After a couple of weeks visiting my folks, my brother and I had a perfect opportunity to hang out for few days without Mom and Dad (they went on vacation in Yosemite National Park near the end of my visit to celebrate Mom’s official retirement). My brother and I spoke about Japanese food quite a lot during my stay,  and we had even tried to track down some authentic ingredients for the beef and shrimp donabe and beef curry dishes we made, but the only Asian market was clear on the other side of town, which is kind of strange with a significant number of the Chinese, Japanese, Loatian and Vietnamese restaurants in town….

Anyway, we decided to make a stop at Japantown in San Francisco on the way back to my house instead, since it was actually more convenient, believe it or not. We had a great time, which is funny to say, since we basically went grocery shopping. We also did not get along when we were younger, I am feel very fortunate that he and I have become more mature. Not only can we tolerate each other, we actually want spend time together. What a relief!

Daiso is a big discount store in Japantown that sells most of their merchandise for $1.50 (online their items are sold only in bulk). They have all sorts of stuff, from dishes and figurines to fedoras and beauty products, including some items I thought were a bit odd, like disposable underwear; on the other hand, the store also had a ton of cute and useful things, too. I was totally surprised the store had so many sushi-making tools  and bento box lunch making tools (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I bought a table-side purse hook, bamboo crochet hook, LED flashlight, knee-high and toe socks, skinny metal chopsticks, calligraphy brushes, and fruit chew and herbal hard candies. It’s a great little department store with a wide variety of items that periodically changes by the season. If you are in Japantown, stop by and visit; you should really take the time to look through all of the aisles. Who knows what amazing deals and treasures you’ll find tucked away.

Ichiban Kan is also a discount department store, but sadly they have raised their prices dramatically since my last visit and are now more of a general store. Like Daiso, they have a wide assortment of items, which is impressive, since they are less than half the size. They do carry some nice, useful and cute items though. I bought my favorite three-tiered bunny bento box, blue ceramic sushi dishes and adorable large kitty throw pillow there. By brother found a big package of S & B medium-hot Japanese curry roux, the same kind we used in our beef curry dinner, but it was twice as big for the same price.

Sanko Cooking Supplies is a great store. When we went, most everything (at least in the front half) was on sale, plus another 10% off. The prices were rather amazing! I’ve been thinking of getting a sushi oko (the round wooden rice cooling tub for making sushi rice), but when I saw the the kit, I realized I don’t really need one or have the space for such a big thing that I’d probably barely use. It was nice to see so many donabe there in various sizes. They had quite a selection of fine quality stainless steel food preparation knives; I was looking for a ceramic chef’s knife or cleaver though. Ceramic blades are better for cutting fruit and vegetables, like this one, since they discourage oxidation, unlike metal knives and utensils. Their whole back room is absolutely lovely and filled with gorgeous tableware, tea cups and pots, furniture, clothing, figurines, and amazingly realistic resin-cast food sets (I think they are placed at ancestral shrines).

Kippu is a brand new wonderful restaurant with great prices, friendly service, delicious food, and an inviting family atmosphere. My brother and I received so many complimentary side dishes that I’m surprised we didn’t have any leftovers; to be fair, we had a rather late lunch while we were there, which means we were two very hungry people. The waiters gave us extra salad with a tasty dressing, colorful mild chili in-the-pod edamame  (I’ve never seen them served that way before), soothing jasmine green tea and comforting miso soup, and those free foods were in addition to the dishes we already requested! I ordered futomaki (a vegetarian sushi roll with sweet scrambled eggs, Japanese pickles and fresh vegetables) and a three-item bento box lunch of seaweed salad (I thought about ordering a two-item bento….), vegetable tempura and avocado maki, which came with a dressed green salad (so that was two of green salads in reality), white rice and miso soup. My brother ordered beef soba soup (so two soups for him and a dressed salad on the house). The diners at the table next to ours ordered the Flaming Dragon specialty sushi rolls, which contained tempura shrimp, crab, spicy tuna, salmon, yellow tail, tuna and tobiko (flying fish roe) “with fire”. It certainly was exciting! The sushi roll was a wrapped in foil, set on a plate over a highly combustible alcohol set alight. Everything we had tasted amazing! We were both very impressed and stuffed full of delicious foods. I’m surprised they didn’t have to roll us out the door! It’s a good thing we didn’t have any “wafer-thin mints.” 😉 I will definitely go back the next time I’m in Japantown; I highly recommend this restaurant!

Hang in there for more of our Japantown adventure! I’ll post the second half very soon. Enjoy!

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