Japanese-People Approved Best Japanese Restaurants in San Francisco

A handful of omakase sushi restaurants have opened in San Francisco in the last couple of years, and as a result, the City by the Bay has become quite the sushi hub. Here are our ten picks that can satisfy everyone from Silicon Valley tycoons to homesick Japanese expats.

  1. Akiko’s Restaurant (Sushi)
  2. Ijji Sushi (Sushi)
  3. Sushi Ran (Sushi)
  4. Saru Sushi Bar (Sushi)
  5. Kusakabe (Kaiseki)
  6. Hashiri (Kaiseki)
  7. Wako Japanese Restaurant (Kaiseki)
  8. Nabe (Shabu Shabu / Sukiyaki)
  9. Pabu (Izakaya)
  10. Izakaya Rintaro (Izakaya)

1. Akiko’s Restaurant



Photo Credit: http://akikosrestaurant.com/

Everything at Akiko’s Restaurant is beautiful. Its Parisian cafe-like exterior facade is chic, albeit anonymous thanks to a lack of signage. When you step inside, the minimalistic and rustic interior perfectly matches the beautiful uni you are about to eat. As for the cuisine, Akiko’s serves traditional omakase sushi with a modern twist. Sounds like a contradiction? How about this for an example: Steak, Potato and Egg Nigiri” is seared wagyu beef on top of sushi rice, crispy potato chips, topped with caviar. This sort of creation is only possible thanks to thirty years of experience and a dedication to make sushi exciting, which Akiko’s has.


Photo Credit: http://akikosrestaurant.com/


Akiko’s Restaurant and Akiko’s Sushi are not the same restaurant nor owned by the same owner.

What to order:

Omakase is always full of pleasant surprises. If you prefer to order a la carte, their fish is divided into white (mild and clean tasting, such as sea bream) and vibrant (buttery, full flavor, such as ankimo and kinmedai), so pick one that suits your palate!

Restaurant Info of Akiko’s Restaurant:

Navigation: 431 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108
Ring: 415-397-3218
Surf: http://akikosrestaurant.com


2. Ijji Sushi


Ijji’s sushi starts with their rice. They use the most sought after koshihikari rice and season it with akazu, red vinegar to achieve a delicious milder taste. Their menu is omakase only, which comes with 13 pieces of sushi, but don’t expect boring negi-toro rolls at Ijji, instead, your nori is loosely holding fatty tuna, green scallions and Japanese pickles, takuan. The acidity from takuan cuts some fattiness of the toro and makes this old standard into an addictive part of omakase. If you want seconds or are still hungry, you can order items a la carte after you finish your 19 courses.


Photo Credit: http://www.ijjisf.com/

What to order:

Omakase only. Do you prefer to eat at 6pm or 8:30pm? Those are the only seating options.

Restaurant Info of Ijji Sushi:

Navigation: 252 Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA 94117
Ring: 415-658-7388
Surf: www.ijjisf.com


3. Sushi Ran


Sushi Ran is one of the oldest (since 1986) and perhaps best Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area, and maybe in the entire United States. It has received accolades from Michelin, Zagat, Travel & Leisure, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal. Even though, compared to newcomers in the Bay Area, the restaurant decor seems a bit dated, their kitchen is always creating something innovative using fresh fish from around the world alongside seasonal vegetables. For example, wild octopus sashimi are decorated with watermelon radish and pomodoro, while chu-toro zuke (medium fatty tuna) is red wine cured, instead of seasoned more traditionally with soy sauce. Sushi Ran is located across the bridge from San Francisco in Sausalito.


Photo Credit: http://sushiran.com/

What to order:

Raw wagyu beef with miso, watercress, green apple and blue cheese is a decadent yet refreshing appetizer to start with. There’s also a delicious veggie roll for vegetarians.

Restaurant Info of Sushi Ran:

Navigation: 107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, CA
Ring: 415-332-3620
Surf: http://sushiran.com


4. Saru Sushi Bar


Unlike other omakase menus in the Bay Area, Saru offers a more relaxed omakase policy with plenty of a la carte options. Omakase menus include sashimi, sushi tasting, or salmon tasting, which showcases 5 variety of salmon. The sushi tasting starts at $20 for 4 pieces, so it’s pretty reasonable as well. All their nigiri is seasoned with a house blended soy sauce, so there’s no need to further drench them in the bottled stuff. They offer 3 completely different types of soy sauce, and each complements a particular dish’s flavor. With sushi, you’ll taste either their house made low sodium soy sauce infused with mushroom and kelp, or their nikiri soy sauce made with 30% aged soy sauce infused with kelp. For sashimi, they serve 100% wheat free aged soy sauce. With such attention paid to soy sauce, you can imagine how carefully their fish is selected and prepared.


Photo Credit: http://akaisarusf.com/

What to order:

Hamachi with truffle oil and ponzu and tasting spoons, which are the perfect bite-size samples of their delicacies. For example, “Torotoro” is fatty tuna tartare with ponzu, yuzukosho and shiso leaves.

Restaurant Info of Saru Sushi Bar:

Navigation: 3856 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94114
Ring: 415-400-4510
Surf: http://akaisarusf.com


5. Kusakabe



Photo Credit: http://kusakabe-sf.com/

Before you call Michelin-starred Kusakabe to make a reservation, there is something you need to know: There are two options on the menu: $95 Sushi Kaiseki or $150 Grand Sushi Kaiseki. If you want anything from the a la carte menu, you’ll have to wait until you finish your kaiseki course. No children under age five are allowed, which means, there is no crying, but also no smaller portion menu. Semi-formal attire is preferred, so leave your shorts, sandals and strong perfumes at home. While this may seem like the staff at Kusakabe are a little uptight, you’ll instantly understand once you’ve sampled the menu, which starts with a comforting dashi broth soup, and proceeds to a “sushi prelude,” followed by sashimi, hassun (the chef’s small plates), and ending in glorious fashion with a “sushi finale.” Once you’ve experienced a meal like this, you’ll understand their penchant for rules. After all, this is a restaurant for grown-ups.


Photo Credit: http://kusakabe-sf.com/

What to order:

$95 or $150 Sushi kaiseki menu only

Restaurant Info of Kusakabe:

Navigation:584 Washington St., San Francisco, CA 94111
Ring: 415-757-0155
Surf: www.kusakabe-sf.com


6. Hashiri



Photo Credit: http://hashirisf.com/

Eating what’s in season is a very important and deeply rooted concept of Japanese cuisine. Hashiri literally means the beginning of the peak of the season, and that’s exactly what you get dining at Hashiri San Francisco. Your dinner will start with a fresh vegetable dish that is often shipped from Japan. It will be followed by sashimi, wagyu, and sushi on a rotating basis. The price may be a bit high, with the Sushi Kaiseki tasting menu starting at $250, but for 9 courses with 10 pieces of sushi, plus dessert in a beautiful restaurant, it’s definitely worth it. Besides, you’ll have bragging rights for eating at a Michelin Star restaurant, which Hashiri earned within 6 months of opening.


Photo Credit: http://hashirisf.com/

What to order:

Tasting menu only, starting $250. The menu changes daily depending on what’s in season and available. Sake and tea are also carefully curated.

Restaurant Info of Hashiri:

Navigation: 4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103
Ring: 415-908-1919
Surf: http://hashirisf.com


7. Wako Japanese Restaurant



Photo Credit: http://www.sushiwakosf.com/

There’s no California roll served at Wako, instead, you can try one of the most authentic sushi kaiseki in the United States. There are options of 9 or 11 tasting menus. Sushi is served twice (or thrice for an 11-course menu) during the course of your meal. Sushi kaiseki features many cooking techniques, including grilling, braising, steaming, and curing, alongside sushi and sashimi. Sushi is all seasoned with their house blended soy sauce, ponzu or other special seasonings, so please don’t ask for soy sauce at this Michelin-Starred favorite.


Photo Credit: http://www.sushiwakosf.com/

What to order:

There are 2 omakase options only. Wako stopped serving its a la carte menu a while ago.

Restaurant Info of Wako Japanese Restaurant:

Navigation: 211 Clement St., San Francisco, CA 94118
Ring: 415-682-4875
Surf: www.sushiwakosf.com


8. Nabe

Shabu ShabuSukiyaki


Photo Credit: http://www.nabesf.com/

Nabe is not only the name of the restaurant; it’s also the name of their signature hotpot dish perfect for the cold winters and chilly summers of San Francisco. For a hotpot novice, expect to eat from the same hotpot as your dining companion(s). First, pick a base (6 kinds are offered, including duck, vegetarian, seafood, sukiyaki and kimchee), then you add veggies, noodles, and perhaps more meat. The food is cooked right in front of you, and once it’s ready, just pick it up and dip it in the sauce. At the end of the meal, you can finish with noodles or make a risotto-like soup in the pot, as to not waste the umami from meat and vegetables you were just cooking. Nabe is a good date restaurant, but wait until about the third date, when you’re comfortable enough to share the same meal.


Photo Credit: http://www.nabesf.com/

What to order:

There are 6 kinds of nabe. If you like something light, go with seafood or mushroom. For meat lovers, there is sukiyaki and shabu shabu along with plenty of add-on items to customize your nabe, including noodles and A5 beef.

Restaurant Info of Nabe:

Navigation: (Inner Sunset) 1325 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122
Ring: 415-731-2658

Navigation: (Marina District) 2151 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA 94123
Ring: 415-447-6199

Surf: www.nabesf.com


9. Pabu


If every chef can do what Michale Mina does, there would be no need for a food guide like this. Every restaurant he puts his name on is magic. Pabu is no exception. Partnered with Chef Ken Tominaga, the chef and owner of Hana Restaurant in Sonoma County and a leading Japanese food authority of Northern California, Pabu serves everything from omakase sushi to yakitori to wagyu steak. Pabu is a Japanese modern izakaya style restaurant with an upgraded menu. Start with “Happy Spoon,”and you’ll be happy you did, as this perfect bite includes: uni, ikura, tobiko, ponzu and creme fraiche. Pabu is a Japanese pronunciation of “public house”.


Photo Credit: http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/pabu/

What to order:

There is something for everybody at PABU. Want great sushi rolls? Ken’s roll with shrimp tempura and spicy tuna or Michael’s roll with bluefin fatty tuna, uni and ikura are both great. Prefer something cooked and easy? Order a tasting of robata, which comes with an assortment of yakitori, meat and vegetable on sticks, grilled over charcoal. Hungry? Go for the tasting menu. You won’t regret it.

Restaurant Info of Pabu:

San Francisco
Navigation:101 California St., San Francisco, CA 94111
Ring: 415-668-7228

Navigation: 3 Franklin St., Boston, MA 02110
Ring: 857-327-7228

Surf: http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/pabu/


10. Izakaya Rintaro



Photo Credit: http://izakayarintaro.com/

By default, the izakaya menu is full of variety on which one can usually find sashimi, yakitori, noodle and rice dishes, and usually some sort of house specialty. Izakaya Rintaro does the same, but in an artisanal way. First, their fresh tofu is house made which results in a silky and light texture. With condiments, bonito flakes and grated ginger, the tofu is a refreshing way to start your meal. Their house specialty is “hotate no shumai” which is dumplings made from scratch using scallops and pork. Kabocha korokke is a potato and Japanese pumpkin croquette with a curry flavor, breaded with panko then deep fried. It’s one of their signature dishes.

What to order:

“Shime” is a useful Japanese word that definitely comes in handy when dining at an izakaya. It means ‘a final dish to complete the meal,’ and usually is some kind of rice or noodle dish. Rintaro hand-rolls their udon noodles and a few delicious udon dishes for warm shime. Their menu changes frequently.

Restaurant Info of Izakaya Rintaro:

Navigation: 82 14th St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Ring: 415-589-7022
Surf: http://izakayarintaro.com

*All prices, numbers and menu descriptions mentioned in the article are from the time of this article’s publishing. So keep in mind, they may have changed since then.

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