Saturday, February 15, 2014

Japantown, San Francisco Part III

Been cleaning up my blog some recently. I'm combining a few posts into this one with the addition of a couple new ones (Kappa and Kissako Tea) ^.^

Kappa: let's get this out of the way - this is NOT a sushi restaurant. Kappa is located at the corner of Webster and Buchanan and well hidden on the second floor, sharing an entrance with Milo Lounge. This tiny little restaurant serves up Kyoto style kaiseki in a very intimate setting - the place's run solely by the chef and his wife. And all that will cost you - the omakase 7-course set meal is $86/person. With drinks, you can easily run up a tab of $200+ for 2. Reservations are made by phone or email only. And the omakase must be reserved at least 1 day in advance. You'll see why below.

When SIL and her husband came for a visit last fall hubby and I took them here for a taste of Japanese food that's not served everyday. Because they were adventurous and were bored of the usual. Okay, we can fix that. How about wasabi tofu mousse with dashi jelly and ikura (top right) instead? Or seaweed salad with miso mustard custard sauce over seared steak (bottom left)? Or a tray full of bite-sized seafood in various styles and tastes (bottom right)? My favorite was the mentaiko-stuffed squid, although I wish they had used kara-shi mentaiko (the spicy version) instead. There is also a platter of sashimi, the picture of which I left off this post on purpose. The chef mentioned to us there had been countless of folks coming in expecting sushi, only to be sorely disappointed. So I'll repeat - this is NOT a sushi restaurant!

The last 2 dessert courses. My favorite was the mochi (left picture, far right) with anko and dark brown sugar (kokutou) syrup. Wonderful chewy goodness. Loved it. Did SIL and her hubby like it? Umm, I'm not sure xD They fought us for the bill and despite our repeated warnings that it would be pricey, they insisted. I think they got a little shock upon seeing the actual numbers. Let's just say we paid for all their expenses for the rest of the visit LOL! Be careful what you ask for.

- Kissako Tea: love, love, love the food here. They serve up some of the most authentic onigiris (I recommend the spicy chicken), bentos (love the sukiyaki beef bento), donburis (try the sukiyaki curry don - yum!), and udons. The first time I got a bento here I almost cry upon the first bite. It tasted like Japan, like I was there again, like I never left begin with. 

There's a hair salon across the hall call the Japan Center Beauty Clinic, next to the manga floor of Kinokuniya. Whenever hubby and I go get our hair cuts they would chat about how lucky they are to have Kissako right outside their door. I completely agree. What a little gem of the neighborhood! And by the way, I totally recommend this Japan Center Beauty Clinic too. They're fantastic! Some stylists don't speak much English, but they sure know how to cut hair!

Me and my sukiyaki curry don. And I don't even like Japanese curry! That's just how yummy it is.

Hubby favors the kitsune udon. Funny enough, whenever we eat here together, they always set the bento down in front of hubby and the udon in front of me. So I guess there are some gender stereotypes at work here (Japan, surprise surprise), because the bento is twice the size of the udon. Little do they know, I'm the piggie in this relationship. Well, with the exception of Chipotle, burritos from which hubby actually needs two of. I know, nuts, right? Anyway, when you dine in, the bento is served with miso soup and a cup of green tea.

Here's the takeout bento, which they refuse to make after 4PM. They will make onigiris and sukiyaki curry don to go though. Also, often the bento sells out at around 2PM or so, due to the lunch rush.

- Kippu: One time hubby and I meant to go grab some lunch at Japantown...and somehow didn't get there until past 2PM -.-' So we randomly picked Kippu...

...and found out they have a huge sushi rolls menu! 

We were both in a goofy mood (can't you tell by the pictures? ^.^), so we ordered a few rolls to share plus a tempura lunch. Unfortunately, both were meh.

The only interesting one was this "flaming" roll, which I took to mean spicy, but it came out literally in flames!!! That roll was good. We probably won't go back here since there are so many other places to explore.

DooBu Korean BBQ & Tofu Restaurant: Since coming home from fall 2012 I've been on a constant search for a good Korean restaurant. I miss Tokyo Sundubu so much T.T If I'm ever in Japan again that's where I'm staying! Anyway, since I go to Japantown so often I thought I'd start at this DooBu Korean BBQ & Tofu Restaurant. I took my cousin J. here for lunch when she visited back in March 2013.

We each were served with a fried fish as appetizer, which was neat. I actually don't like fried fish, but this fish was quite yummy so I happily ate it all up without complaints!

Between me and J., we ordered quite 3 things: a seafood jijim, a bulgogi stir fry, and a small kimchi sundubu. Then the food came out and the jijim was huge!!!! Look how big it was in comparison to J. herself LOL!!

The jijim was good, but J. and I weren't too hot on the bulgogi stir fry. It was okay, the problem we had with it was that the onions weren't well cooked, so they were still kind of raw and, how do I put this, a bit too harsh for the dish. Yuck, I hate raw onions :(

But the kimchi dundubu was very decent, still nothing like what I was used to at Tokyo Sundubu but I'll make do. J. actually doesn't like kimchi at all. She thinks it's too pungent and sour. I told her that's because the kimchi she's had were probably too ripe, and those were meant to be cooked in jjigaes and not eaten as a side dish. Of course you can eat it, but it will be, well, pungent and sour. So I told her to try the kimchi here, which were not the best kimchi I've had, but at least they were fresh. J. took a bite and nodded, "Oh, it's actually not bad!" See! ^.^

Sweet Maple: here is another popular location for lunch and brunch in the neighborhood of Japantown and Fillmore Street. It opens at 8AM and closes at 3PM daily. They don't take reservations on the weekends and unless your idea of a nice weekend brunch involves hour-long, actually, most definitely longer-than-hour-long wait, forget about eating there because the line can get absolutely absurd. Sure, they have separate weekday versus weekend menus, but both are so similar I don't know why people even bothered. They ought to come for lunch on a weekday instead, which is when hubby and I always go, especially in the earlier part of the week ^.^

To be honest, I don't see why the place is so crowded. The food is excellent, but only if you order the right things. This is expected, I guess. Every restaurant has its specialties. Over the several times I've been there with hubby, and my cousin J. too when she visited in March, I can definitely tell you there are things on their menu that are total misses. I'm not the only one who thinks this, as hubby got a few of these misses himself!

This Mexican burger (left) was fantastic, but the California burger (not pictured) was horrific. May be the cook a bad day that day... This BEC Morning Sandwich (right) was downright heavy, greasy, and shockingly bland. This is morning sandwich?!? If you're a sumo wrestler looking to amp up your calories intake! Even then, those guys don't just eat grease! They have standards, too! 

I think the place is best at making French Toasts, and both their Marnier (left) and the Bermuda French Toasts (right) were equally spectacular, especially when paired with the Millionaire's Bacons. Obviously, this is not something you'd want to eat everyday, but they're such an awesome treat!

I loved this Chicken Panini, and J. loved it too when I shared half of mine with her. Hubby ordered this Western Omelette once and it was easily some of the best he's had also. 

And then there's this Cheesesteak. How can something looks so good and have no taste at the same time? Sigh...

Sweet Lime: we've eaten here so often now the folks there recognize us ^.^ There are so many things I love about SF, one of which is food variety. I mean, come on, it's SF! It's like wondering if there will be good food in NYC, or Hong Kong, or Tokyo, or Taipei, or Singapore. Smack! No brainer, right? The real kicker is the variety. Variety is important, folks, and I'm so so so lucky that there are tons of variety here in SF. For one, there's an abundance of good Thai food and I love Thai food!

We eat here often because we go to Japantown a lot, at least I do ^.^ This place serves some of the best and most authentic Thai food I've had! They're not perfect and they do some dishes better than others, but their bests are just the best! 

From their appetizers list we've tried: 
- Miang Kham, which was actually kind of odd but hubby liked it. It's basically a tray of ingredients like nuts, crushed ginger, etc., served with fresh spinach and a sauce you can roll it. 
- Chicken Satay, which was okay.
- Curry Puff (left), this was yummy! Ordered this for my cousin J when she came to visit and she loved it too.
- Spicy Angel Wings (right), this was okay, but I had to try because I love wings :D

I've been meaning to try the Larb (duck) and Nam Tok Neua (beef) from the Appetizer menu also but on several occasions now my plans have been derailed by the sinfully delicious duck roll. It's on the specials menu and not the permanent one because they're experimenting with it, I think. But it's basically a fried roll with crispy de-fat duck skin, thinly shredded cucumbers, uncooked enoki, and cilantro drizzled with a hoisin sriracha glaze. And boy it's yummy, and fatty, and filling. I love it.   

We've also tried all 4 of their soups:
- Tom Yum (left), very good, although a tad sweet for my taste. And oddly enough, since moving here to SF, the jar of nam prik pao I use to make tom yum goong at home yields a sweeter bowl of soup too. Hmm, could it be they using the same brand of nam prik pao I do?
- Tom Kha, basically the creamy version of tom yum with coconut milk. And I swear they must pour in an entire freakin' can or something, because it's so thick it's almost like a slightly runny curry! It's really yummy still, and I love it, but it's not to be eaten on its own as soup. If you do order this soup here, order some rice to eat with it and you'll have a meal for a few people right there!
- Kaeng Jued, also very good.
- BBQ Pork Wonton Soup (right), hey, don't judge, they seriously make it well here. This is my favorite soup that they make, believe it or not! The lunch menu has a BBQ Pork Wonton Noodle Soup, which I've been meaning to try also since I lost count of how many times I've ordered this soup for dinner!

From the Chef's Favorite section and monthly specials we've tried:
- Tofu Kra Prow Krob (upper left), which hubby loved.
- Samm Kasat, which was yummy.
- Coconut Shrimp in Green Curry (upper right), delicious, but as you can see there were only 6 jumbo shrimps so it's one person's portion.
- And I don't remember the name of this dish, but it's not the Red Snapper on the menu but a special. It's a whole fish pan fried to a crisp and then doused with a sweet chili fish sauce glaze. It was good, but super duper messy to eat so we didn't order it again.
- This Gai Yang (lower left), which is a grilled whole chicken. It was also good, but again super duper messy.

From the Wok section we've tried:
- Pad Kra Pow, delicious! We've ordered this multiple times!
- Pad Prik Khing, again delicious and we've also ordered several times!
- Pad Nam Prik Pow (pictured), the third of the stirfry trio top hits, along with the above 2, that we order over and over again.

And oh man, we've tried all but one item on their Rice & Noodles:
- Pad Thai (pictured), hands down best pad Thai ever! The noodles are moist and tender, not too wet but not too dry. The flavoring is perfect, with the right amount of tart from the seasoning and the optional wedge of lime. Hell, the coloring is right. Perfecto!
- Pad Si-ew, also very good. The problem with them serving an excellent pad Thai is that every time I'm in the mood for noodles, I thought, oh, I'll order pad si-ew today, but nope. It's always a last minute change of heart and that heart skews heavily in the favor of the delicious pad Thai. Gah!
- Pad Kee Mao, one word for this - yum! When I'm tired of the pad Thai, the last minute change of heart skews for this pad kee mao instead. I feel bad for the neglected pad si-ew :(
- Rad Nah, ordered this once and it was good, but subsequently it lost all chances to the pad Thai, pad kee mao, or pad si-ew LOL!
- Sweet Lime Suki, tastes similar to the Chinese sesame cold noodles only with cellophane noodles, which give the dish more chewy texture. It's best eaten there at there restaurant, because the noodles will get stuck in a giant clump if you order takeout.
- Pineapple Fried Rice, yum, but I like the Chicken Thai Herbs better!
- Kao Pad (fried rice), ordered the combination once with everything in it (meat and seafood) and it was super tasty!
- Chicken Thai Herbs, super flavorful and quite different from all the fried rice we've had in the past!
- Spicy Thai Fried Rice, this is a lunch dish but they'll make it upon request for dinner, charging a dollar or two extra. My favorite out of all the fried rice, actually. It's soy sauce-flavored fried rice with ground chicken, bell peppers, chopped jalapenos, and basil, all topped with a sunny side-up. It's spicy (chopped jalapenos!), just my kind of fried rice ^.^

We love their curries too and have tried 4/5 of their curries. Took my family here when they visited last fall and ordered the massamun and green curries. Both knocked my college age brother's socks off and he's already requested to return here for more curries when he visits next LOL! Both my sister and brother love Thai food too, so I guess it runs in the family xD
- Red and Green Curry, so so so good, and with a good heated kick too which I love ^.^ I like these with beef and bamboo shoots, or shrimps and fresh green beans. Chicken is good too, but the curries had more flavor with beef or shrimp. Ordered both curries over and over.
- Massamun, delicious, just wish they'd cut the beef chunks smaller. Ordered this dish a few times.
- Panang, so so so good, but can be very heavy. The pork is so tender it just falls apart!

And dessert, we usually don't order any because we'd already stuffed ourselves silly over dinner. That's a lot of Thai food above, no? But when we do order dessert, it's this Tapioca Pudding, basically just tapioca in coconut milk. Sounds plain, and it is plain, but it's like comfort food that I make for myself at home also. We've also tried the fried banana, but we like this pudding better. So yeah, definitely definitely recommend this place if you're in the neighborhood!

Anyway, I told you I love this area, right? Hubby and I hangout there all the time and that's not going to change soon, which is to say you can expect to see more reviews of restaurants and shops in this area ^.^

See my previous posts:
Japantown, San Francisco
Japantown, San Francisco Part II


Ann said...

You are back!! :D I enjoy soooooo much your food post!
They really help me when I was visiting my sister in asia and din't know nothing about asian food(she was there for several years but she is not very adventorous) so I remembered your post and I was all lets try japanese,korean,viet,singaporean,chinese and tai (omg thai my favorite!) food knowing what to try thanks to you!

Your friends are the same age that you and your husband? Because both of you look wayyy younger that them...

Sorry about my english grammar I know is bad and I write to much nonsense sorry again about that is the main reason of why in all this years that I have been reading you I neave leave a coment.

But this year I decided to hell with it and to at least say thank you to my favorite writers and you are one of them...... So more coments and bad grammar to come you poor victim you :)


D. said...

Hi Ann,

I am ^.^ Sorry for the long absence. I've been working a lot but I'll do my best to post more often!

Please do not worry about your grammar and spelling. I make plenty of them too, and yet you kept reading me with all my mistakes. Thank YOU so much!

I think your comments are some of the biggest rewards a blogger like me could ever wish for. I'm so happy to hear you are trying things. I hope you enjoy all these different foods as much as I do. I'm totally with you there when it comes to Thai food. I inhale that stuff ^.^

Hugs from this side of the planet,

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