Wednesday, January 25, 2006


ever since i was a little girl my moms and i would go to san francisco's japantown to do a little grocery shopping every few months. and ever since i can remember we would stop by one of those little restaurants in the mall for some lunch, usually at oskaya. if you're not familiar with osakaya, it is one of those restaurants that exemplify what people mean when they say that in japantown the japanese food is mediocre at best. recently (as in the last ten years or so) new restaurants have appeared in the mall that have their loyal followers like ino sushi, maki, takara, etc. but i still had yet to find a decent place to grab lunch with moms.

that is until a fellow chowhound recommended kansai. at 1:00 on a saturday the place was jammed to the rafters with busily noshing japanese people. my moms took this to be an excellent portent and i didn't bother to remind her that the sub-mediocre osakaya was also always full of people from the motherland. upon entry we were ushered past the long gleaming sushi bar to a cozy little table near the rear of the restaurant..the last available table. the host and waiter were one and the same, a nervous-seeming japanese man full of stammering little bowing motions and a manically ernest gleam in his eyes. i've been back several times now during the lunch hour and he is always there, comical, stressed out, stress inducing, fluttering about and making sure everyone is well attended to.

anyhow, you won't find any $4.99 bento boxes here. lunch choices range from $7.25 for zaru soba and top out at $19.50 for the chirashi deluxe. there is a daily lunch special that costs around $9 but we usually order either the lunch combination (choice of two items plus salad, soup, kobachi, rice and pickles) for $12.95 or the lunch set (one item plus salad, soup, rice, pickles) that average around $11.00. the courses are numerous, portions generous, presentation immaculate and ingredients top quality. all things considered it is an incredible value.

a small bowl of miso soup and a salad begins the meal. the miso soup is light and flavorful, not overly salty or ham-fisted. the salad is comprised of finely shredded carrots, red and green cabbage atop romaine leaves studded with cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices bathed in a creamy miso-ginger dressing. i was particularly pleased with the absence of iceberg lettuce, the presence of the finely shredded cabbage and the fact that flavorful little cherry tomatoes were used instead of those giant, pale, watery hunks of pink tomato-ish wedges.

our meals also came with kobachi, which if i recall correctly, my moms said just meant "small plate". in this instance it was a vinegared cucumber salad and kampyo. for the "japanese pickles" dish we were given lightly salted and pressed napa cabbage.

i ordered the vegetable tempura lunch set ($11.95) which came with rice in addition to the above mentioned dishes. the tempura was perfect. a light coating of batter fried to a golden brown. all the vegetables were cooked to tender perfection inside.

my moms ordered the lunch combination with the kaki (oyster) fry and maguro sashimi. four generous sized oysters fried with a panko coating came accompanied by japanese potato salad, shredded cabbage, steamed broccoli and a dab of karashi (yellow mustard) on the side.

on a separate plate came five pieces of maguro on a bed of shredded daikon, shiso leaf and radish sprouts. the fish was reported to be very fresh. it certainly was very pretty.

my man ordered the lunch combination ($12.95) with saba shioyaki and hamachi sashimi. the mackeral was perfectly grilled and came with japanese potato salad, cabbage, broccoli and grated daikon radish.

and then there was the hamachi. beautifully presented and very fresh.

i've eaten at kansai for lunch several times now and the food is consistently good. highly recommended.

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1737 buchanan mall
san francisco
415 775 2770


Anonymous TMV said...

Kansai was one of the reasons I love to come to SF for work. I just tried to go this weekend and Kansai was close.The sign said it was CLOSED Forever :( A sad day for me and the rest of the sushi world visiting SF

11:21 PM  
Blogger endy smith said...

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2:56 AM  

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