The story: Okane is the new izakaya by restaurateur Kash Feng, who opened the popular Omakase sushi restaurant in SOMA. Omakase was opened as a tasting menu-only dinner spot offering up chef’s choices (the English translation of omakase) while Okane, which is right next door, is a little larger but offers a more casual dining experience.
Why I went: I was invited when Omakase opened for a media dinner, but passed because I thought the $150-$200 price tag was a bit high for a sushi dinner. I got another invitation when Okane opened in January, and this time I decided I would give it a try since the concept is more approachable for most people. I also thought I could get a taste of Omakase since both restaurants share the same fish source.
The vibe: Contemporary but still cozy, the 46-seat restaurant has different seating to offer up a variety of experiences, whether it’s at the sushi counter, at the communal table, or some of the family-style booths. The neighborhood (across the street from Zynga’s office and not too far from Adobe) is young and techy, and the restaurant picks up a bit of that crowd.
The booze: There’s an extensive list of sake, nicely divided into helpful categories such as “refreshing and crisp,” “fruity and dynamic,” and “rich and savory.” We had a sake from the savory category that had a nice floral and sweet undertone. We also started dinner with a lovely Grandin Brut sparkling wine from the Loire Valley of France.
The menu: As an izakaya, which is like a Japanese gastropub, the menu focuses on small plates and skewers (the menu calls the small plates “ippin”), and the menu is broken into categories of vegetable, fish, meat, and rice and noodles. There are also sushi options, including nigiri and specialty rolls. The fish (again, same as Omakase next door) is fresh and presented nicely, like the delicate kinmedai or goldeneye snapper nigiri ($12) or the filling and beautiful harajuku roll ($16), which was a blend of salmon and tuna topped with avocado, tiny piece of shrimp tempura, salmon roe and lotus root. There are also special dishes like chazuke, which is a rice dish served with tea like a soup, and the traditional chawanmushi, an egg custard. Okane’s version, made with a Jidori egg, is light and steamy hot, topped with shrimp tempura and bok choy ($8).
My favorite dish: I like to think of myself as a sushi purist, enjoying fresh fish on nigiri nicely sauced, but I really enjoyed the harajuku specialty roll. There was a lot happening with the salmon, avocado, shrimp tempura, tuna, spicy kabayaki and lotus root chips. It was presented beautifully and well balanced in portion of ingredients and flavor.
The last bite: Okane calls itself an authentic izakaya, and they do have the right offerings to fall into that category, but it seems a bit more refined. The room is fun and colorful but still with the right mood lighting to be a relaxing or romantic spot, and the service is spot on. The menu has a lot of options to offer something for everyone. The only downside, IMHO, is its location is far from anything.
Since this was a media dinner, I’m not doing my typical rating, but I would recommend going here if you’re in the area. It’s a competitive field in the izakaya world in the Bay Area, and Okane is a solid option.
The deets: Okane, 669 Townsend St., San Francisco. PH: 415.865.9788. Open weekday lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, Monday through Saturday, from 5:30 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.okanesf.com
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