Tried going to Lakuni last night, but it was surprisingly closed at 9pm on a Friday night. I heard about a new izakaya in San Mateo above the Suruki Market on 4th, so my bf and I decided to check on it.
The new place is called Oidon, and the door is located next to the market and marked with handmade signs proclaiming "izakaya" and "several varieties of ramen" (which they only serve at lunch). The scoop: the food is okay, but it is *very* reasonably priced and open til midnight (yay!), which is something that San Mateo has needed for a long time. I'll definitely go here a lot.
Oidon was rather full when we arrived (the place seats 30-40), where we were promptly seated and given warm hand towels. I think we were the only non-Japanese customers there but we were treated well by the friendly waitress, who unfortunately was the only waitperson and so overbooked. The menu has English translations for all but a few of the items, but there's a whiteboard written in Japanese only. However, when we asked, the waitress translated a few of the whiteboard items for us.
The only other izakayas I've had a chance to go to are the San Jose and Santa Clara Tantos (San Jose is definitely better), plus two in Japan, so I couldn't help but compare Oidon to them. The food:
- Radish salad with i-something fish. A good-sized portion of roughly shredded daikon, topped with tiny fried baby sardines (anchovies?) that gave the salad a nice crunch. The soy/vinegar base base for the dressing was a nice complement to the daikon, I thought this dish was pretty good but would've preferred the addition of other veggies than the couple pieces of sliced tomato and broccoli florets. However, it looked better than the other salad on the menu (beef shabu shabu salad), which the next table ordered but didn't finish.
- Slow-cooked pork. Two chunks of fatty pork were served with a large piece of boiled daikon and some spinach in the braising broth, with a dab of mustard on the side. The pork was rather dry, and the whole dish is definitely inferior to Tanto's version, though the radish was a nice homey touch.
- Grilled rice balls. Two balls came out nice and crunchy, but brushed with a bit too much yakitori sauce (IMHO). They didn't have anything inside (unlike at Tanto) and were fine, but not special.
- Chicken balls. The waitress recommended this of the grilled items. These were pretty good for chicken balls -- my bf liked these a bit -- but I thought they could have a bit more flavor.
- Sashimi combo (white board special). A HUGE (compared to Tanto) plate of sashimi arrived. It had about 4-5 pieces each of hamachi (very large pieces, and quite good), maguro (large pieces, but I felt they were a bit too fresh), mirugai (nicely cruncy and sweet), ika (fine), and tai (beautifully-sliced and very good), served with real wasabi but no ginger (though we ate the accompanying shiso leaves). There was about three times as much fish as the sashimi plate at Tanto, so when we got the bill I thought it would be about $40 (the Tanto plate, though slightly better quality, is $28 alone). It's only $15, which is really amazing, and the quality is quite good for the price. However, there were a few issues I found with the cutting of the fish which I've never had before -- one of the hamachi pieces had a sliver of bone, and one of the tai slices still had a fish scale attached.
- Negi Toro. Another white board special. I thought that pieces of toro would be lightly grilled and served with scallions, but instead maguro was chopped and made into balls with the scallions and completely grilled with two pieces of nori. It was served with a dipping sauce very much like a tempura one but not as strong. I wasn't that fond of this dish but my bf liked it.
- Shrimp tempura. We actually had ordered uni chawanmushi (white board special), but it was taking forever to come, so we ordered a shrimp tempura while we were waiting. This was quite good -- the shrimp was perfectly cooked and very fresh tasting, with a light batter.
Unfortunately the waitress forgot to order our chawanmushi (and never gave us the bill, so we didn't know), so we didn't end up getting that. To make up for it, the owner gave my bf a free Sapporo, so we sat there a while longer to finish it up. We didn't leave til 11pm, but I think that the last hour was pretty much waiting for the non-existent chawanmushi :(
The total for the huge feast (I think it would feed four better than two) was only $52, not including tax and tip. Most of the dishes were only $4 to $5. I'll definitely be back to try some of the other things on the menu -- every table around us ordered the steamed clams, so I think that's a specialty -- and of course come for lunch to try their ramen.
4th Avenue (downtown San Mateo by Suzuki Market)
Open: 10am-4pm for lunch (I'm not sure which days)
5.30pm-midnight for dinner (ditto)