Our first day in San Francisco, as I mentioned, was spent being off-time and running around from Japantown to Daly City to Sonoma Valley. While in Japantown, FeistyMom said she thought it would be a good time to eat- not that she was particularly hungry, but that it was a good time to eat. So once we were finished at Ichiban Kan (I’m in love!), we asked the cashier where a good Japanese place to eat was. I figured they were Japanese so they would know… (Looking back, my mom pointed out to me that 99% of the workers in all of the Japanese stores we went into were actually not just Chinese, but Cantonese; they chattered loudly in Cantonese anyway.)
They both wholeheartedly recommended Takara, which was a short distance away in the same mall. My mother and I gamely trooped over and discovered the place was closed! We forgot that 1- we weren’t in NYC, where most (if not all) restaurants stay open the entire day instead of closing during the slow hours between lunch & dinner, 2- it wasn’t 6 pm or so as our bodies were telling us, but rather 3 pm. Ah well- the food did look delicious from their plastic replicas outside the place.
However, we found ourselves back at Ichiban Kan a few days later, so we made sure to stop by Takara for a “light” lunch in anticipation of our early dinner at the Crabhouse at Pier 39 (the meal my mother had looked forward to since we first discovered we’d be in the SF area once again; review next!). The menu had a lot of great specials, even though it was a Sunday…
I chose the combination lunch, two items for $11.75- tonkatsu which looked so good on other people’s plates, and the sashimi, which is really what the cashier at Ichiban Kan had said was fantastic.
I note here that the people who worked at Takara were not only Japanese, so was much of their clientele. This says something to me- Japanese people eat here, so it must be authentic, if not good.
My mom went with the una don, barbecued eel over rice. It came out in a lacquered box, which I’m used to, but this one was two-tiered! So adorable. The top layer held the unagi (eel)…
while the second held the rice and a two pieces of tamago, a rolled egg dish.
The rice in the bottom layer had some of the eel sauce tossed on top, a nice touch I thought since sometimes I find there isn’t enough sauce on my rice or whatever. My mother couldn’t finish both tiers and wound up not eating some of the eel. The eel, I note here, was also clearly not the frozen kind that you normally find in [cheaper] Japanese restaurants – especially the ones found on the East Coast run by Chinese people – this was freshly prepared or recently prepared and then reheated (but it looked and tasted fresh to us, anyway).
We were also served (top left of the pic) a small dish of pickled veggies, which were nice and sour, the way we like it. This helped keep our mouths clean of lingering tastes. I barely touched my rice, cuz I don’t normally eat the rice anyway (keeping my carbs on the low side as I try), but the miso soup was piping hot and had an extra element in it that I don’t normally find in miso soup- mushrooms. Yummy.
As for the sashimi, I was pleasantly surprised to find white tuna, my all-time-favorite-sashimi-ever (overtaking salmon only recently), alongside tuna… I almost want to say fatty tuna, but I could only be so lucky; this tuna was definitely different from other tuna I’ve had though, being a lighter/whiter pink than I’m used to, and slightly smoother on the tongue. White tuna is a spongy, almost salty-briny taste in your mouth; it cuts like butter, but has the taste of the ocean to it- not quite as much as octopus, though. I just love its taste. The pieces weren’t skimpy either, I was pleased to note.
When my tonkatsu arrived, I was extremely pleased to see how big it was, even though the point was to eat light. The salad was refreshing and I laughed to myself over the dressing; before I’d left, I’d had dinner with my coworker DD and she’d insisted to me that the place we ate had the best carrot-ginger dressing ever. I’d enjoyed it but not being a connoisseur, I couldn’t agree or disagree with her assessment; she wound up buying a container to take home. This dressing was yum- I actually most prefer this sweet, creamy mayo-looking dressing that I’ve had only at one Japanese restaurant ever (which was owned by Chinese people…), which I can’t find anywhere! (It looks like thick mayo and tastes very sweet- I was just thinking maybe it’s Kewpie Mayo, which I’ve never had knowingly…)
As for the pork, it was crispy, tender and overall totally delicious. My only complaint was that positioned as it were, the bottom tended to get a bit soggy and soaked in the water from the lettuce/cabbage. That was unfortunate as the pork otherwise was totally delicious. The accompanying sauce was also good, but very very standard. (Again.. I recall the best I’ve ever had. It was also the first time I had tonkatsu, but their sauce… I firmly believe they’d added applesauce to it, which made it outstanding as who doesn’t like a bit of apple sweetness with pork?!)
I took this cross section photo for the sole purpose of sharing with my brother, who likes tonkatsu almost as much as I do. Almost, but not quite.
Yvo says: I liked this place for its authenticity, the authentic feel and how tasty it was. The servers all spoke English well and were friendly as well. Overall, it was a very positive experience.