By Molly Gore
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Lou Bustamante
By Pete Kane
By Ashley Goldsmith
By Pete Kane
By John Birdsall
A few steps away is Izumiya, where a deft hand is displayed in deep-frying. In addition to excellent crisp shrimp and vegetable tempura, the kitchen does lovely tonkatsu (deep-fried pork), potato and beef croquettes, fried oysters, and fried scallops.
At the base of the pedestrian bridge over Webster that connects Kinokuniya to the Kintetsu Mall is the entrance to the Kintetsu Food Mall, where you'll find a branch of the Benihana steakhouse, as well as Mifune, whose name is peculiarly appropriate in a festival context, being not only the surname of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, but also the title of one of the early movies of Dogme 95, whose filmmaking rules, called the Vow of Chastity (location shooting, sync sound, available lighting, etc.), seem designed with film festivals in mind. Minimalism reigns at Mifune, too, where you can eat soba (thin, gray buckwheat noodles) or udon (fat, white flour noodles), hot or cold, in about 40 different ways. Our last meal here featured cold zaru soba, served with chopped green onions, grated daikon, hot mustard, and a soy-based dipping sauce, and hot sansai soba in broth, topped with "Japanese mountain vegetables" (leafy greens, crunchy slender beans, and carrots) and sliced beef. The place also does donburi, rice bowls with a variety of toppings. (In fact, Mifune has a tiny branch in the Miyako Mall called Mifune Don.)
For the festivalgoer who exits a movie yearning for a specific cuisine (Italian after seeing Mimmo Capresti's Rome- and Turin-set Happiness for Free or the Oscar-nominated, sun-and-sea-drenched Respiro, say), the blocks of Fillmore just north offer another smorgasbord of ethnic eateries. For a quick Italian bite, there's a Pasta Pomodoro (1865 Post, 674-1826) conveniently located right next to the Kabuki, but more adventurous appetites might wander to Vivande Porta Via (2125 Fillmore, 346-4430) for more elaborate pastas, risottos, and main courses such as a pork chop topped with mustard fruits and penne with hedgehog mushrooms. The rocky setting of Respiro or the Cretan setting of Jules Dassin's He Who Must Die might be happily followed by a spread of warm marinated olives, feta-and-leek-filled boreks, grilled calamari salad, or Moroccan chicken pie at Chez Nous (1911 Fillmore, 441-8044), a Mediterranean spot. There are no Patagonian (the charming Historias Mínimas), Brazilian (the well-acted, relentless The Man of the Year), or Cuban (Comandante, Oliver Stone's controversial interview with Fidel Castro) restaurants in the immediate vicinity, but Fresca (2114 Fillmore, 447-1794), which bills itself as "more than just Peruvian," might just complete the evening.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Region: Japantown/Pacific Heights
Bento box special: three items at lunch $8.25
Sansai soba (hot, with vegetables) $6.50
Zaru soba (cold) $5.25
Sapporo-Ya, 1581 Webster (at Post), 563-7400. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Reservations accepted during the week. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: lot in Japan Center. Muni: 2, 3, 4, 38. Noise level: low to moderate.
Izumiya, 1581 Webster (at Post), 441-6867. Open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: lot in Japan Center. Muni: 2, 3, 4, 38. Noise level: low to moderate.
Mifune, 1727 Post (at Webster), 922-0337. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: lot in Japan Center. Muni: 2, 3, 4, 38. Noise level: low to moderate.
Thanks in part to guest programmer Michel Ciment, who chose 10 new French films from directors young and old, male and female, there are more than two dozen Gallic movies on offer (including Friday Night by the brilliant Claire Denis), and the adorable bistro Florio (1915 Fillmore, 775-4300) is ready to greet Francophile filmgoers with open arms, double kisses, steak frites, and two festival-inspired treats: a special roast chicken salad plate for $12.50 and extended hours -- they'll be serving dinner until 11 p.m. every night during the SFIFF.
The two best movies I've seen of the lineup are Abbas Kiarostami's Ten, a minimalist masterpiece comprised of 10 intense conversations between a woman driver and her passengers during car rides around Tehran, and Aki Kaurismäki's charming, quirky, optimistic, Oscar-nominated The Man Without a Past. I know of no self-identified Iranian restaurants almost anywhere in the United States, these days, but the Middle Eastern mezze at the tiny La Mediterranée (2210 Fillmore, 921-2956) would fill the bill (and you). And I know of no Finnish restaurants anywhere outside of Finland, so after The Man Without a Past, you're on your own.