The Rock and Roll Izakaya
312 8th Ave. (near Clement), San Francisco
Dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. (till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
There’s been a spree of izakayas opening up around town lately. They’re the Japanese-style pubs known for their grilled bites.
But one of the early pioneers introducing San Franciscans to the delights of the izakaya is the tiny Halu in the Richmond District. Known for its food, tiny space, and Beatle memorabilia from owner Shigemi Komiyama, Halu is the ultimate divey neighborhood spot.
When I visited recently, I grabbed one of the five seats at the counter. You face the tiny kitchen space where Komiyama cooks all the food, but you can’t really see him with the raised shelf and more Beatle memorabilia hanging every where. They weren’t kidding about the Beatle stuff; it’s like a shrine.
The menu is broken into yakitori, which are the grilled items, and kushikatsu, or deep-fried items. Then there are three ramen choices and a few salad and side items. After ordering a few skewers, I turned around and noticed the specials board on the wall, which features such specialties as the pork jowl and bacon-wrapped mochi. So definitely remember to check out the specials.
Arriving first was the scallops kushikatsu ($5.50). I know, you’re probably shocked that I ordered something deep-fried, but I love scallops and I thought I needed to try at least one item from the kushikatsu section.
The scallops looked perfectly cooked and the panko crust a golden brown, but there was a bit of oil squishing out as I bit into the scallops and the coating all fell off at the first bite, unable to stick to the scallops. The scallops were served with the traditional tonkatsu sauce and a squirt of hot mustard.
Then came the yakitori items (on the menu you can order one or two skewers of each item). I got one skewer of the chicken gizzards ($2.50) and pork and onion ($2.50). The chicken gizzards were crunchy but still easy to eat. I can’t say I’m a fan of gizzards, but I wanted to try them and my server said it’s one of the more popular choices. The pork and onion was a satisfying selection, with perfectly cooked meat with mild sweet onions. For both skewers, they leaned on the salty side, which meant more sips of my Asahi beer.
From the specials board, I got the shishito peppers ($4.50), which were brilliant green with bits of grilled blisters when they arrived. They seemed a bit plain when I ate them, though, but was a nice way for me to get some greens with my dinner.
The ramen choices at Halu are just the cha shu, veggie and fried chicken. So I went with the cha shu (pork) ramen, which came topped with corn, pickled ginger, half a hard-boiled egg and bean sprouts. All of Halu’s ramen are served in the same meat-based broth.
My ramen, while a nice serving, was an average bowl of noodles. With some really good ramen around the Bay Area, I hate to say that Halu doesn’t seem to stack up well against them. The noodles didn’t have much spring, and the broth flavor didn’t seem to have much complexity or body. And the cha shu, which sometimes can really be tender and memorable, was a bit dry and everyday.
I do give major points for the service. This is really a homey, family-run restaurant, and the young servers are friendly and helpful. You really feel welcomed.
While the food at Halu seems a bit standard and not as creative as some of the newbie izakaya, it has a distinctive Rock n’ Roll vibe with a cozy neighborhood feel.
Single guy rating: 3 stars (Yellow Submarine Skewers)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The Rock and Roll Izakaya