6 Delicious Ways to Explore Japantown
San Francisco is full of unique neighborhoods to explore. Japantown is tucked away in a little pocket of the City, and the somewhat odd urban design in the area can make it hard to find the best gems. But that’s why we’re here.
Udon Mugizo (1581 Buchanan St.)
To start your foray into noodles, try the udon at Udon Mugizo. It’s one of the few places in town specializing in handmade udon, as opposed to the more widely known ramen. Some diners opt for the really rich cream-based sauces, including one made with uni, but the pork broth is light, balanced, and just rich enough. The generous portions are also a plus. It’s an ideal spot for a fast meal before catching a movie at the Kabuki Sundance Cinemas.
Ramen Yamadaya (1728 Buchanan St.)
There was a great deal of buzz when Southern California-based Ramen Yamadaya opened a location in San Francisco, and rightfully so. The long-simmered tonkotsu broth is notable (some hardcore fans go for the extra-rich kotteri). The spicy ramen is another favorite, but you can’t go wrong with the classic Yamadaya ramen, either. Get the chashu, of course, and be prepared to wait if you’re there during prime dinner hours.
Dosa on Fillmore (1700 Fillmore St.)
While you may be in a sea of Japanese establishments, you’ll also find excellent modern Southern Indian cuisine at Dosa on Fillmore. It’s a creative spot for brunch, with many egg dishes and a delicious pani puri starter (crisp hollow puffs you fill with chickpeas, chutneys, and other delights). Oh, and did we mentions there’s a full bar? Try the brunch cocktails, or meet up with friends in the evening for drinks and snacks (get their vada pav sliders!) before catching a movie at nearby Kabuki Sundance Cinemas or a show at The Fillmore. It’s also a standout location for a group dinner with friends, with easy-to-share group menus.
Nijiya Market (1737 Post St.)
Japanese food lovers (or the food curious) will want to head to Nijiya Market to check out all the interesting Japanese products on offer, and pick up some of their freshly packaged sushi, seaweed salad, or even just a package or two of Japanese snacks. You can take your goodies to the nearby Peace Plaza, and enjoy them while people watching. Nijiya is also a great place for hard-to-find but useful kitchen tools at startlingly low prices, perfect souvenirs for a gourmand.
Kiss Seafood (1700 Laguna St.)
If you’re ready to put yourself in the hands of a skilled sushi chef, and sit back, relax, and enjoy a superlative and unique meal, get yourself to Kiss Seafood for omakase. This version of chef’s choice from chef Naka-san is a wonderful journey, from starters to sushi. The space is tiny (and quiet), and you’ll need a reservation, but you’ll be rewarded with an elegant, subtle, and highly personal meal.
Blum’s coffee cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop (1790 Sutter St.)
Ready for some dessert? The Blum’s coffee cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop has been a San Francisco classic for over fifty years, and you’ve simply got to try it. The layers of chiffon cake are frosted with whipped cream and then covered with a coffee crunch candy that owner Tom Yasukochi learned to make from the candy maker at Blum’s, a soda fountain chain that was popular in San Francisco in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the cake is still available at this tiny shop, but often sells out by 11am. So get there early (they open at 9:30am), or plan ahead and order a whole one two days in advance. They’ve also got a selection of other cakes, plus fun candies and cookies.
Dana Eastland is the associate editor for tablehopper.com, a popular insider weekly e-column about the SF dining scene; subscribe for more news, tips, and updates. Marcia Gagliardi is the creator of www.tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.