Turning Japanese

At this tiny spot, tasty skewered treats are served with a vintage soundtrack.

The second round of skewers included pork with onion ($4), eringi (king trumpet) mushrooms ($3), and our favorites of the yakitori: smoky grilled asparagus ($3) and four fat scallops wound with bacon ($4.50). It also included a special that demands to be ordered: morsels of moist chicken thigh separated by fragrant, minty shiso leaves ($4.50).

We were slowing down considerably. At first, my heart sank when the plate of kushi katsu we'd ordered came to the table: the skewers of beef with green onion ($4), pork with onion ($4), and shrimp ($4.50) looked much more substantial than the yakitori because of their panko breading. But one bite of the shrimp revived our appetites: This was the best, lightest, most seductive shrimp tempura ever! The other offerings were equally knowingly fried — heavier and more filling than the yakitori, but amazingly greaseless. Enjoy them as they come, or dip them in an accompanying dark, sweet, thick tonkatsu sauce.

Still, one of my companions, who'd seemed to be enjoying his meal, surprised me by saying he thought the food wasn't up to his healthy-eating standards: "It's too salty, and I don't like fried foods." But he loved hanging there and chatting with proprietor Shigemi Komiyama, ex-drummer for Hot Tuna, the side band of Jefferson Airplane members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, and current drummer for the Shi-Tones, whose posters adorn the walls.

Yakitori with a backbeat.
Jen Siska
Yakitori with a backbeat.

Location Info

Map

Halu

312 Eighth Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Richmond (Inner)

Details

Halu
221-9165. Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight. Closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations not accepted. Not wheelchair accessible. Parking: street, moderately difficult. Muni: 1, 2, 38, 44. Noise level: low to moderate.

312 Eighth Ave. (at Clement)

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The place couldn't be cozier and homier, exuding a feeling of family thanks to the presence of Shigemi's wife, Mimi, and a couple of daughterly servers. We lingered over free cups of tea, seduced by the soundtrack, which sounded nostalgic and hip at the same time. "We should ask them to burn us a copy of their mix," the youngest among us said, who wasn't even born when the Beatles stopped recording. Not a bad idea, I thought. But listening to it wouldn't be quite the same without Halu's superb skewered tidbits, which are incontestably delicious.

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