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813 Grant Ave, Novato, CA 94945
Wanugee's rating:Jun 24, 2012
In the quaint little shopping area of old town Novato on Grant street, at the beginning of the corridor full of non-chain shops and stores and restaurants, is Masa's Sushi. The restaurant is owned by ... read more
the sushi chef, Masayuki Okugawa, a dashing, tanned, personable but professional fellow, and his staff are also native Japanese. This is such a rarity in many parts of the suburbs, it was a pleasant surprise to actually eat sushi made by Japanese. The shop has a nice friendly ambiance, relaxed and comfortable, with recognizable Japanese touches in decor. Masa has been here for 20 years, and he has a very loyal customer base, as many people come in and have been coming for years, saying hello like old friends. The lunch menu has very reasonable prices For instance: Donburi and Udon bowls, averaging $7. Masa's Bento: soup, Cali Roll, 3 pc Nigiri, Ebi Shumai, and choice of either Chicken or Salmon Teriyaki or Tempura, all for $7.95! Entrees (with soup and rice): Sashimi (12 pcs) $11.50; Shrimp and Veggie Tempura, $7.75; Grilled Chicken Teriyaki $6.95; Salmon Teriyaki, $7.95. His business card says "Masa's Sushi & Appetizer Bar". The appetizer part is mostly standard stuff like Agedashi Tofu ($4), Croquette ($4), Ebi Shumai ($4.5), Oshitashi (chilled spinach $3.95). However, he also has Soft Shell Crab ($8.5), Kaki Ponzu (Oysters, $6.75) and Hotate-Yaki (Scalops & Soy Butter, $8.5). Dinner menu is similar, but expanded. Sashimi in 20 pcs ($18.50) or Sashimi with Chicken Teriyaki, Salmon Teri or Tempura, $16.65 - $19.50. Also Bacon Wrapped Oysters ($6.75), Tonkatsu ($13.75) and Sukiyaki ($14). Still very reasonable for dinner prices. For both lunch and dinner, there are 3 sushi specials with soup: Sushi "A" (Cali roll, 5 nigiri), Sushi "B" (Tuna Roll, 7 Nigiri) and Chirashi (Lunch $14.50, Dinner $18.) I ordered the Chirashi for lunch. Although the fish Masa has is pretty good and fresh, I was a little disappointed in my choice. It seems he has adapted this dish to suit the sensibilities of his local clients. The slices of fish were bits and half sized pieces, rather than full sized pieces like you would get in a Sashimi or Sushi order. It was presented with a good variety of fish, accented with Tobiko for coloring, and visually pleasing, but it was in a flatter dish rather than the classic bowl. Still, all in all, this is a great little gem in Novato with good food, reasonable prices and good service, and Japanese owned and operated.
1335 N 1st St, San Jose, CA, United States
Wanugee's rating:Aug 25, 2014
This is a great little Izakaya in San Jose. I am glad my friend suggested it, because I was still in a glow from eating at another great Izakaya in Las Vegas, Ichiza. An Izakaya serves popular comfort ... read more
dishes like in a Japanese home, sort of a Japa Tapas, usually without the pretense of many chi-chi Tapas places popping up over the past decade. It usually involves alcohol in Japan, but here in the US it isn't as predominant. It isn't strictly alcohol based here, like some Korean Po Chas are, that serve large snack plates for large groups on a drinking binge. But there are a lot of Nihonjin (Japanese) that come here, because it reminds them of Japan, so if they are an ex-pat on assignment in the Silicon Valley, this is comforting, because it is largely authentic Japanese, and Nihonjin own and run the place. The place is nestled inside the "House of Genji" Teppanyaki restaurant (think Benihana for the most famous Teppanyaki style place). It is small, with perhaps 5 or 6 tables and a counter/bar that seats another 8 or 10. The great thing is, it is open late, until 11pm, so even at 9pm, there may be a wait. Plan accordingly. We ordered Sashimi Omakase (chef's choice), which was a nice plate of some of our favorite fish, including Toro (tuna belly), Sake (salmon), seared Magura (tuna; I prefer raw, not seared, but this helped contrast to the superior Toro cut), Hamachi (yellow tail), Ebi (shrimp), and Octopus (Taki). Delicious! Since it was a birthday dinner, we started a half carafe of Izakaya's best cold, dry Junmai sake ($28.50) which came in a bucket of ice. (We later ordered another one!) To supplement the Sashimi, we ordered some sushi, two of my favorites, Uni (Sea Urchin) and Ikura (Salmon Roe). Umai! (delicious!) Somewhere in between the dishes and the second carafe of Sake, we had Oyster shooters, which isn't really Japanese, it is a California invention (much like California Roll, Egg Foo Young, and Orange Chicken is), with sake, quail egg, some chili sauce, etc. Not Japanese, but fun and tasty! We also had Agedashi Tofu, which is usually an appetizer dish, although it wasn't like it had to come first. This is one of my dining partner's and my favorite Jap App! Delish! In addition, we had Hamachi Kama (grilled Yellowtail Collar) which was excellent, Hokkigai (Shoreline Clam Sashimi), and Duck Tonkatsu (Duck cooked with garlic and savory sauce). All were wonderful! See pics for salivating details. We sat at the bar and were served directly by the Satcho (owner), Chiba-san, because all the tables were still full, even at 9pm. This place serves great small dishes that are Japanese, and this is a delight not to be served faux Japanese food by faux Japanese (aka by Koreans and Chinese). But it isn't cheap, and it isn't spacious with trendy decor like those Korean joints in the south bay. But I would prefer to come here again and again. To get here, go into the House of Genji, make an immediate left, and enter Izakaya. There is a waiting list clipboard.
1362 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, California, United States
Wanugee's rating:Feb 19, 2014
Here's a Nihongo (Japanese language) Tip: Izakaya is not pronounced Ee zuh KAY yuh. No, That is an American trying to say it. Or maybe a Swede. "Jumping Jiminy, Ees a Kay Yah" No, grass hopper, it is ... read more
pronounced without an accent on the third syllable in a sing song up and down fashion. There might be some emphasis on the 2nd syllable, but not much. Pronounce it more like a machine gun shooting it: E-ZA-KA-YAH In even tones without ups and downs or more accents. Or like a Samurai warrior about to slash you into ribbons, by screaming, EEEEE ZAK AYA That would be closer than Ee zuh KAY yuh, Misaka Grill is a new E-ZA-KA-YAH in San Jose, open barely 6 weeks. The building is circa 1970s pizza shack design, but you didn't come here for that. You came for all the great little dishes of hot juicy morsels on skewers and many other designer Japa Tapas. James works the front room and is very gracious, friendly and warm. A good people person. He is American. He is here from Seattle by way of Monterey. Nobu Kagawa works the kitchen, most particularly the grill, cooking all those little dishes perfectly. He is a classically trained Izakaya Chef and takes pride in his work, like any serious Japanese chef would. They are surrounded by a mixed cast of very capable, fun and friendly servers. A group of us came here on a weeknight for our own little skewered party. Great friends and food enthusiasts, like Bobby, Ron, THE Julie K, Manda B, Dan, others. The food was great! They have a large selection of Sake and Sochu to choose from, as well as beer. They will be starting special events soon, tasting menus and the like, which promise to be a great value and a great introduction to their menu and their specialties. Come try it and say Hello to James and Nobu.
301 East 4th Avenue, San Mateo, CA
Wanugee's rating:Jun 05, 2012
I have been on an Izakaya kick the past few months, or Japa Tapas, as I call them, small little dishes of so many flavors, ingredients and taste! It's not just the Foodie in me that likes to try a ... read more
variety of foods and dishes, the anticipation and excitement of tasting new little morsels like a Chinese Emperor seeking a better dim sum serving at every meal. No, I like Izakayas because they are comfort foods for me. They remind me of the little dishes of left over this and just prepared that, which my Japanese mother used to populate the table with when it wasn't standard American dinner assimilation night or TV dinner in front of the TV with those folding TV trays for latch-key kid night. My Korean friend from Pusan was in town for a visit, so we got together near SFO to break some bread, so to speak. Just coming from Japan over-Ramened, that was out; Being from Korea, well, local Korean was out; having lived in nowhere Indiana for years, American was out; and being from Pusan and raised on fish and Seafood, Sushi was out. So we decided on Izakaya in DTSM (San Mateo). We wanted to go to Izakaya Mai, a down home, family run place that advertises on Japanese TV, but it was Monday and closed. So we picked Izakaya Ginji, just 2 blocks away. Not sure what Ginji means, but spelled differently, the Tale of Genji is a famous book in Japan about the inner workings and relationships inside the ancient Emperor's inner court. Izakaya Ginji is Japanese owned, with some Japanese staff. The decor is modern and very nice, and it has been open about a year. IT was nearly full on a Monday night. We were served Edamame as we poured over the many menu items. They have 3 "Set" (combo) dinners to choose from for under $20. Most Izakaya choices were between $2 - $8. For Yakitori items (grilled items served on skewers) and Sushi there are ordering sheets at the table to fill out to submit. We started with Jikasei Ika Shiokara (homemade fresh squid pickled in salt, $4.95), then followed with Agedashi Tofu (deep fried Tofu topped with ginger shavings, bonita flakes, in a dashi broth, $4.95). Spider Roll Sushi (soft shell crab, $9.50), full Prawn Yakitori ($3.25) and Black Angus Beef Yakitori ($3.25). I finished with a Salmon Sashimi/Fish Roe topped rice bowl. I drank a great Dry Sake Sampler Flight, 3 shots of 2 oz each, which was a special for the month ($15). They have a great selection of Japanese adult beverages, ranging from sweet Sake, 16 or so premium dry Sake, Sake Flight Samplers, Souchu, and domestic and Japanese beers. Everything was great tasting and service was excellent by two servers who spoke Japanese. If you are looking for exotic sushi, this is not that kind of place, but you can order sushi, like we did. They have a large assortment of dishes, and you can see their menu here: http://www.izakayaginj... I had a great time at Izakaya Ginji, enjoying the Japanese food variety in little dishes, much more than any American dinner assimilation night or TV dinner in front of the TV with those folding TV trays. Much, much more. Sorry Mom!
5152 Moorpark Ave. #40, San Jose, California
Wanugee's rating:Feb 14, 2013
Gaku Yakitori is the real deal in Japanese food! Umai! It is in a strip mall off Moorpark, not far from Lawrence Expressway, i-280, and it turns out, not far from Japan! Honto desu yo! The cook is ... read more
Japanese, the cute and efficient female servers speak fluent Japanese, and nearly all the diners are Japanese business men (well a few who are not sarariiman, but Japanese!) The menu is in Japanese (and English). This place specializes in Yakitori (Chicken [actually any meat] on a stick, but not to be confused with Hot Dog on a Stick, or a Corn Dog! Blasphemy!). So instead of a white sheet to check off Nigiri and rolls at your sushi shop, you use it here for selecting your choices of skewered chunks of nibbling delights! They have that long check-box menu for pierced pork, impaled chicken, even butterflied mushrooms. They are oishii desu! (Delish!) But wait! That's not all! Like the Ginzu knives commercial, there's more! Then they have the regular menu, with little Japa Tapa dishes, appetizers, veggies, and a very strong list of Shotchu and Sake. We had a very dry cold sake that was perfect for our palette. But wait! There is still more! Just like the never ending swordsman challenging our Samurai hero in an NHK Taiga Drama, there are dish menu sheets hiding on the wall, like white clad Ninja in a suicide raid! And wait, if you want to order after 10pm (they are open until midnight on a weekday!); just like Tokyo after Godzilla and Mothra do battle and leave a heap of flaming objects on the streets, there is a $3.50 happy hour appetizer menu Mon thru Thu after 10pm! Sugoi! No burrushitto! I can hear Baby Godzilla hopping on down to get some snacks past its bed time! The food is well prepared, hot, tasty, and creative, too. See the pics for some of the dishes we had for proof. Don't come here looking for Yada Yada rolls (was that a Seinfeld episode?) from your local Korean sushi shop. Negatore Pigpen! Think crucified pork (I think that phrase insults the 3 major religions all at once!) But if you don't like Japanese food prepared by Japanese cooks, served by the cutest Japanese servers this side of the pacific, to Japanese ex-pats and businessmen, then don't come here. Go to your local food court mall and get your Yada Yada rolls, and a Hot Dog on a Stick! Just don't tell Godzilla. He may get hot and bothered at your lack of appreciation for Japanese food.
Wanugee's rating:May 21, 2013
I came here on a weeknight to share my very first meal with a long time virtual buddy, Ken K. I always respected his knowledge and opinions of Asian food, be it noodles or sushi or stinky tofu. And my ... read more
other dear friend, Julie K, mentioned this place was good and that I should go. Since she was enjoying Kauai without me, i decided to go here without her! It turns out Ken knew the new Sous Chef from another place, which was serendipitous. We met up at 7:15 and the place wasn't crowded at all. But being an Izakaya, usually the Japanese Sarariman (businessmen) don't come until later after they have put in their 12 hour days. Just about everyone that was in here was Japanese. We had a great sampling of what they specialize in here, which is every part of a chicken that you can fit on a stick. Or Chicken Yakitori. (Tori means bird or chicken, and yaki means grilled). This is not to be confused with a member of Parliament who can't shut up. He might be a Yaki Tory, but he won't be as tasty as these morsels, although he could be almost as juicy, depending on how much dirt the UK tabloids can dig up on him for scandal. But I digress. This was the amazing part and why this places is good. The yakitori was never dried and lifeless or over cooked, They were all juicy and tender, and delicious. This reminds me of a place in Osaka, Japan that my old boss took me to, the same concept of taking all these chicken pieces and putting them on a stick. Gizzards, heart, breast, cartilage, you name it. It is almost Chinese in the way they offer most anything to eat. (Well, maybe not Chicken feet, like Dim Sum, or did I miss that on the menu?) I am not sure what all was offered, because I let Ken order everything. They have a pretty good selection of sake to go along with your skewers, and there are other things than just chicken, like mushrooms, and more exotic things you will just have to try yourself. Service was wonderful, by Runa, the exotic Hapa server who was so Japanese in manner and accent, but is actually part Afghani. Very sweet! Sort of fits the grilled meat concept! We were full after our orders, and with a $7 full shot of sake, the bill with tax and tip was about $40 each. I had a great time with Ken and the food here, and I am sure I will be back with others again, even though I drove 50 miles (one way) to eat here.
2566B Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, United States
Wanugee's rating:Mar 04, 2014
I came to Kiraku with my friend because we both like Japanese Izakayas, where you get a wide selection of little dishes and deliciously char-grilled but juicy skewered meats of all sorts. We came here ... read more
early, like about when they were just opening around 5pm, and good thing we did, because even though it was an early in the week weeknight, it got crowded later with a waiting list. When I saw others reviewing a Japanese place this close to campus, I figured it was just gushing Cal students with little experience just happy to have some Japanese flavors that were cheap and nearby. But this was not the case at Kiraku. It is the real deal! Most of the people here were not students, but older, with a little more discerning tastes, including some Japanese. I had just eaten a couple days earlier at another new Izakaya in San Jose (Misaka Grill near Santana Row) and it was excellent. But I must say, Kiraku matches or perhaps exceeds some others I have been to for Japa Tapas, and I have been to many here and in Japan. Perhaps like the South Bay Izakayas of Gaku and Ajito, and to some degree Ippuku, also in Berkeley, the staff is all Japanese, even the waitresses are fluent. This gives Kiraku a little different vibe then the we-will-employ-anyone-who-is-Asian-looking places. They understand the service ethic expectation in Japan, and try to keep up with it here. They have a great selection of all the main categories of dishes you would like to find in an Izakaya, and they have a good election of Sake and Shotchu as well. The dishes are too numerous to describe one by one, so just look at the pictures and see if they look good to you. This place isn't cheap, and if you go hog wild with your taste buds calling the action, you can exceed $100 for 2 people, so this is definitely not a place for those on a student budget, unless they are on a diet. Try out Kiraku and let me know what you think. As for me, I will be coming back.
2130 Center Street, Berkeley, CA
Wanugee's rating:Sep 24, 2013
I love Japanese Izakaya type establishments, aka Japa Tapas (my expression), perhaps because they offer delicious little plates that you can try so many flavors and textures in one meal. But the other ... read more
reason is because most places of this up and coming food trend in the US, (they are common anywhere in Japan), is that it is Japanese owned and staffed for the most part, unlike the Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese owned Sushi restaurants staff with Latinos serving Yada Yada Whateva rolls. Now I may complain about those Yada Yada Whateva rolls having Jack-in-the-box secret sauce, Mexican spices, and Mayo on them, but Mayo on everything in an Izakaya has been a mini-trend in Japan for some 10 years, just not on your Sushi. Probably the most popular version of the Izakaya in the Bay Area are the Yakitori ones, who specialize in grilled (Yaki) chicken (Tori) on wooden skewers over a hibachi, and supplement that with a myriad of reasonably priced little side dishes and a few larger mains, and may mix in some ramen choices, cold dishes, and other grilled items. I have been wanting to come to Ippuku for a long time, having book marked it when it first opened. They are just celebrating their 3rd year in business, so time flies and I am busy. The space on Center street between the UC Campus and the downtown Berkeley BART station is really interesting. There is a small bar up front with perhaps 6 seats, and against the opposite wall are 3 counter tables in little cubby holes for two each, with a wood draw-curtain in front for privacy. Then in the middle left are private booths for 4 that are western style, and the middle right Japanese style booths (but with dangle room for your feet, no cross legged tatami style, but you take off your shoes like in Japan) but these can be adjusted to accommodate larger parties. And then in the rear, near the hibachi cook, is another small counter seating section. It has a very Japanese feel to it, which I like. I came here with my Foodie Friend extraordinaire, the MadHattrix, after taking her to her very first Football game, Cal vs. Ohio State. She had dined here before and just a few days prior, so she introduced me to her faves, and what she had tried. I picked out 3 items and left Kim to order the rest. First for me was the Uni-Pon, which was Uni (sea urchin) with Ponzu sauce (a lighter citrus soy sauce becoming increasingly popular, on sushi too.) This was great! I always order Uni in a sushi-ya (if fresh and Japanese run, the other Yada Yada places a bit risky), and a miso soaked tofu and cucumber plate (Miso-Zuke) which you have to love tofu and miso to enjoy, and later got the Chicken Thigh Oysters, which were juicy and delish. Kim ordered her fave dishes (see pics) including Bacon Wrapped Mochi skewers, Dashi Maki (Japanese Omelette), Minced Chicken Skewer with Egg Yolk, and a whole grilled Hokkaido Squid with a side bit of mayo and minced ginger. We were stuffed, but were talked into dessert, which was icy soft serve ice cream Affogato style, topped with Macha and a Sweet Soy, both fantastic, and a great contrast in sauce over a common delight. The manager comped us our Tsukemono order (pickled dish) because it came out almost last, and anyone who eats Japanese food knows this is usually the first thing to serve, which he agreed ($6 plate, so no big deal, especially on a busy Saturday night, but shows their attention to details and good service.) Most of the staff is Japanese, our waiter wasn't however, but he was good at timing, suggestions, and service, although the little dishes are run out to your table by others. I really like this place and my friends in the South Bay will be sad to know I will be diverting some of my Japa Tapas experience from Ajito, Gaku, and Izakaya (Cupertino, San Jose), and my LA friends from Musha and Azuma, for something closer in Berkeley. Go Bears! PS - pronunciation tip: all the syllables in Izakaya (e-za-ka-ya) have equal weight, accent and staccato length, so this should sound like a machine gun, NOT like an up and down sing-song Swedish Blonde with a Louisiana accent (E'-zuh-KAY'-yuh)
1758 N Milpitas Avenue
Wanugee's rating:Aug 25, 2014
Le Moulin is not Le Moulin Rouge like in Paris, a strip/dance club of old fame and glory. Although this location used to be a nail salon, so there are some feminine/beauty links, but that is a long ... read more
stretch of the Fickled Finger of Fate. Le Moulin might be called Le Moulin Verte, (green instead of red, en Francaise) because they do serve green waffles, or Pandan Coconut Waffles to be more exact. But their mainstay offering is Banh Mi. Not to be confused with "Ban Me" because I am dancing Topless in a San Jose suburb like I would at Le Moulin Rouge Paris, but Banh Mi because I have very spicy, tasty and juicy meat in between my Buns. Not like a strip club in Paris, but like a sandwich shop in Vietnam. In the same location is Bambu Desserts, that franchise of Asian styled desserts and hot and cold Boba drinks. Not to be confused with Le Moulin Rouge and hot and cold Boobs to drink in. I had a #5, Banh Mi Ga Nuong, which means grilled chicken sandwich dans le Pan. Pan as in French bread bun. Not to be confused with Buns that go with those Le Moulin Rouge top(less) that might get you to Ban Me, in San Jose. If Le Moulin's name gets you thinking of something hot and fresh, a la Le Moulin Rouge a Paris, try the Waffle. It is Asian Pandan, not French Pan Dame, but you could consider it Belgium, and although close geographically to France, that is a long stretch of the Fickled Finger of Fate. Do you want Crytal Gel on the nails of your Fickled Finger of Fate?
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