Our last evening in San Francisco called for a memorable meal to cap off what had been an AMAZING seven days all round. We’d happily filled our belly’s with brunch and snacks earlier that day, so by the time evening arrived we were up for something lighter. Wanting to stay within close proximity to our hotel, a quick nosey on the web pointed us towards Japanese, in particular Sanraku. It just so happened that we both LOVED Japanese food and the plan was always to try some during our visit, I suppose it felt like it was meant to be!
Found at the top of the Tenderloin district, this area is littered with a number of Japanese restaurants. We luckily managed to grab seats at the sushi counter even though we were going on spec, for me THE best place to eat Japanese food because you get an eye-full of highly trained sushi chefs working their magic.
The menu is reasonably priced with good choice across the board, whether you are a sashimi or sushi fiend, or prefer something hot or with noodles etc.
My friend was eager for nigiri which gave us a chance to see the chefs at work. To follow that she chose the tempura udon. Whilst Lucy had chosen fairly quickly, it took me a little longer as there was so much I wanted to eat! Eventually going for some of my favourites….soft shell crab and unagi donburi!!!
I still watch hypnotised as sushi chefs work with such amazing precision; whether slicing fish, moulding the rice or making rolls. Within a number of minutes of ordering the nigiri were handed across the counter, simplicity and beauty personified on one board. It’s surprising how vinegared rice and raw fish can be the stimulus for such joy when eating food, but that’s just how it was!
My deep fried soft shell crab with tempura sauce was cooked exceptionally well. One of my most recent reviews was Leeds’ own Zucco, where I raved on about their soft shell crab; this was just as good if not better. The batter was typically Japanese as it was fluffy yet perfectly crisp! Surprisingly it also had lots of meat, and came with a light dipping sauce that adding seasoning, but still allowed the crab to come through.
The accompanying house salad looked simple yet vibrant, it’s never something I choose to eat very often, but it would’ve been rude not to try. It certainly had crunch, a light dressing provided sharpness making it a nice palate cleanser and gave me something to graze on before the next course.
My first encounter with barbecued eel was at Yo Sushi, I’d pick unagi nigiri from the belt EVERY time I went. It wasn’t an addiction, but I definitely developed a soft spot for it. Consequently, it made me always looked for it on menus, but the first time I saw it play a key role in a more substantial dish, was during a trip to London with the best mate in December 2008. We ate at Cafe Japan in Golders Green, I ordered unaju unaware of how it would be served. We’ve often reminisced about that evening, when the unaju arrived in a square Japanese lacquered box, lifting its lid it brought a huge grin to my face and girly giggles when I looked inside!!! It’s been a favourite ever since.
This time my barbecued eel (unagi) was in a round bowl so is called Unagi Don or Unadon (donburi means bowl). Underneath a bed of steamed rice, for garnish pickled ginger, thinly sliced sticks of cucumber and Japanese crepe, which I think is called usuyaki tamago. It’s a very filling and tasty dish, the eel is moist and is coated in a sticky soy sauce that has a sweetness to it, enough pickled ginger and other elements keep the dish interesting. The ratio of rice to eel was just about right and I managed to eat the whole thing, apart from a few grains of rice.
My miso soup was decent enough, salty with cubes of soft tofu, wakame leaves and spring onion.
From Lucy’s point of view there were no complaints about the food, the tempura were cooked perfectly and had the characteristic fluffy and crisp batter, whilst the udon noodles in light, but flavourful broth were delicious. The portion was a generous one, so she was gutted to be sadly defeated by it.
The cost was $77.21 for two people, not including a tip.
Sanraku was a great place for our last dinner in San Francisco and I’d definitely recommend it.
Food: great choice of dishes to suit people’s preferences. Sushi delivered in terms of quality and craftsmanship. Hot food cooked well and tasted great.
Service: the service we received was exemplary from start to finish. Apart from the food it made our last meal special!
Atmosphere: at the sushi counter a quiet calmness resided, whilst the atmosphere elsewhere was a busy one, with a nice rumble of chatter from diners and busyness from waiting staff.Sanraku 704 Sutter Street San Francisco CA 94109 http://www.sanraku.com/sanraku.html