I've never traveled to Japan, but I could imagine the experience to be as wonderful as our recent dining experience at Yuzuki, a Japanese eatery located in San Francisco's mission district. The food is delicate and simple, yet bursting with umami.
Yuzuki is the first restaurant in the United States to specialize in food prepared using Koji. This process of natural fermentation makes their food more palatable and easier to digest, with a mild flavor enhanced by naturally-occurring amino acids. Everything they serve is fresh, local, organic, sustainable and seasonal.
Patrick and I were invited to a hosted dinner where a set menu was prepared for us. The experience was unlike anything we've ever had at a Japanese restaurant. I'm not talking about the standard sushi fare. You can expect small plates focused on izakaya and traditional Japanese options, such as kara-age chicken, grilled Hokkaido squid, and koshihikari rice made in an earthen pot. Did I mention that they have a killer sake selection? Yuzuki even has a sake sommelier.
Yuzuki's restaurant space is small and quaint. It's a popular place and fills up quite quickly. We arrived when it opened and within the next hour, it was full. I'd suggest going earlier than later.
Zaru Tofu ($10)
The tofu takes two days to make and the texture was incredibly silky. The taste was full of pure soybean perfection, clean and nourishing for the soul. This is the type of dish that you eat slowly to savor the moment.
I've developed a new respect for king trumpet mushrooms. There was so much going on for such a simple, yet flavorful dish. I couldn't get enough and wanted more.
This koji-marinated fried chicken was one of the best versions of kara-age that I've had. The batter was fried nicely and the chicken was tender and juicy.
Yaki Surume Ika ($10)
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The squid was cooked perfectly; tender to bite and it had a great char on it. The yuzu mayonnaise made for a lovely dipping sauce.
Koshihikari - Crab Rice with Ikura ($25)
We've never had anything like this rice dish before and it was wonderfully savory. You can taste the freshness of the crab and the ikura was a refreshing burst of umami. I highly recommend ordering this.
Patrick and I both ordered similar desserts with different toppings. The ice cream was deep in flavor, creamy and very tasty. The mochi was perfect in texture and intentionally not sweet, creating a lovely balance. Both desserts were great, but if you are sharing or want to get a bit of everything then go with the Anmitsu.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Agar Squares in Okinawa Black Sugar Syrup with Mochi and Azuki Beans
Green Tea Ice Cream with Mochi and Azuki Beans
If you love sake, this is the place for you to visit. We learned how complex and wonderful the taste profiles can be for different types of sake served at different temperatures. Patrick and I both had the same sake, but mine was chilled while his was room temp. My version had a strong alcoholic taste with a refreshing component. Patrick's version was on the earthy-funky side with a lovely sweet complex flavor. The sake sommelier should be able to assist with pairings and preferences.
Our meal was complimentary, but we would love to go back to try out the rest of their menu. There is a buta kakuni pork belly dish that I absolutely must have.
Thanks for a wonderful dinner, Yuzuki!