bay Area Ramen

Izakaya Sozai is decent for San Francisco but that's not really saying much. The bowl I had used some black pepper which made it sorta interesting, but the underlying broth and noodles and chashu were about on par with Yamadaya in Japantown, another place which is decent but not great.

In my opinion the only two destination spots are Ramen Shop and Orenchi. Ramen Shop if you want a California creative touch, Orenchi if you want a really good tonkotsu.

Akiko sushi vs. Ino recommendations please [San Francisco]

Hijacking this to report a recent trip to Ino (after having visited Akiko, Maruya, Kusakabe, and Ichi).

My god. I don't think Ino belongs in the same tier as the other four. I honestly think my neighborhood sushi joint (Kiji in Mission) is better than Ino. Completely ignoring any issues with service (which honestly was not that bad), Ino was far too heavyhanded with the wasabi which killed almost any opportunity for me to enjoy the fish. Not that it mattered since he mostly served me bland cuts. The ankimo was good, the mackerel was decent, but every other nigiri I was served was lean and tasteless. Ino doesn't even bother with acids or sauces to brighten fish like hirame. Ino also has this curious practice of serving me two nigiri of every fish for an omakase order. I later learned that I can order single pieces with less wasabi, but from the fish I was served I just don't think it would be better than a place like Ichi or Akiko, to say nothing of holy temples to sushi like Maruya or Kusakabe.

Maybe I just need to become a regular and learn what precisely to ask for, but after my one meal I would not recommend Ino to anyone.

Kusakabe [San Francisco]

Wow. IMO the best omakase experience in San Francisco now, hands down. The problem with the omakase at Akiko or Maruya is that the quality is inconsistent. The sushi is amazing, but the filler stuff in between is mostly forgettable. Not so at Kusakabe. In fact dishes like the duck dumpling miso soup and the crispy tofu in dashi broth with ikura were some of the highlights of the night. Service was excellent and attentive. I can only dock it points for an inferior ambiance to Maruya.

I've posted some photos here:


Where should we eat on Valencia near 22nd (the Marsh)? [San Francisco]

Papalote is one of the better taquerias in SF on 24 and Valencia.

The Cavalier [Union Square, SOMA, San Francisco]

So I thought the burger here was impressive, like a cross between the Nopa and Zuni Cafe burgers. The bun was sturdy, almost felt like focaccia? A little bit of crust but tender. The beef was well seasoned and cooked exactly as I ordered, medium. The tomato chutney and mustard added just the right amount of acidity to cut the fat of the beef. Burger was incredibly juicy but not messy, could easily eat it with my hands. Fries were also excellent.

best chicken wings in or near the Mission (SF)?

I was really impressed by the wings at Phoenix Bar, which is surprising because you wouldn't think it would have good food. But the wings were large, meaty, crispy, sour and spicy.

Ramen Yamadaya, SF Japantown - It's Yummy! Report w/ PICS

Wow, I had the complete opposite reaction. I only went once and ordered the tonkotsu yamadaya bowl with some garlic crushed into the broth.

For starters the chashu was inedible. Overcooked to the point where the fat was rubbery. The pork belly was in a similar state. The broth was okay. The noodles were soft and in my opinion a bit overcooked.

I had the kara-age combo and this too was overcooked. Tough and stringy chicken meat.

I guess I can go back and try another bowl. Maybe it was just a bad night. For comparison I had a bowl at Waraku recently, which is around the corner, and it was much better.

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

I've heard that one of the chefs here gave a great omakase presentation and the other one not so much. It'd be great to find out which one is the good one.