Thursday, August 1, 2013

Japantown, San Francisco Part II (Picture heavy!)

A long overdue follow up for SF Japantown, since these pictures were taken back in April-May T.T

I'm loathed to say this, but the Japanese food at Japantown leaves little to be desired. How ironic that it's Japantown, and you would think there are things reminiscent of Japan food wise. But nope. What you see may resemble Japanese food in appearance, and with the exception of a couple of okay places, the rest are either meh or down right disgusting.

That said, I do like one place and think it deserves a special mentioning even though I don't have pictures of it -  Kissako Tea. It's a tiny little tea hut, a hole-in-the-wall (hole underneath the staircase actually LOL!) place centered on the ground floor of the Kinokuniya building. Their onigirisbentos, and sweets are fairly authentic, and I like the offerings here better than those from Nijiya Market. Usually, the onigiris are premade and are displayed on plates labeled with the flavors. I recommend picking an emptied plate and order that flavor(s) instead, because they'll make it fresh and it'll come to you piping hot ^.^ Then I would go across the street to Nijiya and buy a ready made serving of tsukemono. Yum. I have tried all the onigiri flavors here, and my favorites are probably spicy chicken and spicy salmon.  

Suzu Noodle House: this place is always crowded and so hubby and I were excited at the possibility of a good noodles for our Japanese noodles fix. The service was decent and the wait staff were nice enough, but again the dishes were okay, nothing spectacular.

We ordered simmered pork belly (top left), which was surprisingly meh, and takoyaki (top right), which was just okay. Hubby ordered katsu curry, which he liked but didn't think was anything special, and I ordered a ramen and mini katsu don combo, which was also alright. What's going on here? Did we order the wrong dishes, or are we just too spoiled with good food to appreciate okay food? 

Kushi Tsuru: Another okay place. The name makes you think they specializes in izayaka-style appetizers on sticks, but nope, their window menu shows the same offerings as, well, every other place in Japantown!

We ordered some teriyaki chicken on the sticks, which was decent, but again nothing special. There was also the tempura spicy tuna roll on a bed of salad, topped with seaweed salad, and while the seaweed salad was okay, the tempura spicy tuna roll was urgh. And then there was the yakiniku don, which was decent, although it tasted nothing like yakiniku LOL! Hubby got the tempura udon, and he thought was meh too.

Nonetheless, I took my parents back here when they visited in April because, well, there was nothing else. They seemed to enjoy the food, as did my brother, but expectedly my sister too thought it was meh. Oh well, at least my parents and brother had a good time :/ My dad ordered a special lunch which came with a mini sashimi over rice, another mini baked salmon over rice, seafood teriyaki, and grilled salmon. Mum ordered unagi bento. Hubby ordered tempura soba. My sister and I both ordered nabeyaki udon, and we both thought it was meh. My brother ordered ordered tempura bento.

YakiniQ Cafe: the downstairs cafe and upstairs Korean BBQ restaurant owned by a sister (cafe) and brother (restaurant) team. I tried both places, although admittedly much prefer the cafe over the restaurant, but the restaurant isn't terrible. Can you guess my favorite item at the cafe? ^.^ Yup, the shaved ice! They are awesome and authentic, true to both Japanese and Taiwanese versions! I don't know about shaved ice in Korea, so I can't comment here, but you should definitely give it a try if you happen to visit! I tried the eclairs and macarons here too but didn't like either. The macarons from Crown & Crumpet Tea Room still win hands down.

YakiniQ Restaurant: Had dinner here with hubby's colleague D. and his wife A. It was good, but there is an even better Korean BBQ place that we keep come crawling back to every other weekend. I'll post on that place soon.

Anyway, my family visited us on the first weekend of the 2013 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. It was quite a lively weekend, though for sure not as crowded as the second weekend of the festival when the parade took place. 

Of course, true to the Japanese tradition I had to bring to them for some purikura LOL!

Here's the finale of the second weekend. Hubby and I were still recovering from all the sightseeing and partying the weekend before, so by the time we dragged ourselves out of the apartment, the parade was already on its last leg. I was able to catch some neat shots though, especially of the ballsy ojiisan *pun intended* xD

After the parade, hubby went home but I stayed to wander around looking at craft booths and whatnot. Came home with some pretty cool things as gifts for our friends in the east coast, whom we went to visit just a couple of weeks later.

Felt dolls made right on the spot!

This is probably the coolest booth at the entire festival, in my humble opinions. Of these ladies, one makes artisan paper, and the other crafts miniature ceramic decorations of fruits, vegetables, and flowers! I camped here for a long time, marveling over all the tiniest things! I had permission to take photos of course, so the first picture is to give you an idea of how small these things are!

You can either buy a pre-assembled flower basket, which I did, or buy an empty basket and flowers and/or fruits separately, then assemble them yourself. This way, you are free to pick if you are particular about what goes where. Can you believe each basket, flower, and leaf are handcrafted and hand-painted? Wow!

Here are what I came home with.

I kept this smallest basket to myself ^.^

This is another interesting booth, although I stayed far away from the insect ones as I think they're rather cruel. I did come home with a few mini flowers-encased-in-acrylics for more gifts though ^.^

A couple who used to live next door to us adopted two adorable little girls, and I bought these flower bracelets for them ^.^

Flower necklaces for the gals. I did keep the pink one xD

This one was my favorite and the most striking, a bright orange flower with green leaf on a black background. It was reserved for one of our dearest friend C. who I think is as vibrant as this flower, thus quite fitting.

Of course it wouldn't be a festival without food and music!

On the way back to my car, I spotted these mikoshi that were a part of the earlier parade (above) parked on the street.

And this was a pretty random sighting too LOL!

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