Izakaya? I finally get it. We had to go to Walnut Creek last night, so we decided to avoid the traffic and have dinner in Oakland. (The new Caldecott Tunnel can’t come soon enough!!)

We’ve been to Ozumo in San Francisco and Oakland many times. The downtown San Francisco spot opened in 2001, and Oakland appeared December 2008. Owner Jeremy Umland spent several years in Japan and has created two beautiful spots. (Word is that there’s an Ozumo opening soon in Santa Monica as well as the Sonoma Wine Bar near that new location.) Back to Oakland – there’s a burst of restaurants in the Broadway/Grand corridor. Luka’s TapRoom was one of the first. It’s now joined by Ozumo, Pican, and Betty’s Bake Sale. Soon to join the mix is Daniel Patterson’s Plum.

We normally opt to sit at the sushi bar. Last night, we sat at a table and reviewed the menu for the first time in a long time. The restaurant has a beautiful long bar with a dining space in the rear complete with sushi bar and Robata grill. The surroundings are very peaceful and beautiful.

Izakaya seems to be the local craze with Ozumo in the forefront. Izakaya is Japanese for small plates, only they aren’t so small at Ozumo! In Japan, as at Ozumo, one will find these pubs offering small plates and a Robata grill which provides small skewers of veggies and meats. The Ozumo menu is full of delectable tastes. The wait staff is well-trained for knowledgeable, impeccable, attentive service. Jorie (short for Marjorie – cute!!) was our waitperson and guided us through our selections. Jorie also had a very good understanding of the pages of sake offerings. Sad to say that I forgot to write down our sake choice. (Jorie – if you’re reading, help me out!) It was dry and delicious and paired well with all of our choices.

We started with Sake Zan Mai ($15). The menu describes it as ‘house cured salmon sashimi, salmon skin and ikura , with daikon, cucumber and momiji dressing’. Jorie explained that the salmon is lightly cured in nori, so one doesn’t taste smoke, but rather more ocean flavor. There were five slices of salmon on the bed of crudite. Small slices of salmon skin topped each slice with the dressing drizzled on the side. The salmon skin was slightly chewy, and the ikura added an intense pop of salmon flavor. Delightful. Jorie says it’s the chef’s favorite dish.

Next, Dohyo ($14). Described as ‘sashimi tuna tartare with avocado cream and spicy tofu, served with gyoza chiped and endive spears for dipping. Dave and I have long been using endive as ‘chips’ as we continue to focus on a low-carb, low glycemic diet. The combination was molded in a ring with the endive jutting out from it. Gyoza chips were served on the side. Somehow or other, these guys chopped the tofu to a similar consistency of the avocado, so each bite was uniform and tasty, although I would have preferred a little more spice in the tofu. I will certainly ‘borrow’ this effort for a future meal with guests at home.

Hanabi ($16) arrived at the table next. It is a dish with ‘slices of hamachi and avocado drizzled with warm ginger and jalapeno ponzu sauce. The flavors were perfectly matched, and even with the spice, the hamachi ruled the dish. The avocado leant itself to the buttery texture of the dish.

Hanabi by Ozumo


We ordered one final Izakaya dish (silly me forgot to write down the name) which consisted of crispy Kurobuta pork belly bites, with cucumber and pickled onion and a spicy miso paste on one side and mustard on the other. EIGHT slices of pork – yummy, but are you seeing what I mean about small plates? These are medium plates. We were getting full quickly.

kurobuta by Ozumo


From the Robata grill, we ordered Bakon Tomato – cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon. Three tomatoes were on the two skewers. The tomatoes burst in your mouth with the crunchy bacon providing a contrasting texture. The Kinoko had two skewers, one of shiitake mushrooms and one of king or trumpet mushrooms, grilled to perfection.

Robata Grill by Ozumo

Robata Grill

We had hoped to order two rolls after that, but we were simply too full. But, let me take a minute to describe the two we had yearned for. We’ll definitely be back to try them. The first was the Ozumo Roll ($15). It has unagi and cucumber topped with snow crab, maguro, avocado and spicy sauce. The second is called Sekiwake Roll ($14). A spicy tuna roll is served with tobiko, tempura flakes, salmon, hamachi and all of it is accompanied with peanut sauce.

Dave and I have long been fans of Nobu with his restaurants all over the world. We kept reminiscing about how much Ozumo’s food reminds us of Nobu’s, but the price at Ozumo is palatable. Sushi and sashimi are also served. We’re told that the signature dish of the restaurant is the black cod which is on our list for a future visit.

Ozumo Wrap-Up

Price: $$$

Really Good

Good Things

  • Lots of selections
  • Beautiful environment at both locations
  • Knowledgeable wait staff

Bad Things

  • Parking in San Francisco is difficult

The Breakdown


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