In the Kabuki Hotel, 1625 Post Street (at Laguna), San Francisco, CA 94115 | website
Izakaya are Japanese style sake pubs that serve small plates of food that are meant to be shared at the table with friends. Traditionally that would be plates of tempura or fried things, simmered dishes called nimono and grilled dishes like yakitori skewers. Jonathan Gold, the L.A. Weekly food critic says, It is the perfect kind of food for people with short attention spans. This is my kind of food, I love being able to try a lot of different dishes.
O-Izakaya is a baseball themed sports bar, with a custom wallpaper made from nostalgic Japanese baseball trading cards, oversized pop images of Japanese baseball legends silkscreened on the windows, even the O in the logo is depicted in the red stitched pattern normally seen on baseballs. The walls are painted rich earth tones which provide a warm background for glowing rice paper lanterns.
The chef Nicolaus Balla comes from Ozumo which I think serves delicious food and I liked the few dishes that we tried. I started off with the Shiso Horchata, which had a light creamy texture and had the distinct pungent herbal flavor of shiso leaf. I love shiso so much that one of my cats is named shiso!
We tried a few things from the Happy Hour menu, first was the Shichimi Chili Spice Chicken Wings that made our lips burn and our mouths smile. They were hot, fried crispy on the outside, and tossed with a delicious sweet, sour and spicy sauce.
The dusting of the 7 spice chili powder was light but had enough scovillian heat to keep us sipping our beverages, but then that’s really the point, isn’t it?
All of the dishes came with a lemon wedge and a little mound of the chili powder.
I ordered the Dango-yaki, which was a single rice ball on a skewer, coated with a sweet teriyaki sauce and grilled until the outside was toasted and crunchy.
The interior was densely packed sweet sticky rice which is more glutinous and doesn’t fall apart. It was heavy and reminded me of mochi. The lemon wedge and chili cut the sweetness of the sticky sauce.
The skewers were $2 each during happy hour, and we only had time to try one other which was the Yakitori (chicken).
The dish that initially caught my eye on the menu online – the Berkshire pork belly braised with house-made kimchee, was tender soft and gooey with nicely crisped meaty parts. The astringent and garlicky kimchee provided an excellent counterpoint to the rich pork belly. Yum!
We split an order of Fries that were dusted with the chili powder, which came with two bowls of condiments, ketchup and aioli. The fries were good, probably frozen, but had a nice crispy exterior.
While we were eating we watched j-pop music videos which were strangely compelling but unfortunately we had to take off to see this charming movie playing in the SF Int’l Asian American Film Festival, so that was all we had time to try. I’d like to come back for the Shiso Horchata and sit down for an evening of exploring the regular menu and to try some of the other skewers, although I hear they serve a very good hamburger…