In the Tao Restaurant kitchen, chefs labor over stoves during the three-day process of crafting housemade noodles and broth for their authentic Japanese ramen dishes. Iron grills sizzle with the meats and seafood of Japanese teppanyaki and teriyaki entrees, and sushi chefs slice up colorful maki rolls, adorning them with flourishes of cucumber flowers, slivers of radish, and intricately sculpted dollops of wasabi. Servers bear plates out into the dining room, where sunlight pours in through towering windows onto sleek tabletops. Nearby, pots of bamboo shake gently as though they were caught in a ge
O Chamé’s lunch and dinner menus blend traditional Japanese flavors with California cuisine’s penchant for local produce, showcasing “everything that’s right about ‘fusion’ cuisine,” according to San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer. Pass through O Chamé’s entryway, where bamboo stalks and other foliage snuggle up to amorous walls, before sitting down to sample one of more than 20 appetizers in a golden-hued dining area decorated with Eastern-themed scenes. Rafts of fried tofu drift in a sea of fish broth and fresh hijiki seaweed (lunch only), and chefs dress fashion-forward seared yellowtail sashimi in braised-leek and horseradish-sauce garments. For the main course, cooks fill big bowls with steaming broth and udon noodles, crafting eight varieties of the “bracing elixir” Bauer calls one of San Francisco’s finest. Patrons can slurp up such ingredients as grilled oysters or braised beef shoulder with spinach and takuan, a Japanese pickle. Desserts such as poached bosc pear with fresh blueberries cap off dinners with a dazzling mélange of fruits one wouldn’t wear for a night on the town, unlike banana hats or pumpkin daisy dukes.
Sushi California sates eager bellies with a suite of delectable Asian cuisine. Non-seafood nosh-seekers feast upon succulent specials such as the chicken teriyaki, served with rice, soup, and salad ($7.75 at lunch, $11.95 at dinner), and ice-cream-chapped esophagi can defrost with warm, brothy udon soup ($7.95). Sushi offerings span raw-fish styles, with humbly unadorned sashimi arriving in chirashi ($16.50) and hamachi ($19.75) platters with small, rice-bound nigiri balls bearing loads of green mussels ($3.75), scallops ($4.75), salmon ($4.25), and mackerel ($3.95). Eclectic six-piece rolls range from the classic california ($4.50), which ensnares crab cake and avocado within its rice-and-seaweed tractor beam, to the unhinged crazy roll, which smuggles in yellow tail, fish roe, tuna, avocado, and cucumber ($8.95). Veggie-friendly options abound, from inari pieces ($2.75) to squash rolls ($3.95).
A 20-year career prepared Chef Tomo Owada for the opening of Tomo’s Japanese Cuisine, one that taught him to prepare every meal “thoughtfully and artfully.” He gained this attention to detail by first training as an assistant sushi chef for four years in Japan, as well as learning how to manage a kitchen. In 1999, he emigrated to California and has worked in other kitchens ever since.
Chef Tomo’s cuisine reflects both his traditional training in Japan and the sustainable values he found in California, where he learned that food also needs to be “prepared consciously.” Following this philosophy, Chef Tomo incorporates organic ingredients from farmers markets and locally sourced fish into a seasonal menu that includes sushi rolls, chicken teriyaki, and vegan ohitashi—Napa cabbage rolls stuffed with spinach. To prepare these small dishes and sushi, the kitchen makes everything from scratch without the use of a microwave, freezer, or hot laptop battery.
When Skates on the Bay says its seating is on the water, it really means it. The restaurant juts out from the shore and extends on stilts into the bay, its floor-to-ceiling windows framing a landscape of sun, sea, and sailboats gracefully toward the marina or away from sea monsters' mouths.
Naturally, Skates' chefs specialize in local seafood. Alongside classics such as fresh oysters on the half shell and chowder made with Pacific Northwest clams, the chefs get creative. Here, for instance, nigiri might mean Applewood-perfumed scallops with smoked sea salt, or flame-charred halibut with shredded daikon. The menu also includes land-based options, such as char-grilled pork chops stuffed with Bing cherries and wild mushroom and grilled filet medallions oscar style, served with asparagus and crab with b?arnaise sauce
Teppanyaki chefs twirl their knives and ignite towers of flame while cooking meals tableside inside Hana Japan Steak & Seafood. They slice new york steaks, chicken, and salmon and toss scallops onto the grill alongside chopped veggies and mounds of rice, all without ruffling their tomato-red toques. Each hibachi dinner comes with a shrimp appetizer, a bowl of soup, and a salad with organic Hana dressing imported from the organic part of Japan.