If international travel isn’t on your calendar anytime soon, don’t worry! Take a culinary adventure by heading over to Japantown in San Francisco and join Edible Excursions' Japantown food tour. With only three remaining Japantowns in the US, this spot in the bay is definitely something you want to cross off your bucket list. Food tours are my favorite way to learn about a culture whenever I visit a new city!
What a perfect way to start a day out in San Francisco. With coffee and a small pastry from our hotel, we were super excited previewing the list of food we were going to try on our Edible Excursions Food Tour. We took a short Uber ride to Peace Plaza, right in the middle of Japantown. We met Alice, our tour guide and the rest of the tour group. We briefly introduced ourselves, where we came from and why we’re excited to join the tour! Of course, most answers were to explore and get to know the food scene of Japantown. Alice shared her knowledge about the history and culture of Jtown, then we were on to our first stop. After the tour was over we were definitely stuffed! We ate so much food, it felt like we just finished eating at a buffet.
Here are all the stops we got to taste:
1. YakiniQ Cafe - This super cute cafe had a charming vintage vibe. We got to try their specialty sweet potato latte, it was perfect for the chilly SF weather. You definitely have to like the taste of sweet potatoes, but in latte form, it’s very creamy and sweet! They make it with steamed milk, simple syrup and it has no caffeine, so it’s perfect for the kids too. The space is great for studying or catching up with friends or holding meetings. They had paper lanterns to set the ambiance, it’s pretty quiet as well. YakiniQ stocks books and games if you want to chill while sipping lattes.
2. Ramen Yamadaya - After walking through the Buchanan Mall, we stopped at Ramen Yamadaya. This ramen restaurant is well known throughout California, so you know it’ll be good! We walked up a flight of stairs and stopped in front of a sign filled with tips on how to eat your ramen. Then we got seated at the large table in the middle of the restaurant. Alice taught us how to properly open our chopsticks and create a holder out of the paper packaging. She also explained the Japanese phrase “Itadaki masu” which is custom to say before a meal. It appreciates all the hard work that went into preparing the meal. We put our hands together in gratitude before eating our ramen. Our sample was a half bowl of pork broth ramen, and they were generous with the noodles! The bowl included egg, a thick slice of pork, nori seaweed, and of course perfectly cooked ramen noodles! We also got to taste the chicken broth ramen with no meat.
3. Super Mira Market - This Japanese supermarket not only sells groceries, they serve hot food too! We got to try 3 types of okazu, meaning side dishes or small bites. While tasting the fried shrimp, sushi rolls, shredded vegetable, and cold udon soup (super refreshing) Alice explained different types of vegetables and let us look at fermented soybean! After we finished our samples, we walked around the market and looked at their ready to go foods and their delicious cakes!
4. Kissako Tea - Our next stop was this little booth in the mall. The booth is filled with Japanese snacks that if you need a quick bite! First, Alice showed us how to correctly open an onigiri. We got to try the salmon onigiri, these are perfect to take on the go! Next, we all got to taste some mochi with red bean inside. They were the perfect texture and absolutely delicious. We got to wash it down with traditional green tea.
5. Uji Time Dessert - This ice cream shop serves traditional flavors like matcha and black sesame. They’re also known for their Taiyaki fish cone! We arrived shortly after they opened and there was already a line forming out the door. Four our food tour, we got to sample each flavor and decide which was our favorite. Once we voted, they brought out full-sized soft serve ice cream for us to enjoy! Yes, each person got their own cup!
6. Mifune Don - Our next restaurant was just up the stairs from our last stop. Here we got to try Okonomiyaki, a grilled Japanese pancake served in a skillet pan with plenty of ingredients to munch on. The flakes on top were moving when they brought it out, don’t worry it’s not a live animal. We cut it like a pizza pie and served it to everyone in our tour group. Our mixed okonomiyaki had the perfect texture and was so flavorful!
7. Dosa - Our last stop in Japantown was actually Indian food! Dosa is a modern restaurant that now lives in a space that used to be a bank. There are high ceilings and large windows with natural light (great for photos). Here we tasted a lentil cracker with cumin seed for a starter. Then we had a rice and lentil crepe with masala potato filling. This is a popular street food in India! To complement the flavor there were two dipping sauces and one dipping soup which was made out of 37 ingredients!
If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco soon, I highly recommend trying out an Edible Excursions food tour! ARCHEL20 to receive a 20% discount off any public tour except the Ferry Building Food and Alcatraz excursion. Enjoy!