Now, although I used to live nearby, I’m not really into eating anything remotely “Asian” in the Marina. Just seems like it might be a little…um…Marina-fied. I sort of like to hit those Mom and Pop places, where the decor is slightly off-putting, but the food is really from the heart. Well, slap in the face, because I found an izakaya that I want to wed, marry, and bear its children, it’s so good. And it’s smack dab in the middle of the Marina, on Steiner and Chestnut.
In fact, one of my top 10 dishes in San Francisco resides at Chotto. Chef Armanda Justo (of Spain, not Japan, but with formidable Japanese cuisine training) puts out what I like to call “Death Row Ramen.” As in, that ramen is so f’n good that I want it for my last meal. It hurts my heart (and my stomach) that I can’t eat that ramen weekly. Even more painful is that the rest of the food is incredibly tasty, with authentic touches strewn throughout. Chef Justo, please please please let me be your best friend.
Let me show you why Chef Justo, as far as I’m concerned, is the most popular kid at school:
The uni hotate. Slices of scallop with uni sandwiched between. A little umeboshi garnish on top, along with a drizzle of shiso oil.The kara-age (read: fried chicken). The tontoro (pork cheek skewer).A lovely gift from the chef because the hamachi was awesome that day. Hamachi with daikon, ponzu, and green onion.
The bacon wrapped mochi, served piping hot.
The karamiso tonkatsu RAMEN. Oh man, look at it. This is the spicy version and it’s mellow, yet persistent heat seriously had me slurping for more. Best yet? They do a Happy Hour special where you can get ramen and a draft beer for $13. (For those of you that need to know more, Chef Justo makes the pork miso broth over a 48 time period. The noodles are locally made and sourced. Then, plenty of veggies are added like bamboo shoots and bean sprouts. Of course, there’s a layer of chashu for more porky-goodness. Add sesame seeds and chives/chive oil, and voila! Done! Unless you’re me, and you add the egg.)The kakuni (kurobota pork belly with sweet miso mustard). We got this at the recommendation of the chef and he did not steer us wrong. Just look at those layers of fat! Huh-muh-na, huh-muh-na!The kamo (duck breast skewer with homemade teriyaki).
By the way, Bauer loves this joint. It’s one of his favorite izakayas in the city, and most recently, raved about the tsukune (the meatballs). Here’s his two cents.