A downtown standby for over 30 years, this family-owned restaurant specializes in rare fish that’s creatively and expertly prepared. The space is moody and modern with exposed brick walls, slatted wood ceilings, and imported rosewood floors underfoot. Ray Lee took over the restaurant from his parents in 2011, introducing a slew of new dishes alongside chef Naoyuki Hashimoto. The menu is divided into leaner white fish and fatty “vibrant” fish—diners are encouraged to pace their meal accordingly. The fish can be ordered as nigiri, sashimi, or sushi, but the optimal approach is to order the omakase. Akiko’s seasonal nama menu changes daily, sourced domestically (from Alaska to Boston) and from Tsukiji Market. On a given night, the menu might include delicacies like madai (wild black sea bream), aodai (blue fusilier), or kinki (thorny head), interspersed with sea urchin, shrimp, or awabi (Japanese black abalone). There are over 30 sakes on the menu—get ready to make some choices.
The last time we checked, the Bay Area is a ten-hour flight from Japan—but you wouldn’t know it based on the volume of ice-packed chests arriving daily from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. The fact is, the best Japanese restaurants in San Francisco are the real deal, and they work with some of the best flavors and ingredients around.
In the last five years, dozens of master chefs, trained at acclaimed Japanese restaurants around the country, have opened fresh, new restaurants in the Bay Area, including a new wave of yakitori restaurants that specialize in grilling each piece of the chicken to perfection on a master grill. And of course, the best sushi and ramen in San Francisco are legion as they are legendary.
Around here, Japanese restaurants run the gamut from tiny, dozen-seaters to expansive modern eateries. Whether your ideal meal is super-fresh, simply prepared nigiri or wildly inventive omakase, the best Japanese restaurants in San Francisco offer up plenty of variety for every taste—here’s where to find them all.
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