Izakaya style dining is becoming more popular in San Francisco. Since it’s essentially Japanese tapas, it’s a great way to share and try lots of different dishes.
Ever since reading Bon Appétit magazine’s article on Izakaya Rintaro in San Francisco, I’ve been wanting to try it! Most of their dishes are Japanese comfort foods such as udon, korokke (potato croquettes), robatayaki (grilled items on skewers), and donburi (rice with toppings) but with a Californian twist.
We started off with two types of salads, both delicious in their own way. The tokyo turnips has a slightly bitter yet sweet flavor that paired well with green onions tossed in a pungent mustard miso dressing. The duck salad was probably one of my favorite dishes of the night. Tender slices of duck breast with tart pomegranate seeds and herbaceous yet slightly sweet chrysanthemum greens made this dish interesting but super yummy.
We got various types of robatayaki: new potato, king trumpet, chicken thigh and scallion, and chicken breast with umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum). My favorite was the chicken thigh with scallion; charred pieces of dark meat with caramelized sweet scallions, perfection!
After our skewers, we had two types of korokke which tasted just like the ones from my childhood. Korokke, potato croquettes, are traditionally made with potato, carrots, and peas. One version was kabocha squash and potato flavored with curry. I loved how the kabocha squash gave the croquettes a slightly sweet flavor. The other version was ground beef with potato which was also good but I preferred the vegetarian croquettes.
We also had karaage, fried chicken, that was crispy without being heavy with a tare (soy sauce with vinegar) sauce.
The handmade udon was simple but comforting especially in this weather. Hand pulled noodles in a delicious broth topped with nori and fresh scallions.
We finished the savory courses with two types of donburi: natto don and ikura don. Natto, fermented soybeans, is an acquired taste that not many people would like. However since I grew up eating this Japanese food, I happen to absolutely love it. It has a slimy texture with a funky flavor that’s mixed with hot mustard and soy sauce served on top of white rice and sour umeboshi. True comfort in a bowl. The ikura don was simple but needed more flavor. The ikura seemed to not be brined enough to get that distinct salty flavor.
We ended the meal with roasted green tea panna cotta that had the perfect silky smooth texture with almond cookies on the side.
Overall, Izakaya Rintaro was a nice change from typical Japanese restaurants you would find so I’d rate them at a 7.5-8/10.