At Sebo, delicate pieces of monkfish liver and scallops are artfully arranged on plates—but this is just the final leg of a long, deliberate journey. It usually begins in one of Japan’s three main fish markets, where vendors sell only fresh, seasonal seafood. With daily orders of fish on the way, Sebo’s chefs steep traditional short-grain koshihkari rice in yusen-su, a dry vinegar made from sake lees, so it’s seasoned and ready to envelop butterfish and wild mackerel. Paired with a list of premium sakes curated by True Sake’s Beau Timken, the sushi makes for a meticulously authentic meal. Sebo’s owners establish relationships with distributors that are so close-knit they can inquire about sustainable sourcing down the individual fishing boat. They’ve also teamed up with Kindai University for a research program working toward cultivating fish from the egg instead of draining schools of wild fish.
To call Domo “intimate” is a bit of an understatement—the restaurant houses one wraparound counter at which patrons sit. But the cozy confines haven’t stopped diners from stopping by for acclaimed sushi rolls and fresh nigiri. Read on to discover what makes this Hayes Valley hideaway so special:
“The secret's out about this tiny, unembellished foodie paradise. And it's no surprise: über fresh sushi at affordable prices plus long waits to boot make for a killer combo.” – Michelin Guide
“Those who prefer a crunch will love the firecracker balls, with the spicy tuna rolls breaded, fried and drizzled with spicy mayo and eel sauce. They're decadent but delicious - we expected to have leftovers but we finished wanting more.” – SFGate
“Aside from ingredient-driven sushi basics, Domo boasts razzle-dazzle maki like the Sexy Mama Roll (broiled asparagus, tobiko-topped salmon, yuzu cucumber) and Ankimo: monkfish liver w/ ponzu and scallions.” – Thrillist
“In a multicultural vein, Domo offers a small selection of crudos. Tastes rather than full courses, they're presented in porcelain soup ladles and might include spicy tuna with sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro, and avocado; and uni . . . presented with avocado, wasabi, soy sauce, and sea salt.” – San Francisco Bay Guardian
Born and raised in Japan, head chef Fukuji Sugai trained for years before settling in San Francisco. As a result, Sugai-San’s restaurant, Otoro, represents a unique “fusion of California and Japanese cuisine.” Read on for more about this popular Hayes Valley spot:
The restaurant’s name is also its best ingredient. Otoro refers to the fatty portion of the tuna belly that’s widely considered the highest-quality tuna available. Though it may not be in season, otoro tops the sushi, sashimi, and specialty-roll sections of the menu.
They serve more than just raw fish. A whole section of the menu is devoted to Japanese-style tapas dishes, which range from tempura prawns to grilled squid. Veggie options abound, too, including maki rolls like the Vegetarian Caterpillar—cucumber and Japanese pickle topped with avocado.
In Japanese, “Cheers!” is Kanpai! Remember it, because you might find plenty of opportunities to toast thanks to the diverse drink menu. Along with wine and Sapporo beer, the list features three categories of sake, from the easily drinkable junmai to the full-flavored daiginjo.
Lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch items include hot entrees such as beef, chicken, or salmon teriyaki; bowls of rice topped with curry chicken or fresh tuna; and classic servings of udon or miso soup.
It’s probably best to get a reservation. So said one Mapplr user, who noted it was even “packed on a rainy Sunday night.”
Your senses seem stronger inside Samovar Tea Lounge. Warm sunlight streams through tall windows and hushed conversation mingles with the sound of tea flowing from nubbly iron kettles, their contents perfuming the air with hints of herbs, smoke, toasted rice, flowers, and revolutions in Boston. This is owner Jesse Jacobs' vision, what he describes on his website as "an escape from the overflow of information" into an intimate space for human interaction, carved out by the global ritual of sharing tea.
This global emphasis inspires an artisanal menu of small plates and sandwiches that could conceivably be served during tea services in India and Morocco, or, in a playful turn by the chef, the Paleolithic era. It is the tea, however, that enables guests to get acquainted with international terroir without sneaking small shrubs through customs. Small, family farms in countries including Kenya, Paraguay, and Nepal, many of them organic, send their whole-leaf brews to fill Samovar's carefully curated collection. Each of its three locations serves the entire menu, which is comprehensive enough to classify oolong and pu-erh separately and boast vintage blends dating back to 1989.
2G Japanese Brasserie calls itself as an izakaya: a traditional Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food, and an ideal place for lingering after work or during lunch breaks. But at 2G, the food hardly takes a backseat to sake and beer?take executive sushi chef Sasaki Masaki's menu, for example. Each spicy salmon roll and slice of yellowtail sashimi is crafted with extreme attention to detail, incorporating real crab, fresh vegetables, and other ingredients sourced from carefully selected local growers and vendors.
That same care goes into plates from the kitchen, where executive chef Hidetoshi Nambu crafts Japanese entrees such as sake-marinated seabass, whole roasted crabs, and chicken teriyaki. Other dishes, such as Kobe-style beef burgers and house-made beef curry, showcase a global influence. Those two entrees also appear on the casual lunch menu, along with options to assemble your own bento plate, a less confining version of the traditional bento box.