It’s clear that Japanese food is having a moment in San Francisco. And I’m not complaining. Ever since my own trip to Japan, I’ve found myself craving any and all forms of authentic sashimi, yakitori, okonomiyaki (still searching for this one), and omakase. For the latter, I found Kinjo, the subject of today’s restaurant review.
Omakase roughly translates to “I’ll leave it up to you.” It’s a bold relinquishment of culinary control, upheld deftly and proudly for years by Japanese chefs. We rarely allow chefs from any other cuisine to choose the menu for us, but in Japan, it’s the ultimate demonstration of the chef’s deep knowledge of food.
In San Francisco as of late, the restaurant industry has responded to omakase with a simple, “Challenge accepted.” Kinjo is one of those restaurants. Headed by Takatoshi Toshi of the famous Sushi Ran in Sausalito, it aims to find a happy medium between fine dining and approachability. While the outside of the restaurant is barely labeled, inside the bar is brightly lit. The chefs speak English and are more than happy to chat; my date and I had a lengthy discussion about the operations of shipping fish from Tsukiji Market to the US, which Kinjo does 3-4 days a week.
Kinjo serves almost all its seafood from Japan, but it’s still a Bay Area restaurant and knows how to connect to the locals. In between ensui uni from Hokkaido and zuke akami from Aomori, diners are served bites of local Dungeness crab and Kauai ebi shrimp from Hawaii. The chefs also play with more non-traditional techniques. On the a la carte menu, there’s a toro with caviar and gold leaf—beautiful and insanely delicious. For desserts, there is a panna cotta with sake gelee and a sponge cake made from spot prawn, which makes the pastry dense, not too sweet, and a smooth finish to an intelligently-guided meal.
View my slideshow for photos of the omakase menu in full, including the off-menu toro. At Kinjo, you dine knowing your meal is in good hands, as it upholds the omakase tradition elegantly and deliciously.
2206 Polk Street
Open Tues-Sun 5:30-10pm
Reservations highly recommended