1330 Fillmore St.
Cross: Eddy St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO The
other day I was recommending that a friend try ~YOSHI'S
SAN FRANCISCO~ for the high-roller/special dinner location
he was seeking. He was incredulous, "Yoshi's? Really?" That
worried me, because if people don't know about how fabulously
creative, fresh, and upscale the food is there, then Houston,
we've got a problem. I'm not alone in my excitement—even
a notoriously picky chef pal of mine (chefs can be the hardest
people to dine with, seriously) was raving about his recent experience
was taken with Shotaro "Sho" Kamio's inventive
cooking style back when he was at Ozumo, and was biting my nails
when his intended project in the Marina fell through—I was
afraid the Sho would go on (ha ha ha) and we'd lose him to
New York, or Vegas or something. Nope, he stayed put. Good man.
get to the club and all that jazz later—let's
dive into the dining room first. The brown-toned room is quite
cavernous, with tall ceilings with panels of hanging fabric, plus
amorphous stalactite-like lanterns, and whoa, get a load out of
that monster kitchen—it's a big 'un. (Try 3,500
square feet.) Sho has a very Han Solo front-and-center command
post, while everything snap, crackles, and pops around him.
dining room itself is rather sparse and linear for my taste,
but it does set the stage well for the contemporary Japanese
aesthetic and cuisine here. I'd probably request one of the four-person
booths in the future to feel a bit cozier. Oh, and the flower displays
needed a little refinement—one night I saw yellow daisies
that looked fresh from a Safeway bouquet.
menu is printed on a large piece of tabloid-sized paper—the
size is daunting at first because there are a lot of sections,
and everything sounds so damned good, but ultimately I imagine
your wallet will dictate how you order. A refreshing beginning
is the kona kampachi carpaccio ($18), layered over fresh seaweed,
avocado, and sporting the earthy flair of some diced shiitake confit
fans should consider the appetizer off the zen sai section of
urchin "ravioli" between thin layers of nicely chewy
ika/squid ($15), with petite pops of ikura. I wanted the slices
of lime underneath to be a hair thinner—the acidity dominated
a bit, but the execution was quite clever. There's also a
decadent chawan mushi ($15) topped with uni, plus diced foie gras,
lobster, and shiitakes, in lobster ankake (stock). It's served
with a little wooden spoon, but the custard one night was a touch
soupy so it was difficult to eat.
dish in the ippin/a la carte section is the panko monkfish ($17),
which wasn't crusted like the usual fried panko executions
you see around town—it was much more delicate as it was sautéed,
and then dipped afterwards in panko. Oh, and it
comes with the surprise of a poached egg in the middle. I was even
more seduced with the houba yaki ($17), slices of duck breast grilled
on a magnolia leaf, resting in a sweet and savory red/aka miso
sauce, and then topped with negi (green onions that are kind of
sweet like leeks). It's an entirely new way to taste duck.
be honest, I didn't try much sushi on my two visits—there
were too many other Sho specialties calling my name! But the nigiri
selection is quite extensive, 19 choices on one night, and maki
lovers will enjoy trying out the new-style combos. I did try the
yuke ($16), with avocado, apple, negi, chives, and spicy soy marinated
maguro draped on top—a lovely combo that you're supposed
to dip in the side dish of soy with a quail egg, but the proportion
is bit off so you end up getting too much soy and not enough
total score was the buri kama ($19), robata-grilled hamachi collar
sprinkled with toasted nori, and surrounded with sliced lime,
shichimi, and the tiniest dice of chive on the plate, and ponzu
on the side. Quite a deal, actually, considering how much tasty
fish you get, and such great flavor—you just dig in
with your chopsticks. I always ask places if this is on their menu.
Speaking of digging in, I'm dying to come back for the ji
kinme: half of an herb-roasted red snapper (market price)
that you pick and eat with pieces of nori—it's a fish
I have only seen locally at Hime on Geary.
In the agemono/deep-fried section, I fell in love with the juicy
texture of the arare lobster tempura ($19), four balls with a crunchy
puffed rice exterior, sitting on a kicky swath of chile aioli,
and topped with a frizzled hat of surprisingly spicy threads that
turned out to be fried carrot leaf. Cool!
Well, I thought I
was in love with the tempura, until I tried the oh-toro misoyaki
(market price)—bluefin toro
belly flash-grilled on Sumi charcoal with a saikyo miso beurre
blanc. Uh huh. This dish was so sexy it made me blush—talk
about mercury rising. I was in lust. (Call me.) That dish is ridiculously
ridiculous are the Colorado spring lamb chops from the kamayaki
(wood burning oven). Yes, they are $25, yes, you only get two,
but damn are they sublime. Incredible meat—great
marinade, and I liked its accompaniment of garlic mousse. Kokkari
and Yoshi's should do a lamb chop face-off.
You'll officially lose it over the Japanese Miyazaki filet
mignon, some of the best $48 you'll ever spend on four ounces
of meat. I know, that portion is small, but the meat is so rich
you could barely eat more than that anyway. Divine marriage of
tender beef, and salt. Beg someone to take you here and buy it
for you. Beef for your birthday!
I mention the pork? Oh shoot, I didn't. The Kurobuta "Berkshire" pork
prime rib ($20) is an awesome chop, also marinated perfectly, and
just wait until you gnaw the meat off the bone. Mmmmm, satisfying.
These last four dishes are prime examples of why I love meat. MEAT!
Marisa Churchill of Top Chef is the pastry chef, and I think she
does a clever job creating Western desserts with Japanese flair.
Bar none, my favorite was the yuzu key lime pie ($8), with roasted
pineapple, house-made marshmallows on top, and coconut sorbet.
Me-ow. The yogurt semifreddo ($8) was tangy, and paired well with
the papaya-shiso mint sauce, but the Japanese sea salt sesame florentine
was rock hard one time and almost impossible to break with a spoon.
I've been impressed with the server knowledge here, especially
since the menu is chock full of Japanese terms you'll most
likely be unfamiliar with. They have answers. (You should see the
employee-training manual, including a massive glossary). Service
can be a bit absent, however; just small hiccups, I trust things
will be sorted.
and wait until you see the gorg plates and dishes, what great
textures and colors! I was also smitten with my sake glass and
carafe—such pretty pieces.
are some cleverly named cocktails to start with, like the Fillmore
75, with gin and Champagne plus yuzu and lemon ($10), but if
you're into shochu, there's a well-sized list
to navigate. The sakes are a little hard to choose from because
you have to pay attention to the different ml sizes of each offering,
ranging from 175ml for an individual size, hiding between the 500
or 720ml bottle sizes. I am personally a fan of the Chikurin "Fukamari
Junmai" Okayama-ken Pref. ($14/175ml), and the stunning "Denshu" Aomori
Pref. ($16/175ml) is another winner of a junmai in my book.
could also do the wine route if you're so inclined—Sho's
food lends itself well to pairings, but it might be hard to pair
precisely since you'll probably order a sampling of plates.
I was also exposed to something new, the Yoichi Nikka whiskey from
Hokkaido, which tasted like it was part bourbon, part Scotch whiskey—forming
a bizarre love triangle with me, and the two-headed booze. It needs
to be in my liquor cabinet, pronto. The teas are also a nice way
I had a private party, I'd consider taking over the Omakase
Room, almost an aquarium of sorts, with glass walls allowing you
to see the kitchen and dining room, and everyone to see you feasting
on fabulous food. There's also a lounge and bar, plus another
lounge/sake bar on the mezzanine level. The crowd in the restaurant
ran the gamut, from a younger moneyed set to all kinds of couples
on date night to business diners to a kookier older music crowd
sporting lots of hats, from bearded men in berets to ladies in
some bright or sparkly fashions—jazzy!
line-up of talent in the club is impressive—I have only
seen one performance, so I can't vouch for how all the seating
is, but the room is comfortable. You can actually dine off the
club menu while watching a set, but you'd miss about two-thirds
of Sho's delectable dining room menu. I am already plotting
my return, and what a great place for a date: dinner with Sho,
and then a show!