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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No. 10: Oboro Tofu at Eiji

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 12:10 PM

click to enlarge Oboro tofu (with garnishes) at Eiji, $9.25. - PENGRIN™/FLICKR
  • pengrin™/Flickr
  • Oboro tofu (with garnishes) at Eiji, $9.25.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

click to enlarge SF_92.jpg

Dressed in a simple tunic, her hair neatly pulled back under a modest fabric cap, the waitress at Eiji reaches above her head and pulls down a single-burner hotplate. She sets a lidded ceramic crock on it, and starts the flame. Slowly, patiently, she periodically lifts the lid and stirs its milky-white contents. They begin to set, a pudding-like curd hovering in a thin whey. She gently presses at the edges to draw up the clear liquid and baste the top. The tofu is ready.

The waitress sets the crock on your table alongside a dish of garnishes: sesame seeds, sliced scallions, fresh and pickled ginger, shaved bonito flakes, a chiffonade of shiso leaf. But as she spoons a wedge of the tofu into your bowl, she suggests you try it first ― plain.

It's bland, faintly nutty, but the texture is otherworldly. "Oboro" means "clouded" in Japanese, and the tofu is almost exactly like eating a cloud, fluffy and ethereal, yet warming. It's comfort food, tofu like your mom didn't used to make.

The second bowl invites the garnishes, each with its own inflection of color and texture. A splash of tamari, brewed entirely from soybeans (unlike other soy sauces, which are made with wheat), lends depth and seems to draw out the nutty flavor of the tofu. And then there's the third bowl. And the fourth.

One order of the oboro tofu ($9.25) will feed two handsomely. For all its lightness, it's deceptively filling. You'll have enough room to complement it with a handful of other items from Eiji's seasonal menu, charmingly peppered with Engrish. (The fresh cold tofu, also made in-house, was initially described as "made directory in cup.") But the oboro tofu will be what draws you back.

Eiji: 317 Sanchez (at 16th St), 558-8149.

Other favorites in this series:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts

81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée

80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle

79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña

78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

77: Cheesecake from Zanze's

76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel

75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra

74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch

73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup

72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk

71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille

70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery

69: Plow's crispy potatoes

68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye

67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe

66: Nakaochi at Ippuku

65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer

64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut

63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah

62: Cotogna's roasted carrots

61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles

60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.

59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail

58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco

57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo

56: Birria at Gallardos

55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine

54: JapaCurry's katsu curry

53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre

52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni

51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage

50: Lumpia from Hapa SF

49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck

48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana

47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca

46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh

45: Los Muertos at Gitane

44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions

43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square

42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja

41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery

40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles

39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's

38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg

37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie

36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo

35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery

34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay

33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich

32: Duck larb at Thai House Express

31: Lark Creek Steak's burger

30: Barbacco's chicken thighs with olives and almonds

29: Mow Lee's lap cheong

28: Dollar oysters at Bar Crudo

27: Fava greens from Tairwa'-Knoll Farms

26: Nopa's mussels with harissa

25: Salt-and-pepper crab at Kam Lok

24: Recchiuti Confections' caramels to the third power

23: Mandarin lamb from Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant

22: Tataki and Tataki South's faux-nagi

21: Blacksmith Cellars' chenin blanc

20: Sardine and avocado toasts at Contigo

19: Chocolate babka French toast from Wise Sons

18: Pralines from Southern Sweets

17: Wayfare Tavern's steak tartare

16: Russian River Brewing's Consecration Ale

15: Kimchi burrito from John's Snack and Deli

14: Adesso's lonza
13: Bean-paste stew at To Hyang

12: Stuffed apricots at Pera

11: Chicken milanesa torta at Boos Voni

Sean Timberlake is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts. Follow SFoodie on Twitter: @SFoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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