101 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111
Why did we dine here? – Pabu is a Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District from Michael Mina in partnership with Chef Ken Tominaga.
The chef’s Hana restaurant in a Rohnert Park had garnered a local following including Mina. This is the first Japanese restaurant for Mina.
Pabu is an upscale (read $$$$) restaurant and next door is the more casual Ramen Bar. We are fans of Japanese and read Bauer’s 3 star review, so we decided to give it a try.
In all fairness we were expecting high prices and good but not stellar food. When were in the East Bay the previous week, we visited Ippuku and were impressed. Does Pabu match this high mark?
Insider Tip – Beware that costs can add up fast. Be sure to get soup and entrees. Keep room for dessert
Cuisine – Japanese
Location – San Francisco Financial District
Opened – 2015
Service – Pabu Service was disjointed from the minute we arrived. They were overloaded and it took way too long to get our order taken. Food pacing was off, with very long pauses in service. Our Miso Cod took forever to arrive. At these prices, this is not acceptable.
Verdict – Pabu is a beautiful and expensive restaurant. They need to work on the service. The food is very good but not as good as it could be. At these prices, we expected more.
Local Izakaya restaurants like Ippuku and Compared to some of the good ones like Yakitori Kokko and Izakya Mai in San Mateo match or outdo their skewers, at a fraction of the price. Come here for a drink and some snacks. 4% surcharge for San Francisco Employer Mandate.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Maybe. 1 Hour? No.
Pabu Signature Dishes – Omakase, Sushi, Sashimi
Pabu Tominaga’s menu is very extensive. The selection varies everyday, but there could be 25 different fish and 20 maki rolls in addition to all the skewers.
Many starters as well as large plates are also on the menu. Clearly a much bigger selection that a typical Izakaya.
Pabu Food Picks:
Mojito ($11) was made correctly. We watched the bartender and noticed that they were pretty serious. Check out their cool ice cubes.
Ocean ‘Foie Gras’ ($9) ankimo, ponzu, scallion looked great and was a bit softer than usual. Still recommended.
Chawanmushi ($15) shrimp, scallop, matsutake, ikura, rich dashi was a super charged version. Lots of fish eggs and other ingredients within the steamed egg custard.
Grilled Squid | Ikayaki ($14) umami shoyu, kewpie, togarashi was spicy, something that surprised us. Beautiful looking and a good sized portion.
Chicken Breast | Muneniku ($7) shiso, umeboshi was good but not as good as the version we had at Ippuku a couple days before hand.
Skirt Steak | Harami ($10) yuzukosho, sea salt was recommended by the server and was reasonably well done.
Trumpet Mushroom | Eringi ($7) spicy miso were small mushrooms that should be on the short list with vegetarians.
Pork Belly | Butabara ($8) sansho salt is a must order for pork fans. Lots of fat and robust pork flavors.
Miso Tofu Soup ($8) silken tofu, wakame was not your average powdered soup. Strong flavors, worthwhile ordering.
Spicy Roll ($10) choice of salmon, yellowtail, scallop or tuna – we selected Tuna was very good and not too spicy. Definitely load up on some of these rolls to lessen the amount of food you have to order.
Yellow Tail Nigiri Hon Hamachi ($12) 2 pieces was fresh and tasty.
Nigiri Sushi 10 piece assortment ($60) was expensive. A place like Sushi Sam in San Mateo would charge at least 25% less. The fish was fresh and cut well. A nice assortment of the usual suspects along with a couple exotic pieces.
American Wagyu ($34) asparagus, green garlic purée, crispy pea tendrils would satisfy any meat eater. Couldn’t really taste any special Wagyu flavors in the meat, but this was still satisfying.
Milk Chocolate Namalaka ($9) sesame sponge, candied cocoa nibs, red bean gelato was recommended by our server and definitely hit the spot. A mixture of different ingredients spanning east and west.
‘PABU Sundae’ Anmitsu ($9) lychee, rose water, coconut ice cream was an excellent dessert that we would recommend. Fruity, light, and airy. Keep some space for this beast.
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Japanese Beef | A5 Kagyu – Shishito Oil, 1 Skewer ($27) was not worth it. Definitely fatty, flavorful meat, but you should save your money to get some of the real stuff in Japan.
Miso Black Cod ($36) dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso is a signature dish but proved to be good, not great. A bit on the sweet side.
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Hyakushou Farm Greens ($12) shaved carrot, radish, yuzu vinaigrette looked horrible and was a bit of a salty mess.
Do you agree with our review? Have you found other similar restaurants that are better?