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).
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.
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!
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! 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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! A nice, home-style fry, the Karei arrived with a shatteringly crispy exterior with tender meat inside, still moist and flaky. This Sole was gone in less than a minute!
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.
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! 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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(!). 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.
82 14th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel: (415) 589-7022