Get a new take on Japanese food and drink at Russian Hill’s Nisei and partner bar Iris

Do you like ramen, tempura, and spicy tuna rolls? So do we, but you won’t find them on the menu at Nisei, Chef David Yoshimura’s premier restaurant, who honors his Japanese-American heritage with a 12-course menu inspired by Japanese home cooking.

The Houston-born chef, who hails from the fine cuisines of New York’s WD ~ 50 and San Francisco’s Californios, immersed himself in Washoku cuisine during his internship at Kagurazaka Ishikawa, Tokyo’s three-star restaurant, Kagurazaka Ishikawa. . At Nisei, he presents a Japanese dining experience new to San Franciscans, which focuses on balancing flavors and seasonal ingredients.


Parting off the noren (a Japanese curtain) hanging in the black doorway, you enter a large, mostly black minimalist space, kept awake by white banquettes, gold and red accents, and colorful paintings by a local artist. Maya fuji. This alternate but daring theme sets the tone for the chef’s Californian-Washoku tasting menu ($ 184), in which the carefully crafted dishes are all small and simple yet bursting with flavor.

scallop, pine nut miso, turnip, mountain watercress

A scallop with pine nut miso, turnip and mountain watercress.(Courtesy of Nisei)

Each class balances tradition with a modern twist and a killer presentation. A plain Santa Barbara croquette, for example, is served in a traditional masu cup, with a smoked pepper relish. A mini dorayaki (similar to a pancake) is filled with banana cream and topped with caviar. The Japanese black curry is accompanied by sweetbread and chanterelles, while the black truffle is grated on a pumpkin chawanmushi. On our visit, a trio of desserts included Okinawan sweet potatoes with black sesame sand and strawberries, and a creamy chestnut milk mochi donut.

Since the place is literally run by sommeliers – Yoshimura, general managers Ian Cobb (Californios, Atelier Crenn) and Mayanka Somiah (Quince, Californios) and bar manager Ilya Romanov (Niku Steakhouse, Bergerac) are all certified summs – you can expect an expert wine program. The pairing (for an additional $ 105) proves that Japanese cuisine can pair perfectly with a Barolo, a Grüner Veltliner, or even a Pinot Noir.

At Iris, Faithful Fool combines calvados, yuzu sake and green apple.(@equal_parts_cocktail)

If you like cocktails, Nisei has a surprise in store for you: the perfectly relaxed adjacent bar, Iris. Dressed in mid-century modern furnishings, the living room has an elegant – dare we say sexy – vibe, and it’s here that Romanov’s mixology skills shine in playful and inventive Japanese-inspired drinks.

You’ll probably want to soak up the menu of six exclusive concoctions, including the refreshing Faithful Fool (calvados, yuzu sake and green apple), the creamy and tropical Okinawa (rum, Okinawan yam, oat milk and plum) and, our favorite, the Linda Linda (clarified milk punch with floral undertones). The hand-cut ice cubes are crystal clear and the straws are made of metal, which adds to the freshness factor. Iris also serves a small selection of izakaya-style bites, including chicken karaage, smoked eel with black curry, and Hog Island oysters. There is also a selection of Japanese whiskeys and an elegant parklet.

Who’s up for dinner and drinks?

// Nisei, 2316 Polk Street (Russian Hill), restaurantnisei.com

The parklet in Iris.(@equal_parts_cocktail)



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