Most of Wakuriya is not restaurant, but kitchen. Due to the cooking implements and the counter that stretches across the space, the dining room fits only 18 seats, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Kitchen" might not be the appropriate term for Chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki's workstation, however—"stage" seems more apt. For each evening's dinner, in full view of his guests, Katsuhiro prepares a nine-course meal of contemporary Japanese cuisine. His wife Mayumi acts as hostess and floor manager throughout, delivering the dishes and coordinating with her husband in a sort of elaborate, graceful dance. Like a pilot who’s too shy to remind anyone he’s waiting to land, each meal holds to a pattern: a starter, appetizers, a steamed dish, sashimi, a deep-fried dish, a granite, a broiled dish, a rice dish, and a dessert. The menu changes monthly to incorporate seasonal ingredients, but consistently draws from and recasts Japanese culinary traditions. When the Chronicle's restaurant reviewer visited, he praised the appetizers of lotus root, rare duck breast, and ocean trout salad, noting "a tension of opposing flavors" that remained a motif of the entire experience. Those fortunate enough to reserve a table might feast on barbecued freshwater eel served over rice in a cypress box, or they may cut into farm-raised wagyu steak served with shredded brown mushrooms. The crisp, citrusy flavors of the granite ready the palate for the next course, and the sweet, light dessert brings the meal to a satisfying close.
The cooks at Tenka Japanese Restaurant grill squid, deep-fry oysters, and assemble raw orders of sushi with the steady hands of a brain surgeon building a house of cards. Sushi rolls can grow around simple cores of tuna and cucumber or more piquant fillings like spicy mayonnaise, asparagus, or shrimp tempura. For even more robust flavor, the cooks skewer beef after first marinating it in soy sauce and sake, or deep-fry pork cutlets and add them to curry rice.
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.
The specialty rolls at Hop On Sushi take their titles seriously. The Kimono roll, for example, dresses its tuna, hamachi, salmon, and avocado with a pink soy sheet, evoking the traditional Japanese robe. The Fire Dragon roll's mix of crab, jalapeños, and tuna is not only spicy, it's also torch-seared, then topped in a tangy thai sauce.
These rolls occupy the Maki Maniac portion of an exhaustive menu. Beginning with small plates of grilled king mackerel and ending with bento boxes of teriyaki meats, the selection spans Asian classics as well as creative inventions. California rolls share the table with kimchee-flavored diced salmon and power shooters—a shot of chilled sake, quail egg, and oyster that counterbalances the warmth of udon soups. If they'd rather not navigate the catalog of nigiri and rice bowls, guests can leave their orders up to the kitchen. Omakase-style dining covers three or five courses, all of which depend on the chef's whims and whether his tuna plants are in full bloom.
Behind a sleek sushi bar, the chefs at Maru Maru wrap seaweed around fresh fish before slicing rolls into creative make sushi. Pieces of sashimi and nigiri bolster dishes such as Japanese teriyaki and vegetable tempura. Bright wall sconces illuminate rows of seating in the tile-floored restaurant, where groups of diners share their deepest regrets over platters of sushi.