After the heat of Napa, San Francisco was a shock to the system, with a cold wind whipping off the bay waters. Undeterred, we sallied forth with La Reine Fille (don’t call her Princess) to her favourite local sushi bar, Ryoko’s.

This basement wonder on Taylor Street has been packing in the crowds for 23 years. La Reine Fille discovered it shortly after moving to San Fran a few years ago and regaled Greedy Girl with stories of the cross-cultural dishes on offer.

How cross-cultural can you get? Generally, when it comes to the US, there’s peanut butter involved. And so it came to pass that Greedy Girl, gluttonous husband and La Reine Fille sat down to a feed of ‘Volcano’ – a sushi roll featuring shrimp tempura, cucumber, flying fish roe, peanut butter and jalapenos. More on that later.

Ryoko’s opens sharp at 6pm each night and goes on to the wee hours of the morning. There’s a queue forming from about 5.45 this particular Sunday and the basement restaurant is almost completely full immediately. People are constantly waiting on the stairs, or perched on the seat behind a rather large grand piano. Le Reine Fille explains the space is often used later at night by a DJ.

Settling in with rather large bottles of Asahi and Kirin beers, we got La Reine Fille to order, after asking for some edamame to accompany the beer.

First up was the aforementioned ‘Volcano’ rolls and another sushi dish called ‘checkerboard’.

Ryoko's San Francisco

Volcano and checkerboard sushi rolls

Checkerboard (on the left of the picture, above) was essentially crab and avocado rolls with assorted tuna and yellowtail on top. They were absolutely delicious. Volcano (pictured above, right) were an absolute revelation. Like the foie gras and satay at  Bacchanalia in Singapore, it’s hard to get your head around the combination. The crunchiness of the tempura shrimp mixed unbelievably well with a slick of peanut butter, as well as the saltiness of the roe. Things were softened by the sushi rice and nori and then a whack from the jalapenos came in at the end. Wow. A taste sensation. They were so good, we ordered another serving and the chef this time must have left a few seeds in the chillis – they were much hotter than the first.

But there was other food to come. We had two courses of sashimi – the salmon and snapper pictured at the top of this blog, and some tuna and hamachi belly.

Ryoko's San Francisco

Tuna and hamachi belly

The tuna was a luscious, deep ruby and promptly went down the hatch after being dipped in a little soy and wasabi. The hamachi, a type of yellowtail tuna, was buttery and rich. Delish. Our other sashimi plate featured a delightful salmon as well as snapper with the skin still on. This was a little strong tasting for Greedy Girl but gluttonous husband and La Reine Fille were happy to hoover.
Being a cold night, we opted for some hot dishes – delightful pork gyoza and a special prawn tempura, done ‘tonkatsu’-style with breadcrumbs.

Ryoko's San Francisco


Ryoko's San Francisco

Prawn tempura tonkatsu-style

The prawns, while a lovely flavour, were a bit stodgy with the breadcrumb coating. They were served with a choice of a tartare or plum sauce.

We drained the last of the beer and prepared to head out. The queue was covering the entrance staircase.

Ryoko’s is one of those haunts you’d probably never find without local knowledge. During the day, boarded up and without any illuminated sign, you’d walk past the entrance to the basement without a second glance. It’s a fun, noisy and lively place. A great option for a light dinner in San Fran’s Union Square neighbourhood.


619 Taylor Street, San Francisco

Ryoko's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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