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Japanese Restaurant

Japanese Restaurant

Shizen, San Francisco

Shizen, San Francisco

Plant based cuisine satisfying even Carnivores. Why did we dine here? – Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya has remarkable 4.5 stars on Yelp. With the plant based revolution booming, we just had to try this spot. The Yelp waitlist opens at 5:30, we instantly made a reservation and still had to wait 90 minutes.

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Izakaya Mai Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Izakaya Mai Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Izakaya Mai is a Japanese Izakaya or Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food. They are more small plate oriented restaurants. This restaurant has an extensive drink menu. They’ve been here for years. Several similar restaurants have opened over the years, but this still packs them in.. (Izakaya Ginji, Kokko)

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Santa Ramen Review, San Mateo

Santa Ramen has a new owner in 2020.

Santa Ramen Review, San Mateo

Santa Ramen is a very popular Japanese noodle Ramen restaurant in San Mateo. Mr. Kazunori Kobayashi sold this location in 2020 but continues to be the proprietor of nearby Ramen Dojo and Parlor. Located in a small shopping mall with a Diddams Ninja Japanese supermarket, Party Supply and JoAnn’s Fabric, the restaurant has achieved a legendary cult following and has long lines at both dinner and lunch times. We have eaten here many times with our last visit in 2020.

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Iyasare, Berkeley Review

Iyasare Berkeley Exterior

Iyasare is a Japanese Restaurant in the posh Berkeley 4th Street corridor. We were passing by and decided to finally give it a try. Without reservations, we dined at the bar. Pacing was way off, but the food was fabulous. Definitely want to try more next time!  We came back for lunch in Spring 2019 and found the food just as good.

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Sushi Maruyama, San Mateo

Sushi Maruyama San Mateo exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Sushi Maruyama is the latest Japanese spot to give this corner a go. They are not related to the last place. The last 2 came and went over the years. This Japanese restaurant joins a ton of others on virtually every block of downtown San Mateo. The town is now home to some top spots including Wakuriya, Sushi Sam, and Sushi Yoshizumi.

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Mensho Tokyo, San Francisco

Mensho Tokyo San Francisco exterior decor line

Best Ramen in San Francisco. Why did we dine here? – Mensho Tokyo SF is first USA outpost of Mensho, an acclaimed Tokyo ramen chain. They have 7 locations in Tokyo and are usually on the short list for top ramen in Tokyo. We waited for the 2-hour lines to die down, before dining here.

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Sushi Ota, San Diego

Sushi Ota San Diego exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Sushi Ota is a well known Sushi hot spot in San Diego. We were vacationing in San Diego and decided to give it a try. We were trying to find something representative of this town and came up with this?! They are rated 4.5 stars on Yelp. Also they are famous for their Uni but had ran out.

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Sushi Gen, Los Angeles

Sushi Gen Los Angeles exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Sushi Gen is one of those place we love to write about. Great Food at a reasonable price. Do not take our word for it, look at the ton of 4.5 star ratings on Yelp. There are a ton of high end Japanese places in LA, but few affordable spots serving good food.

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Akiko’s Restaurant, San Francisco

Akikos San Francisco exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Akiko’s Restaurant is a small Japanese restaurant that has been on our list for a while. They are known for serving fresh fish but now have a lots of competition from newcomers. (Kusakabe, Yoshizumi, Juni, An, etc) The restaurant is stealth, without a sign in the front. It is located below the irish bar sign. They had a chef change from Ricky Yap to Geoffrey Lee in 2014.

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Sansei – Kihei, Maui

Sansei Kihei Maui Exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Sansei Hawaii is a well known Japanese Seafood Restaurant with locations at Kihei and Kapalua, Maui, Oahu, and the big Island – Hawaii. We had eaten in their Kapalua Resort location many years ago, but had decided to skip it this year due to poor Chowhound ratings. Our last visit was in March 2016.

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Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo

Sushi Yoshizumi San Mateo restaurant exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Best Sushi in the San Francisco? Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo, California is a new One Michelin Star receipient for 2016. They serve the expert crafted omakase menu of Chef Akira Yoshizumi. Ingredients are sourced both domestically and internationally (Tokyo) for his Edomae sushi style cuisine.

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An Japanese, San Francisco

An Japanese Restaurant San Francisco exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – An Japanese is a new Japanese Edomae-style Sushi restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown, taking the place of crusty old Ino Sushi. It is run by the folks behind Koo in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset district. Hayakawa San and his wife run this small restaurant. Definitely and intimate affair here.

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Shabuway Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Shabuway San Mateo Front

Shabuway is a Japanese hot pot restaurant in San Mateo that opened in 2004.  They also have a location in Mountain View, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Union City. You cook vegetables and thinly sliced beef at your table in a your own boiling pot of watery broth. Shabuway does not take reservations and insists all folks are present when names are called. Our last visit was in 2016, where we get a sense that the business changed hands.

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Raku, Las Vegas

Raku Las Vegas Exterior Decor

Why did we dine here? – Raku is a popular Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas. Some friends loved this place and suggested we dine there. Raku are located about 15 minutes from the strip, right in the middle the Chinatown strip mall area. Chef Mitsuo Endo has been packing them in for many years.

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Himawari Restaurant, San Mateo

Himawari San Mateo Outside

Himawari is a Japanese Ramen Noodle house located in downtown San Mateo. Every block down here has a Japanese restaurant. Their chief rival, a couple miles away, is the legendary Santa Ramen along with its sister Ramen restaurants. They have a broader menu than Santa Ramen, with Rice Bowls, lots of appetizers, and many ramen options. We came on hot day and noted no air conditioning, just ceiling fans cranked up. Last visit September 2017.

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Ippuku, Berkeley

Ippuku Berkeley interior decor

Why did we dine here? – Ippuku is a Japanese Izakaya style restaurant in downtown Berkeley focused on serving yakitori skewers cooked on robata charcoal grill, soba, ramen, and other dishes in an interesting but narrow dining hall. They have a good selection of sake, shouchu, beer and other spirits. They are located on Center street in a long row of restaurants, a block from UC Berkeley.

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Pabu, San Francisco

Pabu San Francisco exterior decor

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.

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Sushi Kanesaka, Tokyo

Best sushi ever!

Sushi Kanesaka Ginza Tokyo Japan exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – The first food we think about when we were planning our Japan trip was Sushi. Sushi or sashimi is a favorite dish of ours, so we were eager to plan a pilgrimage to eat some real Japanese authentic sushi.

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Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo

RyuGin Tokyo exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – RyuGin (Inspired by a Zen poem that describes a powerful dragon) is a 3 Michelin Star Japanese restaurant in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. We had planned to dine here about 5 years ago, but the Tsunami got in the way. We finally crossed it off our bucket list.

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Dons de la Nature, Tokyo

Best Steak in the World?

Dons de la Nature Tokyo Japan Exterior

Why did we dine here? – After Sushi and Ramen, Steak was our next must try food in Japan. They are home to cattle taken to the next level. Legends of beer guzzling, massage cows danced in our minds. We have had A5 grade Wagyu only once before, at 5A5 in San Francisco. We remember it tasting like artery clogging foie gras.

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Maruya Restaurant Review, San Francisco

Maruya San Francisco exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Maruya had gotten written up in a local San Francisco magazine and was creating a lot of buzz. Was this going to be the new top Japanese restaurant in the city? Located in the trendy SF Mission district, was Maruya better than Akiko’s, Kiss or Ino? We would soon see. This restaurant has lots of exposed wood, from the planks on the front window to the walls and floors. The air was heavily scented with cooked fish, they should improve the circulation. San Francisco is still slowly catching up to top Japanese food outpost like LA or NYC. Guess we just don’t have to population to justify tier one restaurants.

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Yakitori Kokko, San Mateo

Yakitori Kokko San Mateo interior decor

Japanese Izakaya is hot in the SF Bay Area right now.. Yakitori Kokko is a Japanese Izakaya or drinking oriented establishment (like Sumika in the South Bay, Ippuku in Berkeley or Izakaya Mai in San Mateo) that serves casual food focusing on skewers of meat and liquor. It is run by Japanese folks and feels pretty authentic. Yakitori means chicken grill, so the focus is on charcoal grilled meats. The place has gotten some good buzz, so we decided to give it a try. Our last visit was in the summer of 2015.

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Yuzu Sushi and Grill Review, San Mateo

Yuzu Sushi and Grill San Mateo Exterior

Yuzu Sushi and Grill is located in a sleepy shopping district in San Mateo across from the former location of Alhana foods. It is a sister restaurant to Burlingame’s well respected and Michelin Bib Gourmand Sakae Sushi. We decided to try it to see if it was a lower cost but similar quality version of Sakae Sushi. Sakae Sushi has lots of exotic seafood air freighted in from Japan. Our last visit was in April 2014.

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Sushi Ran Restaurant Review, Sausalito

Sushi Ran Sausalito Exterior

Sushi Ran is a popular Japanese restaurant in Sausalito run by chef Taka Toshi. They describe their food as “vibrant fusion of traditional Japanese and Pacific cuisine”. Since 1986 they have been serving up top notch Japanese food in Marin. They have the standard Japanese fare you would expect, including Omakase (Trust the chef) plus lots of dinner specials and cooked items. They have an extensive wine and sake collection. You can eat in the main dining room or in the sake and wine bar next door that has an outdoor patio. Our last visit was in the summer of 2014.

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Inshou Restaurant Review, San Mateo

By Henry Kwan

Inshou Japanese Cuisine_interior decor

Why did we dine here? – Inshou recently opened in the Marina Plaza shopping center, just off Highway 101’s Hillsdale exit. We were shopping at Marina supermarket and decided to give this new place a try.
San Mateo is home to a large Japanese and Asian population making it ground zero for some excellent Japanese restaurants including Hotaru, Yakitori Kokko, and Sushi Sam. Our last visit was in November 2013

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Mokutanya, Burlingame

Mokutanya Burlingame exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Mokutanya is a modern Japanese restaurant located in a non-descript strip mall in sleepy Burlingame. A friend suggested this restaurant, so we were excited to give it a try. The food and atmosphere exceeded our expectations. Kokko and Izakaya Mai is one of the better skewer restaurants in this area and Mokutanya exceeds it in terms of quality and fun.

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Wakuriya Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Wakuriya San Mateo Exterior Decor

Wakuriya is a Michelin Starred Restaurant in a San Mateo strip mall. They’ve been around for several years and have established themselves as one of the finest Japanese restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. The owner and chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki used to work at Kaygetsu (a now closed Japanese Fine dining restaurant). His wife also helps to run this tiny restaurant. You need to book roughly one month in advance as this restaurant only has 4 tables and a small counter.

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Orenchi Restaurant Review, Santa Clara

Orenchi Santa Clara Exterior Decor

Why did we dine here? – Orenchi is a very popular Japanese Noodle House that has been on our hit list for a while. They are a sister restuarant to Sumika in Los Gatos. The broth that they use is cooked for a minimum of 18 hours. It is made with organic chicken, Canadian black pork, and filtered water. There is a line much of the time. We had to wait approximately 45 minutes for a Saturday night dinner. They close up when they run out of broth, which happened about 8:30pm on this particular evening.

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Mitsunobu Restaurant Review, Menlo Park

Why did we dine here? – Restaurant Mitsunobu is a new restaurant from Owner Chef Mitsunobu and Executive Chef Aoki. They serve “traditional Japanese cuisine inspired by California.” Kaygetsu was located here previously. This restaurant focuses on local and seasonal ingredients.

Insider Tip – Lunch is cheaper.

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Hoshi Restaurant Review, Santa Clara

Hoshi Santa Clara Exterior Decor

Why did we dine here? – Hoshi is a small Japanese restaurant next to Lucky’s supermarket in Santa Clara. We were in the area and decided to eat here or Yuki Sushi. This restaurant is fairly informal and is run by a couple.
They have an extensive menu making it a cross between a general Japanese restaurant (IE Chicken Teriyaki) and a Izakaya restaurant. The kitchen is small, so food takes a while to arrive. The waitress also wants you to order everything at one time to prevent long pauses in your meal.

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Ramen Parlor Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Ramen Parlor San Mateo Exterior Decor

Why did we dine here? – Ramen Parlor is the third location in San Mateo from the legendary Santa Ramen folks. It is located one block from the original Santa Ramen, which now houses the very popular spicy ramen oriented Ramen Dojo. All three are owned by the same person.
This restaurant uses the same noodles as Santa Ramen but adds some lobster oil as well other toppings. In the evening, they have additional items on the Ramen Parlor menu including skewers. We have been here for both lunch and dinner with our last visit was in the spring of 2013.

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Seiya Restaurant Review, San Carlos

Seiya San Carlos exterior decor

Why did we dine here? – Seiya is a small plates oriented Japanese restaurant in sleepy San Carlos. It is situated in a location that once housed Hamon Japanese Restaurant.
This restaurant is highly rated on Yelp, with 4.5 stars when we dined here. Chef/owner Kuo Hwa Chuang, from Domo and Blowfish in San Francisco runs Seiya.

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Morimoto Restaurant Review, Napa

Morimoto Napa exterior decor

Morimoto Napa is a Japanese restaurant run by world famous television Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. This celebrity chef, who also worked at Nobu, is known for his whimsical twists on Japanese cuisine. The restaurant has gotten lukewarm reviews from the major San Francisco food critics, so we came expecting a lot of flash and little substance. He has outposts around the world including in India and Hawaii. We had lunch at Morimoto Napa.

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Restaurant Mutsu Review, San Mateo

Mutsu San Mateo exterior decor

Mutsu is a long-standing family run Japanese restaurant about 2 blocks from the CalTrain station that has been here for a while and probably hasn’t changed much. We’ve been to most of the Japanese restaurants in this area, except for this one, so it was time to expand our horizons. San Mateo is home to a large Japanese community, so there are Japanese restaurants on practically every block.

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Hotaru Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Hotaru San Mateo Exterior

Downtown San Mateo has a very high concentration of Japanese restaurants with one on almost every block. Hotaru is one of the best and most economical.  No surprise, there is a line out front most of the time. We’ve tried pretty much all the nearby Japanese restaurants. Sushi Sam and Kisaku are also good but more expensive. Nearby Yuzu and Sakae are also very good Japanese Restaurants. Our last visit was in 2016.

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Ame Restaurant Restaurant Review, San Francisco

Ame San Francisco exterior decor

Ame Restaurant in San Francisco’s St. Regis Hotel serves up seasonal New American cuisine, blending of flavors from southern France, northern Italy and especially Japan. No sushi here though. Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani are also chefs and co-owners of Terra Restaurant in St. Helena. They received One Michelin Star in 2010 and have been open since 2006.

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Ramen Dojo Restaurant Review, San Mateo

Ramen Dojo opened in San Mateo at legendary Santa Ramen’s original location back in 2010, no doubt hoping to capture some of its good karma. In fact it’s owned by chef-owner Kazunori Kobayashi. They focus on spicy ramen, specifically Sutamina Ramen (aka Spicy Stamina Ramen) that is served in a couple restaurants in the SF Bay Area. They de-emphasised Spicy ramen and now even serve regular ramen. Our last visit was in October of 2017.

  • Santa Ramen is the original, now in larger dig, better for parties 4+
  • Ramen Dojo is focuses on spicy ramen, perhaps a little better broth, toppings. Tiny location
  • Ramen Parlor has more starters and variety on their menu

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