Last week another chowhound and I met for a quick dinner at Usagi, a yoshoku-style restaurant in San Mateo. A first time for both of us, and we liked it so much, certainly not the last.
It was impossible to whittle down the many things on the menu we wanted to try to just two dishes. Luckily the prices are reasonable enough that it was affordable to order the three that appealed to us the most. We expected leftovers but we polished off everything. We ordered:
Spicy cod roe cream pasta, $10: Mentaiko spaghetti is one of my favorites of the genre. The style I favor is made with cream and not that easy to find. I was happy to see that Usagi prepares it this way, then topped with toasty nori shreds. The cream's reduced to thicken enough to coat the pasta without weighing it down. The spiked cod roe is dabbed on top so that the diner can mix in as much or as little to individual preference. We incorporated it all, and I could have used an additional amount for more heat. Still, I was happy with this version.
Hamburg steak doria, $11.75: While I've only had Hambāgu a handful of times, there's something so comforting and satisfying about this meatloaf-like prep. Usagi's delivers that plus a lot of finesse in this option. Ordered "doria", the base is rice creamy with bechamel, baked with a thick layer of cheese, then topped with the hamburg steak napped with luxurious demi-glace. An extraordinarily rich casserole, yet so delectable, it was really hard to stop eating it even after we were more than full.
Usagi omelet rice with 1/2 hayashi sauce and 1/2 curry sauce, $13: While the most homely (and homey) of our choices, this one showed off the skill of the chef the best. I've never been a fan of omurice, not liking the ketchup-y sauces and the typically dried-out and toughened egg omelet. In marked contrast, here the moist omelet's unbelievably fluffy and delicate. The plain white rice was perfectly cooked, pearly grains. The curry side of the plate was a wonderful rendition with cubes of tender beef and root vegetables in a mild but complex sauce. Even more interesting to me was the hayashi side, a glossy sauce our server had described as "beef stew". Oh what a stew! The sliced mushrooms, onion, deep meatiness, and red wine notes reminded me of boeuf bourguignon but richer. Apparently it is made with demi-glace and then finished with a drizzle of cream over the plate.
With a couple of iced rice green teas (refillable), our tab with tax and generous tip came to $49. In theory, this should have fed three people.
What else is good here?
More photos at Usagi,
505 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
More about Usagi,