Hours: Tues to Thurs, Sun: 5:00pm to 10:00pm; Fri and Sat: 5:00pm to 11:00pm; Monday: Closed
I met my friends Jaytee and P for a quick dinner at Izakaya Roku, which is located at a point on Market Street where the Castro, the Mission, the Lower Haight, and Hayes Valley all converge. It is right by the Mint Bar and Lounge, which is famous throughout the land for karaoke. What better spot to have an izakaya, a traditional Japanese type of neighborhood restaurant where people gather to enjoy fine drinks and food after work and unwind… This particular spot is of note because it was recently opened by Jay Hamada who began his culinary career in the city with the JapaCurry mobile curry truck, which serves delicious curry rice dishes and bento boxes. Chef Hamada hails from southernmost Japan, where my own matriarchal ancestral roots are from and many of the dishes at the izakaya seemed to taste familiar to me.
It was fun to peruse the hand written menus, which were taped up next to posters of smiling Asian women that appeared to be ads for beer or sake.
The Takoyaki ($7) were magnificent and savory balls of fried batter filled with chopped octopus, green onions. and lightly drizzled with with wasabi sauce, and topped with powdered nori, lacy tendrils of shaved bonito flakes.
The Nikumaki Onigiri ($6) were interiguingly light for riceballs wrapped with beef that had been lightly marinated in sugar, soysauce, mirin and sake and then grilled. How is it that I have never seen this before?
Loved the Mochi Bacon ($3) the mochi (cakes made from pounded sticky rice) was soft and elastic wrapped in thin strips of bacon that were grilled until tender then lightly coated in a sweet and savory sauce. It reminded me of the toasted mochi with soy sauce mixed with sugar that my mother used to make for us, a childhood favorite.
The Grilled Crispy Chicken Wings ($7) were juicy and beautifully charred to a crisp, surprisingly served with the bones and skin intact. All of the kushiyaki (stuff on sticks) could be served spicy or garlicky but our server (who is a Tokyo native with a charming lisp) said she preferred everything plain with salt, so that’s how we ordered it. Simple, plain and delicious.
Karaage ($7) Deep fried chicken, infused with the flavors of garlic and soy, then battered and deep fried into a delectably chewy juicy morsels that are impossible to stop eating.
We enjoyed the variety of dishes, our server was adorable and friendly, it’s close to public transit, which is a good thing because I need to go back to try their signature dish Namban Chicken, the curry of course, and the ramen, which is really what started it all.