What:Ijji @IjjiSF A microscopic, unmarked, serene sushi den specializing in high-quality nigiri most of which is imported from Tokyo's famous Tsukiji market
Where:Lower Haight / Divisadero Corridor 252 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117 [wpgmza id="293"]
When:Definitely splurgy in terms of pricing, so save this one for a special, intimate date night.
Yes, I know this year-end list is beyond belated. Actually, I'm probably over a month late. Normally, I'm not one to make these kinds of excuses, but my life has been pretty hectic lately. As you may or may not know, I'm getting married in a couple of months, so my time has recently come at an extreme premium and I haven't been able to commit as much attention as I'd like to this little
publication obsession. With that being said, over the next couple of months, I'll be playing around with post style and formatting a bit in an attempt to find new ways to rapidly pump out awesome food articles with fewer publishing limitations on my end. Please feel free to give me feedback on the new content — I'm planning to review this little experiment in a few months and we can take it from there.
The Japan Center Mall is a mysterious maze-like shopping center full of stalls selling Asian miscellany and a wide variety of authentic Asian eats. There are many places you could choose to eat at – with specialists for just about every Japanese food type you could think of. There are in fact a number of sushi options, but there is only one sushi purveyor inside of this massive mall that I find myself consistently returning to. It's called Isobune and its a truly special place.
*Editor's Note 1/6/16: This J-Town location of Ramen Underground has unfortunately shuttered, but their Financial District location still remains open. I, like most food lovers over the past five years, have become obsessed with big, authentic bowls of ramen noodle soup. In my nationwide explorations, I've come across an extremely wide variety in terms of style and quality, but for some reason I have been struggling to find a great, comforting bowl in San Francisco. I've had a number of satisfactory bowls, but I was convinced that if I looked hard enough, I was going to find an outstanding version. For a city so close to Japan and the rest of Asian, I was finding it hard to believe that it would be so difficult to find – especially because I had already found perfection in Silicon Valley of all places.
Everyone that's even partially aware of the Austin dining scene has heard of Uchiko. It's generally regarded as one of the top dining destinations in the city and I've known for many years that I needed to see what all of the excitement was about for myself. I think the restaurant may have actually first come to attention when the now-famed chef Paul Qui tore his way through Top Chef Season 9. He basically wiped the floor with his competition utilizing his signature Asian fusion style and I took notice. Paul has since moved on from Uchiko to work on other Austin ventures such as his food truck East Side King and namesake restaurant Qui. But, Uchiko remains as exciting and buzz-worthy as ever.
Unless you live in the Los Altos hills, I'm not sure why else anyone would drive out of their way to go there. It's certainly a cute little town with its own downtown main drag and array of restaurants, but it's definitely an out of the way trek from pretty much everywhere and there are similar downtowns all around Silicon Valley. But, one day at lunch a particular craving struck that I only knew how to fix at a single place. The craving? Oyako-Don. The place? Sumika.
Back when I was living in New York, I think I took for granted the fact that it really was "the city that never sleeps". Literally any hour of the day, I could get my hands on anything I craved. Bars stayed open to 4, delivery services ran around the clock and worked lightening fast, and there was always a restaurant open serving exactly what I was in the mood for, no matter what crazy hour it was that I wanted it. Now, let's compare that to San Francisco, where bars start winding down at 1 AM and close at 2. It's a place where most restaurant and bar kitchens close around 10 PM and food delivery is an utter joke. If it's past 10 PM and you feel like having a great late night meal, you've got to approach the situation with a little more care and a lot more knowledge.
*Editor's Note 4/17/15: O-Toro has since relocated to a larger space only a block away at 298 Gough St. I'm constantly looking for sushi joints in the Bay Area serving really high quality fish at very reasonable prices. I've got spots all over the region (see: Wayo, Tataki, Sushi Tomi, Live Sushi Bar, and Geta) and I've even already got a place I love in Hayes Valley, but Domo is quite small and doesn't take reservations so it's not super easy to rely on it as a go-to spot in that neighborhood. Only a few blocks away is another well-reputed sushi den called O-Toro that actually does take OpenTable reservations and also sounded like it had a lot of potential to become my new go-to sushi bar in that neighborhood.
One day, Amy and I were headed to Oakland to check out the California International Antiquarian Book Fair (it's way more awesome than it sounds, I promise). This year, the event relocated from its usual San Francisco venue to the Marriott City Center Convention location in the Piedmont neighborhood of Oakland. Well, I'm pretty much always on the hunt for great, cheap sushi and I knew we would need to grab a good lunch before heading into the event, but I wasn't very familiar with the area's food selection. So, I pulled up Foursquare and did a quick search to gauge my options. Immediately, I was presented with an obvious lunch solution – a tiny hole-in-the-wall well-regarded for its quality fish and reasonable prices called Geta Sushi.