At Home and Underground - The Tasty Yakitori and Handmade Udon of Izakaya Rintaro [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

One of the most cherished things I value from an Izakaya (Japanese Pub / Small Plates) is the vibe and atmosphere. There are Izakaya that run the spectrum from casual to high end, but through our friendships with wonderful people from Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, our favorites just have that great feeling and positive energy (and of course, fantastic food as well). :wink:

Thanks to another splendid recommendation from @beefnoguy, we were able to visit Izakaya Rintaro on our first dinner of this trip.

Walking up to the entrance of Rintaro, it looks like you’re entering an underground pop-up or club, as their sign is hand-painted along a tall outer wall, but not lit. The surrounding businesses were already closed for the day.

But walking into the entrance, you’re treated to a lively, inviting party, people laughing, cheering, having fun and “kanpai!”-ing the night away. :slight_smile:

The atmosphere is warm and friendly, the servers are accommodating, and we get seated after a brief wait. Plus, how can you not smile after you’re greeted by Izakaya Rintaro’s mascot on their menu? It’s so cute! :blush:

Suiyoubi no Neko “Wednesday’s Cat” - Belgian White Ale (Nagano, Japan):

I had to order this based on the name alone - Suiyoubi no Neko (Wednesday’s Cat) - is a Japanese Beer we’ve never seen before. The can has a cat on it! :slight_smile: Aromatic, easy drinking, it was a like a cross between a Blonde and a Hefeweizen.

Tedorigawa - Kinka - Nama Daiginjo Sake (Ishikawa, Japan):

An excellent brewer and one of our favorite easy-drinking Sake, Tedorigawa Kinka was as wonderful as usual: Crisp, a touch floral, but smooth with a dry finish. All of our guests loved this Sake. :slight_smile:

Kanpachi no Sashimi (Baja Yellowtail Amberjack Sashimi with Half Moon Bay Wasabi):

Fresh, tender, local Kanpachi. The fresh-ground Wasabi was a nice touch as well. :slight_smile: The only thing that’s hard to separate is that once you’ve had Aburiya Raku’s glorious, perfectly balanced tender and firm, vibrant Kanpachi Sashimi (or any of their other offerings), it’s hard to go back. Rintaro’s Sashimi is very good, but it’s not in the same tier as Raku.

Yosedofu (Housemade Silken Tofu with Meiji Soy Milk Scallion, Ginger and Shoyu):

Rintaro’s Housemade Tofu is wonderful, creamy (no dairy), and just perfect with the bit of Ginger and Shoyu. :slight_smile:

Rintaro Tsukune (Chicken Meatball Skewers):

Rintaro uses Riverdog Farms Pasture-Raised Chickens that are dispatched daily, which sounds like a pursuit of fresh quality along the lines of Raku. Their Tsukune Chicken Meatballs are juicy, lightly smoky and awesome. :blush:

Chicken Thigh + Onion Skewers:

These arrive perfectly cooked, moist, tender and well-seasoned. They are excellent Chicken Thigh Skewers, among the better ones we’ve had in the U.S. :slight_smile: But like the Sashimi, after experiencing Aburiya Raku’s Asajime Chicken for their Yakitori with its deep, soulful poultry flavor coming through in every bite (along with being perfectly juicy and smoky), the difference is apparent (but Rintaro’s is still so good).

Chicken Inner Thigh Skewers:

This was a nice treat, as Rintaro offered a special cut called “Inner Thigh” Skewers. This was very good, a bit more meaty than the regular Thigh Skewers.

Tedorigawa - Silver Mountain - Yamahai Junmai Sake (Ishikawa, Japan):

I really liked the opportunity to try 2 of Tedorigawa’s Sake back-to-back, to see how different brewing methods can affect the taste of Sake. This 2nd bottle was Tedorigawa’s Silver Mountain Yamahai Junmai Sake, brewed with the Yamahai method, which yields a more robust, pungent flavor.

It was still easy-to-drink, and finished clean, but it definitely had more funk to each sip, and it paired pretty well with many of the dishes we had. :slight_smile:

Wakasagi no Nanbanzuke (Fried Eureka! Smelt “Southern Barbarian Style” with Spicy Vinegar and Nantes Carrots):

These little Smelt Fish were perfectly fried, crispy and the Nanbanzuke Sauce was perfect! Tart, spicy, savory, it was a great pairing with the crispy crunchy Smelt. :blush:

Kanzuri Skewers:

As our server mentioned they had Kanzuri, which she described as the connective tissue between heart and other organs. (The other skewer was another Thigh.)

Karei no Karaage (Whole Crispy Fried Half Moon Bay Petrale Sole with Mori Tsuyu, Grated Daikon and Komatsuna):

This was fantastic! :heart: A nice, home-style fry, the Karei arrived with a shatteringly crispy exterior with tender meat inside, still moist and flaky. :slight_smile: This Sole was gone in less than a minute! :sweat_smile:

King Trumpet Skewers:

Some of the best Mushroom Skewers we’ve had for Yakitori / Kushiyaki in a while. Wonderful meaty bites (even though there’s no meat here), delicate smokiness. :slight_smile:

Teba no Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken Wings with Smoky Tare, Sansho Pepper and Wasabi Arugula):

The batter was a tad too thick, but otherwise, these were tasty Japanese Fried Chicken Wings. The Sansho Pepper was a nice touch.

The one knock about Rintaro is that they don’t have containers of Shichimi Togarashi (7 Spice Mixture) nor Sansho Pepper at any of the tables. Instead, they serve a small mound of it per plate that you order, and while for 1 or 2 people this might work, when you have a larger group (like we did), we ran out of the spice condiments before everyone could dab their piece.

Chicken Breast + Ume Miso Skewers:

Moist, nicely cooked and the Ume Miso gave each bite a nice jolt of piquancy.

Millefeuille Miso Katsu (Ten Layer Becker Lane Pork Katsu, with Hatcho Miso Sauce, Fresh Acme Panko, Snowy Cabbage and Hot Mustard):

We love a great Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Cutlet), but the more recent specialized version of the “Millefeuille Katsu” (a Deep Fried Pork Cutlet composed of thin slices of Pork stacked on top of each other and then fried) is usually in the realm of Tonkatsu specialists (like Kimukatsu or Kagura). So imagine our surprise when we saw that Rintaro offered their own version of the Millefeuille Katsu! We couldn’t wait!

This was delicious! :blush: A nice crunchy exterior and tender, juicy, fatty and lean slices of Pork inside. A nice treat was the Nagoya-style preparation of the Tonkatsu, done in a Miso Katsu style (with a sweeter Miso Katsu Sauce). :slight_smile:

Kanpachi Kama (Amberjack Collar):

They had a special dish featured for dinner of Kanpachi Kama (Amberjack Collar) roasted over Charcoal. Just perfect, great grilling, with flaky moist, drool-worthy meat inside. :slight_smile:

Kake Udon + Onsen Tamago (Rintaro Hand-Rolled Udon with Two Fish Broth and Scallions):

When we found out Rintaro has Handmade Udon that they make themselves, we had to order it for @bulavinaka, who has a love for great Udon Noodles and we were hoping this might be something great for @bulavinaka to try. :wink:

The Handmade Udon were of the thicker variety, but tender with a nice bite. The Dashi made from two different kinds of Fish lent a perfect amount of brininess, and overall this felt like a dish you’d enjoy with family at home. :blush:

The Onsen Tamago (Soft Cooked Egg) was perfectly silky and added this wonderful creaminess from the Egg Yolk when you broke it open.

Izakaya Rintaro turned out to be a really fun, inviting Japanese Pub, with some good Yakitori / Kushiyaki and their Fried section had some great items like their Millefeuille Katsu, Karei no Karaage (Whole Deep Fried Petrale Sole), and their Handmade Udon was a real treat. :slight_smile:

Perhaps the couple of disappointments were that they sold out of items fast: We arrived around 8 p.m. (not that late), and they were sold out of half of their Yakitori menu(!). :open_mouth: I’m happy for them for good business and it’s good that they don’t overstock, but as a customer, it’s kind of a bummer that you can’t try many of the dishes you were hoping to try. That, and a rather limited Sake menu are the only things that were downsides for us. In that regard, Izakaya Ginji’s wonderful and extensive Sake menu is the one to beat in the SF area, and we love the extensive menu at Iroriya.

Still, the atmosphere and great warm, inviting “kazoku” (family) feel, great Yakitori and Fried dishes makes us happy to return whenever we can. :slight_smile:

Izakaya Rintaro
82 14th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel: (415) 589-7022


Reporting Back: Our Trip to San Francisco - Great Breakfasts, Lunch and Dinners :)
April 2018 Weekend Rundown
#2

I think whole-chicken yakitori places always run out of certain things early. For example, for each skewer of eight hearts, they have maybe 32 skewers of thigh.

I’m skeptical that that’s a good description. Kanzuri is a brand of artisanal fermented chile paste, I can’t find anyplace other than Rintaro using that as the name of a chicken part, and I don’t think there’s anything big enough to skewer between the heart and adjacent organs.


#3

Hi @robert,

Yah, definitely it makes sense: 1 heart in a chicken vs. how much meat must they have have for thighs and breasts? :slight_smile: Then again, supermarkets go through more dark and white meat (and very little for organ meats) so perhaps some places supplement their stock with that side of the supply chain surplus?

Re: Kanzuri, yah we’d never heard of it before, and I’m only reporting back what our server told us. Thanks.


#4

Major supermarket chains don’t break down whole birds. Probably a lot of the innards end up in pet food.


#5

Kanzuri is a type of chili paste. There may indeed be a brand named Kanzuri but there’s not just one brand making kanzuri. Like how yuzukosho is a type of paste, not one brand.

Kanzuri here likely refers to the innard’s reddish looks. It being a connective tissue it can probably be described as gizzard aka “zuri,” aka “sunazuri” aka “sunagimo.” Note that the names of specific cuts of meat vary a bit. E.g. sunazuri refers to gizzard with chicken yet it refers to a different yet very special part of the tuna or yellowtail.

Calling this cut “kanzuri” may be a slang term for gizzard / “zuri” that is reminiscent in color to kanzuri paste and they took a little liberty in referencing something similar.

Some Japanese restaurants take liberties with naming items to reference other foods that look similar. Sushi Sho (from Keiji Nakazawa, not the El Cerrito one which is completely different and about 6 notches down) has a signature item they call “ohagi.” It’s chopped tuna mixed with daikon and some other items, like onion or takuan, and it looks like the wagashi “ohagi” (made of mashed azuki beans), even though its ingredients are very different.

One really interesting cut of yakitori is the diaphragm (sometimes called “harami”) - it has a delicious chew that’s somewhere between tendon and cartilage. Maybe diaphragm is not directly between the heart and other organs but it’s close enough.

My guess is the “kanzuri” is actually gizzards / “zuri.”


#6

That would expect the lack of gizzards on the menu.


#7

Oh @beefnoguy, Rintaro did have one Sake that we hadn’t seen before:

Kirinzan - Kagayaki - Daiginjo Genshu Sake

How is it? We love the regular Kirinzan Daiginjo, but was curious about this Kagayaki offering. It was a bit too pricey for our friends, so we held off on ordering it.

Lastly, I have to gripe a little: Why are all the great Izakaya in SF closed by 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. most nights of the week? :cry: It seems a bit sad (and kind of unfortunate that we can’t stop in for some late night snacks and great Sake).


#8

Yes Bradford is right. Kanzuri at least from what I have had, is a dark red chili paste that has yuzugosho / citrus based tones and can be quite potent. It’s a famous chili paste in Niigata prefecture and in Northern California you can find a jar at Umami Mart in Oakland. Certain dishes taste mighty fine with a little Kanzuri and can elevate the sake drinking experience.

In Tokyo, there is a Niigata prefecture antennae shop very near Omotesando Hills that sells souvenirs, food items, and sake from the region. Here is a picture of their kanzuri section, of which you gotta love that chili pepper logo on the jar who looks like he’s also suffering from extreme cornholio burnout.

I remember having the chicken skewer part referred to as kanzuri as well at Rintaro and it was quite delicious. Kind of like thigh oyster, but maybe referring to another part. It wasn’t gizzard.

Regarding the sake:

Tedorigawa Kinka is always a safe bet at Rintaro, and glad that they are carrying Tedorigawa Junmai Yamahai which is a great izakaya sake. The latter to me is not even funky at all (I tend to enjoy the stronger stuff), yet with the increased acidity as a result of brewing with the traditional Yamahai method the sake has incredible balance and smoothness. What sucks at Rintaro is that their handling/storage of bottles by the glass is no good, and their pours are very small and sad (they don’t even fill the glass 3/4 of the way). So you get better value by the bottle (or corkage for your favorite drinks).

You can look up information on True Sake’s website of Kirinzan Kagayaki Daiginjo. Strangely in Japan the retail is only $40 to $50 equivalent, but the only place that sells this is True Sake which they charge $180. It could be limited, not as many exported, hence a larger markup.

I’ve had four bottles of Kagayaki in the last 3 years or so and I have to say that every time the experience is different. There are consistency issues and some of it has to do with shipping/handling/transport, and the batch. The best I’ve had were at two tastings (one was at True Sake where a rep from Kirinzan came over) and the other was through the distributor or importer at Sake Day. When the bottle is pristine, the sake has a wonderful dryness and is quite powerful. My last bottle drank a touch too fruit forward and was muted from it being cold to lightly chilled to room temperature, and food did quite little with it. My guess is that this bottle does not age very well and needs to be consumed quickly (some Daiginjo can age in low temperatures for some time). So for me, this sake is not quite worth getting anymore (a large part is due to a change in my tastes and perceived value) but don’t let that stop you from ever trying it (it could be my bad luck). However for gifting to someone of immense importance and value, the label alone can be very meanginful. The kanji for Kagayaki 輝 represents splendor, brilliance, and like a shining star.
This would be a good bottke to have at Mori, Shiki (particularly with the kaiseki/sushi combo), or Shunji to have with cooked dishes and sushi.


#9

Thanks @beefnoguy. Very interesting about the Kagayaki and from the way you mention Rintaro handling their storage of bottles by the glass, it makes us glad we didn’t order the Kagayaki by the bottle (it was bottle only), just in case, since you said it seems rather sensitive to how it was transported / stored, etc.

I like the regular Kirinzan Daiginjo so much, so I’m hoping to try another Kirinzan (that you’d recommend) if we ever see it offered anywhere (so far in LA, we’ve only ever seen regular Kirinzan).


#10

If you are still in town hit up True Sake.

Try the Kirinzan Classic Futsushu (it’s around $25) and has no polish ratio, but is a fantastic value everyday sake and perfect for grilled stuff. Then pick up the Kirinzan Round “Flying Horse” Junmai that will work with izakaya and sushi and comes in a very interesting shaped round bottle. You can try their Junmai Ginjo which comes in a purple bottle of the same Junmai Daiginjo blue bottle you’ve had before, and the store should also have it in stock (though the JD is about $80 due to exchange rates and costs of obtaining). Or mail order and have them ship to LA.

https://www.truesake.com/search?type=product&q=kirinzan

If you want to pick a sake brewery to taste the entire portfolio, Kirinzan is a solid choice.


#11

Thanks again @beefnoguy. Do you remember if they have any of those Kirinzan varieties at Izakaya Ginji or Iroriya?


#12

They do not carry any Kirinzan


#13

Nice report @Chowseeker1999!

Seems like it has a cool vibe. The food looks kinda’ rustic? I like the dark char on the Yakitori / Kushiyaki.

Nice S.F. Seeking!


#14

Thanks @TheCookie. :slight_smile: If you head up to SF, definitely give Rintaro a consideration (but not before Saison or Californios or Dragon Beaux)! :wink:


#15

If you live in LA, I don’t think there’s any reason to go out of your way to eat at Rintaro. Not that I’d warn anyone away or anything, but it’s not that different from or better than what you can get in LA.


#16

Okay, so it’s not destination eating. Got it. There’s plenty other interesting looking options posted on this board from @Chowseeker1999 and @PorkyBelly.


#17

forgot to post my pics. tsukune and fried chicken wings were the highlight.

tokubetsu moriawase - ft. bragg uni, viking village scallop, baja yellowtail, wild seabass, big eye tuna, sf swordfish, half moon bay wasabi

house cured steelhead roe

teba no karaage - japanese fried chicken wings with smoky tare, sansho pepper, wasabi arugula

kare kabocha korokke - potato and kabocha curry croquettes with fresh acme panko and snowy cabbage

yakitori - tsukune, chicken oysters, hearts, thigh

chicken ribs


#18

Hi @PorkyBelly,

Nice! And also… Chicken Ribs?! :open_mouth: It looks crispy. How was it? :slight_smile:

Looking forward to more pics! Are you up north right now? :slight_smile:


#19

Those are clearly wings, not ribs.


#20

Looks like chicken cartilage.