The greatest source of illumination at Ittoryu Gozu comes from the center of the restaurant, where open flames cook wagyu beef in the center of a three-sided bar counter. Otherwise, the interior of owner-chef Marc Zimmerman’s new wagyu steakhouse is all minimalism and drama and sleekness. All the attention is focused on the hearth, where a flurry of chefs prepare 10-course tasting menus for the patrons surrounding them.
When stepping into Ittoryu Gozu, it’s clear that Zimmerman — who used to work for the upscale steakhouse Alexander’s — wants you to concentrate on the heart of Gozu: the beef, which takes many different forms through the course of the tasting. If you opt for the $120 to $150 “Gozu experience,” you’re in for a 2.5-hour-long, Japanese kappo-style dinner, with chefs explaining each dish before they’re served on their impressively detailed tiny plates (overlapping scalloped dishes, gold-rimmed bowls, etc.).
Each menu is printed with details of the cow you’ll be eating that day (in my dinner’s case, a Japanese Black or Kuroge Washu steer from Chateau Uenae, a private farm in Hokkaido, Japan that “harvests roughly six animals at a time”), and the majority of the 10 dishes source their flavors from the wagyu in one way or another.
For a restaurant that’s all about beef, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how little beef shows up in the way we might know it (heavy slabs of meat) and how often it finds itself in fish, rice, or fungi in the Gozu experience. For example, near the start of the menu is a small carving of lightly charred albacore tataki flavored with whiskey vinegar, kale nori, and wagyu garum (a meat-based soy sauce) for a sweet, sharp, and nutty fish.
Later, matsutake, a kind of mushroom that grows under trees in various parts of Asia, is flavored with wagyu smoke and a foamy conifer bearnaise. (A tip from our chef: Dip the accompanying milk bread into the conifer bearnaise. It’ll be sweet pillowy, with crispy edges and a slightly tangy finish.) The penultimate dish — a rich and creamy koshihikari rice — is complemented by a salty beef dashi, which is brewed above the wagyu-thick smoke in a black-stone teapot swinging from a chain.
All the while, if you choose the $85 beverage pairing, a member of the Ittoryu Gozu staff will come by with wine, beer, whiskey, or sake pairings, flash the bottle label and explain its origins for each part of your 10-course meal. One of the highlights of the beverage tasting menu was the Manzairaku Yamahai Junmai sake, brewed in the sea-bordering Ishikawa prefecture of Japan. This sake smells and tastes like the ocean. It’s an incredible way to — literally — bottle up a landscape, and experience it thousands of miles away.
When you are finally served beef in its familiar form at Ittoryu Gozu, it doesn’t disappoint. The fatty center of two pieces of cow knuckle are pierced through with a stick. The snow beef kushiyaki come with two red and green spices — shichimi and sansyo — for extra flavor. Like the rest of the menu, it’s undeniable that the wagyu has been cared for and valued to the extreme. After all, amid all the drama of its interior design and the elaborately extensive menu, that’s at the very core of Ittoryu Gozu: good beef over an open fire.
Grace Li covers arts and culture for SF Weekly. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is both performative and confessional in 'You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski.'