Best Neighborhood Japanese San Francisco 2007 - Oyaji
Ignore the rather ordinary sushi and pricey sashimi for the real glories of this modest, woody izakaya restaurant: its extensive menu of small plates. Specialties include ankimo, the steamed monkfish liver that is something like the foie gras of the sea; salads of jellyfish (kurage su), snow crab (kani su), and octopus (tako su) in sweet rice vinegar dressing; a variety of small grilled fish and shellfish; and lovely little clams steamed in sake. There's a wide array of kushiyaki, which is anything that can be skewered and grilled, from chicken gizzards and pork tongues to asparagus and little hot peppers. The chicken meatballs with yakitori sauce and the grilled chicken wings are particular favorites. Oyaji also serves deep-fried foods, not just tempura but also fritters (such as kan cream karroke, crab with onions, eggs, and bechamel sauce, chilled and rolled in panko breadcrumbs before frying), and crispy fried chicken. All of this snacky food encourages serious exploration of Oyaji's beer and sake menu.