Wacky Japanese Double Date Night at Suzu & Pika Pika in Japantown

One night a few weeks back, a friend who lives in SF called me to up to ask if Amy and I were free that evening. She and her fiancé wanted to go out for a dinner double-date night and it was up to me to pick the place. Amy and I were not feeling particularly great that night so we decided that ramen would be the perfect pick for a low-key double date that could provide us a delicious meal and make us feel great. I had heard particularly good things about a strange, little place in Japantown called Suzu so I selected that as the destination for all four of us to head to that evening.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.

Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year’s, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let’s begin!

And if you wanna hear about the 2014’s Best Cocktails, read more here.
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Solid, Rich and Soothing Ramen at Shalala in Mountain View

I’ve talked at length about how challenging it can be to find great lunch spots in Silicon Valley, but one item I’ve found no shortage of is ramen. And the competition is fierce. I’ve already been to Orenchi which I claimed to be the very best ramen-ya in the Bay Area, but sometimes I just don’t have the luxury or time to kill two hours to drive, wait in line, and eat lunch. Sometime I need something just a bit faster. That’s where places like Maru Ichi and nearby Shalala in Mountain View come in handy. Once again Mountain View is coming to my lunchtime rescue!

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A Perfect Balance of Quality, Price, and Value at Live Sushi Bar in Potrero Hill

It’s not always easy finding a great sushi place in San Francisco. Often times the quality at inexpensive spots is unacceptable and the high-quality places are just way too expensive. And if you can manage to find an excellent and reasonably priced spot like Domo Sushi, it’ll constantly be plagued by long lines and waits due to its extremely popular Hayes Valley location. That’s why I was so happy to find Live Sushi Bar in the less trafficked Potrero Hill neighborhood. It has consistently proven its ability to hit that sweet spot of freshness, price, value, and ease of access. And I know you’ll love it too.

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Orenchi: Ramen So Good, You’ll Forget You’re in Silicon Valley

We showed up to this crappy little Silicon Valley strip mall in Santa Clara on a Tuesday at 11:30 AM on a lunchtime mission. Sure enough there was already a congregation of hungry and anxiously waiting patrons lined up out the door frothing at the mouth. But, I pushed my way to the front of the waiting room and successfully added my name on the handwritten list for my group of four. Why would I endure this kind of brutality on my lunch break? For ramen, of course – reputedly the best the Bay Area has to offer at that. Orenchi Ramen‘s reputation clearly preceded itself, but I was ready to experience it for myself.

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Tataki Gives Sustainable Sushi a Good Name in Lower Pac Heights

In the past, I’ve never really bothered much to concern myself with social consciousness with regards to food and waste. I don’t think you could blame me too much though, because I had never before lived in a place where it was such a high concern or integrated part of the cultural fabric. As it turns out, just being in San Francisco pretty much forces you to become very aware of the impact your consumption has on the environment simply through the requisite use of separate trash, recycling, and compostable bins everywhere you go.

Beyond waste management though, I’ve learned you can further be accountable for your actions by the types of meat, seafood, and produce you buy. By choosing responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly meat, seafood, and produce at your grocery store you can be sure the stuff you love so much stays around for a long, long time. And even beyond home shopping, there are ways to make good choices when you’re dining out. For instance, when the desire for awesome sushi strikes, you can choose to go to a place like Tataki in Lower Pac Heights that refuses to serve any sushi made with anything but sustainably sourced fish.

I know, I know. I can hear you groaning already. Sustainability? Social consciousness? What happened to Winston when he moved out to Cali?? Don’t worry, it’s the same old bacon-loving me, I’m just embracing living in San Francisco and trying to learn as much as I can. Trust me, this sushi tastes just as good as the unsustainable alternative and doesn’t even cost more than the quality stuff you’re used to.

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I Love the Low Key Vibe and High Quality Sushi at Domo in Hayes Valley

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Now that Amy and I have moved from NYC to San Francisco, it’s time for me to dig into the SF food scene. There are a number of cuisines that SF is reputed to do better than New York, Mexican being the most obvious, and I want to put these reputations to the test. Perhaps a little less obvious than SF’s Mexican superiority would be it’s Japanese, specifically regarding sushi. It makes sense if you think about it though considering this part of the country is so much closer to Japan than New York is. Don’t get me wrong though, I know we had really great sushi in New York, but it’s certainly possible that the proximity to Japan could help.

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Tanto in Sunnyvale is Another Excellent Silicon Valley Izakaya

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When I’m living the road for extended periods of time, I like the treat myself well. Actually, I spoil myself. And by that I mean, I like to eat really really well. This of course can often lead to some overindulgence. But, hey, I think I deserve it.

On this particular night, I was dining solo and went on an adventure to a Japanese izakaya that had been on my to-do list for a while. I had had a great experience at En in Santa Clara nearby not too long prior, but I wanted to try someplace new. I knew I was in the mood for some uni amongst other Asian delicacies and figured that Tanto would be an excellent spot to scratch this particular itch.

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