Had lunch there today. They opened yesterday with a limited menu. Overall we loved it: the food was high-quality and varied, with few concessions to non-Japanese tastes. The concept is Japanese temple food -- vegetarian (I think vegan, actually), mild flavors, emphasis on presentation. The restaurant is the end spot of the Crocker Galleria 3rd floor (Sutter between Montgomery and Kearney), with a wall of windows onto Sutter. The look is all horizontal wood tables and benches. Though the food is supposed to be meditative, the vibe even when empty feels like the bustling Wagamama noodle chain.
The soba soup noodles were the best soba noodles I've had. Toothsome and wheaty, the noodles are handmade and frozen, yielding a density that contrasts the gentle broth well.
The tempura was perfectly fried, with light batter on still-crisp vegetables. Especially good were the crunchy lotus root and the corn: the corn was individual kernels held together with the tempura batter, which mysteriously remained light despite the amount of batter.
Three kinds of tofu. We had the "fresh artisan tofu" with grated daikon, which was hearty and grainy. It is made by Basic Soy, which sells tofu at the farmers markets locally. We also had the "sesame 'tofu'" -- with is actually not soy-based but is sesame custard thickened with kudzu root, served with soy and wasabi. Though awkward to eat (it kept sliding around on the pool of liquid), the texture was creamy and the taste was clean. Finally, we had the matcha tofu dessert, strongly flavored, grainy, and sweet. All three were a delight.
Nothing we ordered was a disappointment.
Much of the menu isn't available yet. I'm looking forward to trying the yuba (soy milk skin) sashimi and the kuzukiri (clear gelatin noodles for dipping in a sweet molasses-like sauce).
It is expensive. We ate $16-worth each and weren't full. This isn't supposed to be Maggiano's -- one isn't supposed to waddle away stuffed -- but it ain't cheap.
I'm eager to go back for the fuller menu.
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