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Yoshi’s San Francisco

Jazzing Up the Fillmore

This massive, 28,000 square-foot, multi-story restaurant/bar/jazz club -- the West Bay sister to the original Yoshi's in Oakland's Jack London Square -- debuted in November 2007 to huge hype, resulting in a mix of rave and blah reviews for its upscale Japanese menu. Having now established itself as a frontrunner among the city’s dinner-and-a-show offerings, Yoshi's has settled in as a defining force within the blossoming Fillmore Jazz District.

Megamall Chic
With more than 300 seats in the restaurant’s main floor (with distinct mezzanine, bar and lounge areas) as well as a 400+-seat jazz club, the space feels more like a 90s suburban megamall than a hip supper club, but babes in Manolos will feel just as at home as boomers in Birkenstocks. The contemporary-Japanese designed space has lofty ceilings, spacious tables, broad chairs, and strategically situated shoji screens which demarcate the more desirable seating area on the main floor.

A Wide Net
Chef Sho Kamio, who brings to Yoshi's the same enthusiasm for high standards and quality food that earned him such an esteemed reputation at Ozumo, edited his opening menu in April 2008 to narrow in on the kitchen’s specialties. While the menu is still extensive (and expensive), the offerings are solid, ranging from sousaku (small plates), sushi and sashimi, deep-fried items, and shabu to items cooked on the sumi-charcoal robata grill and kamayaki roasted in the wood-burning oven.

The standout dish is the Gindara black cod ($16) from the robata -- six ounces of fish marinated in saikyo miso, grilled until it is caramelized and then served in a dashi shiitake broth. The teriyaki chicken from the kamayaki ($18) hints at woodsy flavor -- likely from the wood-burning oven -- and a warm sunchoke-citrus salad adds a bit of acid to balance the dish out nicely.

From the small plates section, we sampled the elaborate yari ika “somen” ($11), which consisted of noodles made from squid, okra, shiso, and ginger in a seaweed-stock broth. Happily, a completely unremarkable squid and sea urchin "ravioli" seems to have left the menu.

Roll Over, Beethoven
In terms of sushi, the "Japonese" roll ($16) has a welcome kick to it, thanks to spicy maguro and jalapeño with hamachi, avocado, cilantro and a spritz of lime, while the (underwhelming) "Banzai" roll ($15) is basically a rock’n’roll -- unagi, cucumber, avocado, wasabi mayo, and hamachi.

But the raw fish highlight is the Tsukiji Sampler ($35), named as such because all of the featured specials are flown in that day from Tsukiji, the famous Tokyo fish market. We sampled unique fish, including a young yellowtail, a Japanese black porgy (sea bream), and a kochi (bartailed flathead).

No Go Nigori
The 20-bottle sake list is fairly extensive, but it makes no sense to us that unfiltered nigori sake is not available by the glass. A light Akitabara sake, slightly sweet with a dry finish, pairs nicely with the sushi, while the Wakatake Onigoroshi/“Demon Slayer” is always popular and supremely easy to drink.

Class A Cocktails
Even easier to drink are the refined, top-notch cocktails, which put the frumpy drinks next door at 1300 Fillmore to shame. The Yoshi's "Hi-Hat" ($10) is the stunner, combining Finlandia grapefruit vodka, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, Campari, and a rim of lavender sugar. Smackdown.

Though pricey, this SF outpost of the Oakland landmark has a nightly happy hour that runs from open to close, and musical offerings have been expanded a tad to include the odd indie folk night. Even if this enormous restaurant/jazz club seems more special occasion than everyday, it’s certainly worth experiencing — whether it’s for dinner and a show, or just dinner.

Fillmore Jazz District