Izumiya is a Japanese eatery in the Japantown district of San Francisco, and one I believe we’ve eaten at more than once. It’s located in the Kinokuniya Building, and like so many other San Francisco eateries (and unlike places in Atlanta) there is an outside display of food, so that people can choose what they want to eat. Izumiya has a large menu, with foods to fit almost any preference. They offer a huge variety of sushi rolls, a whole page of appetizers, and combos of various kinds. It’s a mix and match approach to eating, if you want a little something extra. Izumiya seems to be best known, however, for their okonomiyaki, served either Hiroshima or Osaka style. It had the distinct advantage that my mother-in-law, full blooded Japanese, was comfortable here.

Izumiya is proud enough of their okonomiyaki (a kind of omlette or pancake) that they inscribe the name of the dish onto the wrapper of their chopsticks.

Food, once served, was simple in presentation. There is nothing ostentatious in this eatery. This day we had a lot of bento boxes, a fair amount of yakisoba, and I had an okonomiyaki, since I had never eaten one before. The food in general was good, but not mind blowing. My wife was commenting that they used the right kind of yakisoba noodles. She’s not really fond of using ramen noodles instead of the kind she likes. My mother-in-law, I believe, got a bass dish she liked. Croquettes, fried round chunks of potato and other goodness were common on the table. The younger girls were eating curries any chance they could get.

my okonomiyaki is on the left of this plate.

yakisoba noodles plus extras

Service, as I recall, was pretty good. Please note though, this place was packed when we arrived, so the sheer number of customers made sure it wasn’t instant.

Verdict: Good, unpretentious eatery in Japantown, known for its okonomiyaki. Recommended.

1581 Webster Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 441-6867

Izumiya on Urbanspoon

Notes: Foodhoe has some excellent coverage of the various okonomiyaki here.

Fenton’s Creamery and Restaurant is well over 100 years old, and it maintains its heritage by making its own ice cream on site, keeping quality high and serving size large.  We were taken here by friends in Oakland, though it took a couple trips around the blocks to actually find parking. Once there, the ice cream was rich and memorable, the cream content high, the flavors delectable. Fenton’s is able to handle large groups well, and as we had about twenty kids aged 12 to 72 at our table, we felt well served.

Verdict: Excellent ice cream, good for families and friends. Very Highly recommended.

Fenton's Ice Cream Parlor on Urbanspoon

It’s called The Flea for short, the San Jose Flea Market, and perhaps the “Flea” part needs to be cut off, because it’s just a market, really, a huge one with a parking lot larger than the combined DeKalb Farmer’s Market and parking lot. It’s a bit larger than 4 city blocks, and the best part of it is the aisle of produce. It’s officially called Produce Row, it is quite a sight and alone is worth the trouble of getting there.

There is of course, more than  just produce. There are places to buy clothes, places to buy dolls and purses, used video games and inexpensive electronics. I saw two bands when I was there, playing music. There were a couple barber shops, places to get new audio in your car, art of various kinds. Places to eat were plentiful, but as we didn’t eat there, I’m not in a position to review them.

The Flea (San Jose Flea Market)
1590 Berryessa Road
San Jose, CA 95113

San Wang is a Chinese restaurant in the general vicinity of Japantown, in the Pacific Heights portion of San Francisco. My brother-in-law describes it as the food from a province of China close to Korea, so the food has Korean influences (i.e. Northeast Chinese cuisine). Others have described it as San Tung cuisine,  Shandong cuisine, or a mix between Shandong cuisine and the hybrid cuisine Korean-Chinese. Whatever it may be, they serve kimchi as an appetizer (or is it suan cai?), and have a large exotic menu. They are also noted for making their own noodles, enough so they’ve been featured in the local newspapers.

We came on an evening when we needed to feed several people, and were soon seated at a circular table with a carousel. There was a lot of back and forth about what to eat, so most people were given the opportunity to suggest one dish. San Wang clams and dry fried chicken were evidently San Wang’s best known dishes, according to my relatives, so we did order the clams. We deleted one dish from the suggestions, because it seemed like too much food. As it turned it, it was too much food anyway, but to start, we had wonton soup.

We ordered San Wang clams, and we also ordered dry fried crab. My daughter and my niece ordered a shrimp curry – my niece is beyond picky, but curries are the one thing in Asian cuisines she’ll eat. There was San Wang’s version of pea leaves, beef with broccoli and a small serving of Peking duck. The rice we were originally given was some kind of fried rice I believe, but after a while my wife and my mother-in-law ordered plain steamed rice.

The Peking duck came with crepes, a dark hoisin sauce, and a pale green vegetable that you were supposed to combine (duck + veggie in crepes with sauce). It wasn’t bad, even if I had never had the dish before. No, I had no clue what I was doing so I improvised.

The crab would have been better if we could have gotten something to crack the shells with. The shells were already cracked but incompletely so. The meat was tasty when you could get to it. The clams were excellent, as good as their reputation, and most everything else fell into the “pretty good” category.

Service was a bit hit or miss. Like many Chinese restaurants they paid more attention to us before we had our food. Service afterwards was there when the staff had time. I felt as if there were one or two waitstaff that knew what they were doing and the rest were seemingly in training, and that must have affected quality in general.

In summary, Lolia S. of Yelp captured my thoughts when she said it was a three star restaurant with a couple five star dishes.  Their portions are indeed generous. If I were to go back, I’d order less food in general and try to concentrate on the good stuff. I think I’d try to get a noodle dish as well, which seems to be part of their “good stuff”.

Other notes: when we initially arrived, almost everyone in the restaurant was Asian. That changed as we continued to eat, becoming an ethnic mix by the end of the meal.

Verdict: Good food in general, with a couple superior dishes. Service just okay. Recommended in general, highly recommended for the San Wang clams.

San Wang
1682 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 921-1453

San Wang on Urbanspoon

Pizza Orgasmica was something of a compromise on a day when we couldn’t figure out what to eat. We knew my mother-in-law wanted pizza, though, and so we ended up at this Richmond eatery. The name, of course, creates a theme that they use repeatedly, even down to Pizza Orgasmica’s version of the Adam and Eve story.

It’s cute inside. The walls are covered in art, the tables are often painted pretty and bright colors. Some of the art is suggestive, as you might expect with a name like Pizza Orgasmica. It was casual, but it was also fairly loud. This isn’t a place where you can whisper a conversation.

We ordered three thin crust pizzas when we were there, a pizza called the latin lover, one called the hot mama, and my wife asked for a pepperoni, black olive and mushroom pizza. It didn’t take long, and pizzas soon arrived.

Latin lover pizza.

Hot mama pizza. More sweet than spicy.

These pizzas have a crust thicker than napolitano style ( 5-7 mm versus 1-2 mm for a napolitano), and it’s heavy enough and crisp enough you can hold a slice easily. In all honesty I wish the Atlanta “NY style” eateries would give up their fascination with razor thin neapolitan crusts and make them more this thickness. You don’t have the “watery crust in the middle” syndrome that strikes even the best neapolitan slices.

In terms of taste of pizza, the latin lover was good and my wife said it reminded her of nachos. The pepperoni was quite good. The hot mama was a good pizza, but a bit too much like a hawaiian (dessert) pizza for my tastes. I thought it would be spicier but the sweet of the pineapple tended to dominate the flavor of the hot mama.

Also, to note, Pizza Orgasmica has what they call a beer tower, which really is a long tube (think graduated cylinder on steroids) with a tap at the bottom. It holds 2.5 liters of beer, and so is a clever way to get beer for a crowd.

Service was good until the end. Our waitress went off shift after she served our pizzas and everything went downhill from there.  There just wasn’t any pass off to her replacement. It took 15 minutes and repeated attempts to get waitstaff attention to actually get a bill.

Verdict: Clever premise, good pizzas. Staff needs to learn to cooperate better. Recommended in general, highly recommended for the food.

Pizza Orgasmica
823 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 386-6000

Pizza Orgasmica on Urbanspoon

Kumako Ramen is a small neat eatery in San Jose’s Japantown, and after the drive from San Francisco to San Jose one day, my brother-in-law recommended we try this place. It’s a spare simple eatery with a straightforward menu and few frills.

We ate there. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law had shoyu ramen, my wife had miso ramen, and I had a spicy alternative called tan-tan ramen.  My brother-in-law had the clam ramen, which had clams but had a heavy Italian component to the ramen he ate. We also had edamame and gyoza as appetizers. The gyoza were nicely grilled and especially good.

Shoyu ramen

Miso ramen

Miso ramen

Tan-tan ramen

I liked the tan-tan ramen, the peppers and the ground pork added to the mix, the nicely regulated heat. There is very little staff in Kumako, just a waitress and two guys behind the counter but it works well, runs well, and I was grateful to be able to try this place.

Verdict: Inexpensive and good, this plate is a terrific little noodle house. Highly recommended.

Kumako Ramen
211 Jackson St
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 286-2111

Kumako on Urbanspoon