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Delica rf-1

High-Style Japanese Deli Cuisine

If you've ever been to the basement of a Japanese department store, you are aware of the wonderland of artfully prepared and high quality delicacies that round out the Japanese table. But here in the U.S., Japanese food has long been marginalized as simply sushi, noodles, or poorly constructed teriyaki. Kozo Iwata, the man behind the Rock Field Company (the namesake of rf-1) owns around 300 food stalls in Japan, mainly carrying fresh vegetable and noodle salads, and quickly fried, light croquettes of potato, seafood, or meat. His plan is to introduce Americans to another facet of Japanese eating, and this upscale take-out only deli is his first culinary venture outside Japan.

Bright, florescent lighting and spotless, pristine deli cases highlight many fresh and healthy options for the Ferry Building lunch crowd. And the well-scrubbed and attentive counter staff are knowledgeable and as fashionable as the modern blonde paneled décor. They will be happy to let you taste their pricey and elegant Hijiki and Soybean Salad, a subtle and refreshing mix of Japanese seaweed, vegetables, and microgreens. Or the Broccoli and Cauliflower salad, a seasonal specialty of crisp rapini and cauliflower tossed with a hearty ground sesame dressing- which is amazing.

Other non-traditional dishes appeal to the California sensibility, such as a pasta salad with Ahi tuna, but other menu mainstays, such as the Japanese potato salad, cold and creamy mashed potatoes studded with crisp carrot, onion, and daikon, will appeal to Nipponophiles everywhere. There's not a morsel of sushi in sight, but $8-$10 will buy a premade bento box of four to five salads.

Not to be missed are the "fresh fry" croquettes; the potato and scallop are outstanding, and the shrimp and crab are also well-done. Fillings are moist, high quality, and very fresh, but the secret to their success is the panko crumb coating: a Japanese style of extra large breadcrumbs made from local ACME bread and an imported grinder to insure the right consistency, then quickly fried to sustain maximum crunch without being oily. Dipped in their tartar sauce with a light yogurt flavor, or the piquant fresh tomato sauce, you may never be happy with just sushi again.