Intriguing Asian hotspots Muguboka, Ramen Shop, and Roku arouse the senses
During opening weeks, I went straight for dishes I've never tried, including shio-kara ($4): room temperature, fermented squid swimming in its own innards. Salty and gummy, it is, as the menu states,"an acquired taste." Likewise, hotate butter ($12) topped with vivid orange tobiko (fish roe) is unexpected. Scallops are sautéed in butter, but unlike most of our Westernized experiences with the succulent bivalve, the stomach and membrane skirt are left around the scallop flesh. Call it umami, call it funky, the taste is more accurately both. Look elsewhere for better well-known izakaya favorites — Roku's rare dishes with bold flavor make it interesting.
Best dish: a surprisingly good seafood salad ($13) in an izakaya, laden with red king crab and smoked salmon, tobiko, boiled eggs, yellow bell pepper, and tomatoes over romaine, bright in a yuzu wasabi dressing. Best suited for: The hardcore who want authentic dishes they won't find on typical menus. Also for groups of friends.
1819 Market, SF. (415) 861-6500, www.rokusf.com
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