What are the most authentic Japanese restaurants in the SF Bay Area?
March 25, 2014 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Especially for those of you who have traveled in or lived in Japan: What are the most authentic Japanese restaurants in the greater SF Bay Area?

I am not concerned with price, atmosphere or other factors. I Would like to know what the most authentic Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area are. By "authentic" I mean authenticity in technique and good-faith in terms of ingredients. Places that use ingredients that are also found in Japan and do not compromise with stand-in ingredients (lemon is not yuzu). Places that use Japanese technique to highlight California's amazing produce and fish (places that do not fly fish in from Tsukiji would be preferred). Please mention in your answer if you have lived in or traveled to Japan.
posted by Infernarl to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Based on the description and reviews, this
posted by ms_rasclark at 10:07 PM on March 25, 2014

What kind of Japanese restaurant? There's a Ringer Hut in San Jose, which as the only American location of that Japanese fast food chain is probably pretty authentic Japanese fast food.
posted by ryanrs at 10:18 PM on March 25, 2014

Here's another one that is lauded for its authenticity. Great food, affordable prices, much different style than my previous suggestion (which I'm dying to try when I'm up for a major splurge). I haven't been to Japan, but many of the reviewers have.
posted by ms_rasclark at 10:21 PM on March 25, 2014

I lived in the countryside of Japan for a year.
The most authentic Japanese meal I've had in the bay is Hachi Ju Hachi in Saratoga.
posted by raw sugar at 10:23 PM on March 25, 2014

Just finding the ones that are owned and operated by Japanese people should narrow this down vastly, even in San Francisco which I bet has many more Japanese people that most parts of the country. Japanese restaurants (yes, even along the west coast) are rarely owned/run by Japanese people who "know" the cuisine. I am Japanese, and have both lived in and traveled to Japan many times since I was a baby. I've also ate at Japanese restaurants all over the country and can say what some telling features are but I can't name specific restaurants in San Francisco, unfortunately.

If they are owned/operated by Japanese people, it's my experience that it's fairly authentic, even if not necessarily the most delicious versions of authentic food.
posted by Blitz at 10:24 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like Maruya.
posted by quince at 10:41 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: I've travelled to Japan, but wouldn't consider myself an expert. San Mateo is the epicenter of Japanese restaurants on the Peninsula. Santa Ramen is an old favorite, and Oidon used to be a great place, but has gone downhill in the last few years.

Wakuriya is supposed to be awesome, but I have not been there personally yet.
posted by benzenedream at 11:16 PM on March 25, 2014

I lived in Japan, and nth what Blitz says. Try the Japantown mall near Geary and Fillmore. There's a decent convini there, and a snack stand selling the fish-shaped waffles filled with red bean paste (as well as numerous restaurants).
posted by jrobin276 at 11:19 PM on March 25, 2014

I've visited Japan several times and nth the above commenters who recommended Wakuriya. It's amazing. My very picky mom who was born and raised in Japan loved the entire meal.

Kiraku in Berkeley is also great. I've gone with friends from Tokyo who have been very happy with the food there. They only order in Japanese, so they may get some special off-menu items.
posted by kogester at 12:23 AM on March 26, 2014

As benzenedream intimated, San Mateo is one place where the Japanese expat community congregates. The restaurants there are often run by first-gen Japanese who sometimes have only a moderate grasp of English. You might also find yourself the only one not speaking Japanese in a few of the small restaurants. If you're only seeking "authentic," you can get plenty there.

Maybe the lemon-yuzu confusion or substitution isn't a great tell-tale, but I think you'll find dozens upon dozens of restaurants in the Bay Area that don't fall that low.

Since you ask: I've visited Japan, but never lived there. I am familiar with Japanese food in Japan and foreign enclaves.
posted by ccl6yl at 1:52 AM on March 26, 2014

Orenchi Ramen [Yelp] in Santa Clara is amazing.
posted by bigtex at 1:53 AM on March 26, 2014

I've lived in Japan but only visited SF - but I found Delica to be very representative of a common lunch-type Japanese restaurant. Not exactly traditional, but good and "authentic" in a modern way. It depends what you're looking for, but I liked it.
posted by chocotaco at 6:48 AM on March 26, 2014

Response by poster: Is there a particular area in San Mateo where the expat community is located?
posted by Infernarl at 7:32 AM on March 26, 2014

The area around 2nd and Ellsworth is the main San Mateo downtown. If you're looking to meet expats that's a different question.
posted by benzenedream at 8:34 AM on March 26, 2014

Seconding Japantown in SF if you want a more casual experience. It's a fading mall and the community is slowly disappearing, but there's still some great little hole-in-the-wall ramen places. Also okonomiyaki and other stuff beyond the usual sushi joints.

Kaygetsu used to be the go-to for fine kaiseki, but it closed in 2011.
posted by Nelson at 10:12 AM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: > Is there a particular area in San Mateo where the expat community is located?

Try 3rd and 4th Avenues, between S. Ellsworth and El Camino. That area has a very high concentration of excellent Japanese restaurants and an excellent grocery store. By the way, my colleague who spent several years living in Japan said the easy way to identify if a Japanese restaurant is authentic is to look to see if they take the JCB card. If they do they're much more likely to be authentic.
posted by mosk at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2014

Sushi Ran in Sausalito is great. Also try Umami near Union Street. Torsten @ http://www.mightytravels.com
posted by MightyTravels at 11:27 AM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: Just polled my Japanese buddies and their choices In the south bay were Hachi Ju Hachi in Saratoga, and Seto in Sunnyvale.
posted by Rash at 3:55 PM on March 26, 2014

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