There’s a plethora of Japanese restaurants in San Francisco, from high end omakase to casual sushi joints to ramen shops, but OzaOza is the first kaiseki restaurant I’ve tried here.
OzaOza is a tiny restaurant in Japantown run by husband and wife team who are extremely welcoming and attentive. Traditional kaiseki cuisine involves numerous small courses showcasing technique and follows a menu format. Typically the menu consists of a small appetizer, a seasonal appetizer, soup, sashimi, grilled dish, steamed dish, rice served with miso soup and pickles, and a seasonal dessert. Of course depending on the restaurant, the menu could be more extensive.
Eggs happen to be one of the foods that I dislike so I had a preconceived notion that I wouldn’t like this dish. However, since the monkfish liver is incorporated into the egg mixture, it added a really pleasant rich sea flavor that overpowered the “egginess” that I tend to dislike. The steamed egg was chilled and went beautifully with the briny pops of salmon roe and citrusy yuzu pepper.
This appetizer consisted of various items all varying in texture and taste. I finished all the components except for the cod milt just because the idea of it kinda freaks me out (if you don’t know what cod milt is, google it). I especially liked the dried persimmon (hoshigaki) stuffed with cream cheese.
This soup was delicate yet comforting. On the bottom there was an airy fish cake topped with meaty snow crab, vegetables, and slivers of sudachi (a type of Japanese citrus). The slice of golden eye snapper was also delicious as it has a rich buttery flavor.
Out of all the various raw fish, my favorite out of this group was actually the squid. It was incredibly tender and really stood out.
This dish consisted of cooked daikon on the bottom topped with the cooked yellowtail, mizuna (Japanese herb), and yuba (tofu skin). While all the flavors were subtle, I enjoyed this dish.
Both the butterfish and scallop were nicely caramelized on the outside and I loved the addition of the creamy rich Japanese sweet potato. The sea urchin sauce on the scallop was bomb too.
The chicken burdock rice was unctuous and full of flavor and paired perfectly with the pungent pickles.
Typically Japanese meals end with soup and this was sake lees (the remnants from sake production) mixed with miso soup. The flavor was interesting and complex but I prefer normal miso soup.
The dessert was actually one of my favorite dishes of the night. The red bean soup had chunks of chestnuts and little mochi balls. The fresh slices of apple and persimmon were excellent and a great way to end the meal.
OzaOza showcased kaiseki cuisine in a great way highlighting various Japanese ingredients and techniques. However, this type of cuisine might not appeal to everyone since many of these dishes are more subtle and delicate in flavor than what people are accustomed to. Therefore my rating is a 7.5/10.