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3 Things to Know About Yuzuki Japanese Eatery & Its New Chef

By Virginia Miller  |  November 13, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

First opening in 2011, Yuzuki Japanese Eatery recently changed its name, dropping the izakaya to better reflect its refined Japanese cuisine, though it all pairs beautifully with drinks (as it should in an izakaya, that vibrant category of Japanese "pub"). Yuzuki's laid-back elegance in a casual space mirrors the immaculate meals one finds in Japan, akin to a multicourse kaiseki dinner if one assembles small plates into a meal or orders the omakase (starting at $100, available Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays if ordered a week in advance). The other major change is new executive chef Kentaro Ikuta who hails from Osaka, also home to the restaurant's owner Yuko Hayashi. In Japan, Ikuta trained at the 200-year-old Nada-man restaurants before coming to the States to work in two beloved South Bay kitchens: Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto, then Sushi Sam’s Edomata in San Mateo.

Dining on chef Ikuta's cuisine, here are 3 things you should know about this special Japanese restaurant:

1. The dishes transport you to Japan

In the soothing dining room set to jazz, pick up environmentally friendly cedar chopsticks and dig into silky, housemade zaru tofu ($10) prepared in a rare, traditional Japanese technique, made from organic soybeans steamed with nigari (sea brine). Order a shareable bowl of crab rice ($20) laden with plump ikura (salmon roe — add on $5) and plenty of crab. Hokkaido squid ($10) marinated in salt koji (a mold used in sake and shochu production and other fermentable processes) is a "wow" moment, with pieces of tender squid either grilled and ever-so-lightly fried, dipped in yuzu mayo sprinkled with spicy togarashi. You'll find attention to detail, flavor and quality across the board, even with simple gomaae ($7), slivers of king trumpet mushrooms in sesame sauce.

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Crab rice topped with salmon roe [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]

2. The sake list is surprising

There's a range of wines, shochu and beer, but it's the impressive selection of 30 sakes that makes this a drink lover's spot, curated by a sake sommelier who regularly trains the staff. You'll find rarities like aged sake or honjozo (sake to which a touch of brewer's alcohol has been added), with the option of "Introductory" or "Rich & Robust" sake flights ($18 each), each offering four sakes from varying categories. We love the delicate, wet-wood notes balanced by acidity in a glass of Shichihonyari "Seven Spearsman" sake from Tomita Brewery ($11 a glass/$40 a carafe).

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Daily sashimi specials might include perfect raw scallops (hotate) from Hokkaido, Japan [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]

3. Owner Yuko Hayashi's housemade desserts are an unexpected highlight

Be prepared for "real deal" Japanese desserts ($8 each), recipes of owner Yuko Hayashi. Her matcha green tea mochi squares are blissfully earthy, green and silky, while anmitsu is a delight of a Japanese dessert with all elements made from scratch: delicate agar (gelatinous algae squares), sweet azuki red beans and meltingly good mochi, all sweetened by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of Okinawa black sugar syrup.

Hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday 6-10:30 PM; Saturday 5:30-10:30 PM; Sunday 5:30-9:30 PM. 

598 Guerrero St.; 415-556-9898

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Sake flights [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]