While I love sushi, I know there’s probably more to Japanese food than raw fish and rice. So lately I’ve been exploring Japanese food in the city, hoping to stretch my understanding of this cuisine.
One of the highly recommended locations for authentic Japanese food is the longtime Kappou Gomi restaurant in San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood. The quaint and rustic-looking restaurant is welcoming and comfortable, and quite popular with a lot of Japanese-speaking people on the night I dined with my friend Tat. I loved the sign in front that says “No sushi, no combination plates” so you know this place doesn’t cater to the Americanized palate.
The menu is quite extensive, with several pages of dishes. While it seems overwhelming, after awhile I realized that the menu is primarily broken down by ingredients, and under each ingredients the same basic preparations are listed (such as sashimi, salt-grilled, tempura, etc.).
We ordered several dishes that were new to us, along with some standard favorites. Even with the basics, like sashimi, the preparations were unique. Our fluke sashimi ($16) was beautifully plated and were served rolled around a shiso leaf and sprinkled with tobiko, accentuating the flavors of the raw fluke.
But some raw dishes were a bit off-putting. I was excited to order one of the daily specials – hotaru ika or sparkling squid in tamari soy sauce ($8.50). This appetizer came out in a little larger than a tea cup but had the texture of mucus. (Sorry, but true.) While Tat and I learned to enjoy the flavor, we couldn’t get past the texture of the raw squid.
Dining on Uni
Then there was the uni served in an apple ($12), which was a very creative presentation and the warm apple matched the creamy uni (sea urchin), although probably too much apple to uni.
Highlights included the udon in a comforting broth, and the mixed rice made with cooked salmon and salmon roe. The pork in claypot had a lot of flavor, but the pork was a bit chewy. Tat ordered the grilled mochi, which was wrapped in nori, and considered it his dessert.
The Last Bite
While the tastes of the food can be hit or miss, depending on what you order, Kappou Gomi offers so much that it’s worth exploring. Beautifully plated and presented, the food has an authentic flavor and definitely makes you look at Japanese food beyond sushi.
Kappou Gomi, 5524 Geary Blvd. (at 19th), San Francisco. PH: 415.221.5353. Open for dinner Tue.–Sun., 5:30–10 p.m. No reservations, major credit cards accepted. kappougomi.com
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