First of all, let’s be clear right up front that Mijoté is not a secret. The restaurant opened in April 2022 in the former spot of the dearly missed Sasaki in the Mission and in five short months has become an instant superstar in the Bay Area food scene, written up everywhere and beloved by all. It’s truly hard to exaggerate how quickly Mijoté has become the first place that I think of when I’m dreaming of a place to go the next weekend, the place against which I weigh other possible plans—sure, sounds good, but is it Mijoté?

Nothing is, of course. I first visited towards the tail end of opening week, was hooked from the first bite and sip, and have been back more than a few times since. It’s addictive. One day this summer, I was eating lunch with a friend who was visiting the Bay Area for a couple of days. It was early afternoon, eating at a table on the sidewalk in Berkeley, and I was evangelizing about Mijoté. “It’s the talk of the town,” I said, and not one moment later two complete strangers walked past us on the sidewalk, talking about a new French bistro that they’d heard was the place to try. I rest my case.

My friend scored a last minute reservation at 5pm—too soon after lunch, but what can you do?—and texted me later that evening: “Best. Meal. Ever.” Yeah, it’s that kind of place.

The instant success Kosuke Tada and Grace Mitchell Tada have conjured here isn’t really instant. It’s the product of years of preparation, most recently via the Bistro Kosuke pop-up that by the time of Mijoté’s opening had more than a few people in wild anticipation. I guess now we get to the style: Mijoté is a French bistro, with a stunning natural wine list, and an atmosphere of warmth and joy. The menu is chef’s choice and set daily, with the only decisions required (i) whether to add on a supplementary course or two when they’re offered (obviously yes) and (ii) what to drink (you can’t go wrong, but agonizing over the choice is half the fun).

The cooking is so stunningly good that I am shocked anew at every dish on every visit. The sauces are so intensely perfect that they’ll make your mind go blank for a second as your taste shushes everything else down. The portions are so generous that you’ll leave feeling like you may never be hungry again. The seemingly simple descriptions on the day’s menu card give way to remarkable creativity and flavor combinations that take each ingredient to new heights. Everyone is lovely and everything is perfect.

I love to go out to eat, of course, but what I really love is going out to eat again. Rather than rushing to try every new place, I much prefer to endlessly revisit my favorites, and try a new place every once in a while. I doubt anyone who feels the same way could get through more than fifteen minutes at Mijoté before it became a mainstay of their food rotation. It’s a happy place. I already can’t imagine doing without it.

Mijoté 2400 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 9411


Try: the menu is set, but the wine list is yours to explore


Thanks to a November trip a few years ago, I was recently able to enjoy the famous crab course, which is justly celebrated but seasonal, at Sushidokoro Mekumi in Nonoichi, near Kanazawa. This was perhaps the most memorable meal of the trip since it’s quite a bit different than the usual sushi meal. The amaebi nigiri here made me laugh out loud and was probably my single favorite bite of food of the many meals I enjoyed that month. Thank goodness, since I’d planned the trip to Kanazawa, and the trek from Kanazawa to the anonymous suburban neighborhood where Mekumi is located, in large part to eat here. I’d heard interesting things about the eccentric, workaholic, self-taught, food-science obsessed chef and his particular style of sushi, and I’m very glad I was able to experience it.

Often the Michelin-y feel from a Michelin restaurants is something I find unwelcome and cloying, but I thought that Mekumi really brought out the ways in which aiming for that kind of service, atmosphere, and integrated experience can enhance rather than detract from the meal. There was a slightly larger staff than is typical in a sushi restaurant. The course relies on real-time prep to what seems like a larger extent than straight-up edomae sushi, and the well-practiced coordination between chef Yamaguchi and the rest of the kitchen staff was great to see. The dedicated drinks server was also top class.

The nihonshu selected here was a true pairing, with small (though refillable!) pours microtargeted to dishes during the otsumami course, followed by a specific, larger, refillable pairing for the nigiri course. I generally take a dim view of this kind of specific pairing not just for sushi meals but for any cuisine, but if they were all as electric as this one I would happily revise that opinion. It felt like I was able to taste some remarkable bottles in their best light with no fuss. The selection leaned towards more new-school sake: bright, effervescent, fruit flavor dominant, and a wonderful match for the richness of the parade of crabs and the satisfying sushi that followed. Ishikawa prefecture sake is truly a marvel.

Kanazawa in general has a lovely vibe. There’s a famous garden, Kenroku-en, a fantastic contemporary art museum, great stores, great bars… but I think that this outstanding meal at Mekumi colored my whole weekend visit to the city. The charm, serenity, and quality of the experience here really put a spring in my step, and I would not hesitate to make the train journey out from Tokyo again to visit again if I have the chance.

Mekumi Nonoichi, Shimobayashi, 4 Chome-48

Try: don’t pass up the drink pairing!


Part of the nigiri course at Sasaki during outdoor dining (kanpachi, akami, kinmedai, kohada)

Sasaki is my favorite edomae sushi in the Bay Area, and I truly appreciate their efforts during the pandemic to offer delicious meals in a safe, thoughtful outdoor setting. As a certified sushi addict, I have been able to enjoy a couple of very special, safe meals in a year when that has been in short supply.

The sushi rice at Sasaki is as good a match for my taste as any I’ve had the pleasure to try in the U.S., with a wonderful punch that in my opinion particularly complements neta like akami, kanpachi, and uni because those toppings have a slow-release flavor—I enjoy a brief punch of the perfectly sour rice before it is joined by the flavor of the neta. It’s really the kind of sushi that as soon as I’m finished with a piece, I feel almost angry that it’s over! That fleeting feeling, the sensation of instant nostalgia, is one of the reasons for that sushi addiction that leads me back to places like Sasaki again and again!

I’ve always felt welcome here. It’s a down-to-earth, simple spot, in the kind of way that shows how much experience and expertise is part of every detail, from the thoughtful drinks menu to the perfect service. Whenever I need a place to eat sushi in the Bay Area (and, so help me, it happens a lot!) you’ll find me here, enjoying every moment!

Sasaki 2400 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Try: whatever else you drink, I recommend a Premium Malts on draft to start!

Seven Lives

Back when I lived in Toronto, Seven Lives was one of my favorite spots in town. Sometimes my Toronto years feel like a half-recalled dream or a story told to me about a stranger. I had just enough time to start to get a real handle on the city, and then I left. If you handed me a plate from Seven Lives, though, there would be no distance at all between me and the memory. To this day the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten, somehow someway in frosty Toronto, far away from the nearest ocean. The Gobernador is justly famous (smoked fish, shrimp, cheese) but the Diabla is my pick for most valuable taco (shrimp in chipotle cream sauce); you can’t go wrong.

In the heart of Kensington Market, Seven Lives was kinda sorta on my walk from home to office (or, at least, worth the ten minute detour) and back in the day a quick ceviche and agua fresca fix was one of the few reliable ways to fill my motivation bar for a day’s work. Or, on the way home, a couple of tacos for an early-ish dinner to pair with a cocktail at Cold Tea (R.I.P. Cold Tea)… you see, just thinking about Seven Lives takes me right back to it. When I can visit Toronto again, there’s no place that will be higher on my food list than this.

Seven Lives Tacos y Mariscos 72 Kensington Avenue, Toronto, ON

Try: the Diabla, but you’ll be back to try ’em all


Hashiguchi was, a few years back, my first experience of the world of fancy sushi. It will always have a special place for me. I remember that on the day of my first visit I was anxious to get the “etiquette” right, having read so much about the severe environment and rigid rules of Tokyo sushi restaurants.

Looking back now I can laugh. First of all, despite what you read online, anyone with even a moderate amount of self-awareness will be just fine in a Tokyo sushi restaurant. All that you need is to be respectful, willing to eat what is put in front of you, and open to having a good time and there is nothing at all to worry about.

Second, Hashiguchi is maybe the last sushi shop where you would get a frosty reception. The vibe is calm and understated in the extreme, almost sleepy, which I really don’t at all mean as a criticism. The pace of things inside the restaurant a notch slower than in the real world outside, and the husband-and-wife team are truly lovely and quick with smiles and laughs. The counter here is relatively spacious, and unlike shops that serve a regimented two full seatings a night, here there is one seating per night and starting times are staggered. This makes things a bit more personal and tailored, as is the case at Sushi Take. Photography is not allowed: this is between you and the chef, not the outside world! With such a welcoming environment, I couldn’t have asked for a kinder, gentler introduction to the cuisine that immediately got me completely hooked.

Comparing the sushi itself to other restaurants, the taste of the sushi matches the demeanor of chef Hashiguchi perfectly. You will be asked at the start of the meal whether you want a sashimi and sushi course, or just sushi. Either is good—when I’ve had the sashimi course, it included some fantastic shellfish like mirugai that the sushi course did not feature, and when I’ve had the sushi course only I got a couple of really outstanding maki rolls at the end since I was still a bit hungry after the nigiri sequence. If I had to pick I would say go for the full set with sashimi to take full advantage of the day’s produce.

Those nigiri, by the way, are large in size, with a simple, clean flavor on the shari that lets you taste the ingredients in a direct, unfussy way. Other shops favor shari with a more noticeable and intense vinegar flavor, and that is delicious too, but the taste here matches the humble nature of the restaurant and really has its hooks in my memory. I’ve found the hikarimono nigiri particularly good here: iwashi, kohada, and aji all stand out, the subtle oily nature of those fish really framed perfectly by the understated shari. The big difference that choices like these make to the overall impression of the meal is something I find really cool about sushi.

Popular opinion has this as one of the most highly regarded sushi restaurants in town, an impressive feat considering that it is not a place chasing hype or with an Instagram hashtag churning out photos of the food. Reservations are difficult. However, the “secrecy” here is, refreshingly, not about elitism or creating some mystique, but rather just about keeping things relaxed and simple. It’s simply a great meal in a cozy environment, to be enjoyed without worrying about anything else.

Hashiguchi 1 Chome-5-20 Motoakasaka, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0051, Japan

Standard Fare

Standard Fare is the very ideal of a lunch spot. Right down the block Third Culture in West Berkeley—making for an irresistible one-two punch—this place is bursting with freshness and taste. I seriously don’t know how they manage to make everything on the daily-changing lunch menu so packed with flavor.

On paper it’s simple enough, with soups, sandwiches, salads, and sweets that at first made me think I knew what I was getting in for. But wow, things here are really so much more than how they seem on paper. How many sandwiches have you had for lunch in your life and how many really stand out? I am a huge sandwich fan and I have really strong opinions about sandwiches, so I hope you believe me when I say that Standard Fare’s sandwiches are in the very top tier I’ve ever had. There are other sandwich places I love, to be sure, with distinct styles and therefore distinct places in my heart. But what distinguishes things here is the whack of pure flavor. The common thread among the ever-changing offerings is the bright, tangy, acidic, herb-y punch (seemingly delivered in a different way by different ingredients each time) that elevates all of them to another level. Every day there is one vegetarian and one meat or fish sandwich, and I have never been let down by any of them. A special place in my memory is reserved for examples built around line-caught lingcod and around garlicky kale, but I could go on.

It’s certainly not all about sandwiches though, and I’ve been more than happy with the daily lunch plate specials and the salads as well. This is a super casual spot, easy to eat at regularly, with lots of seating outside to enjoy some nice East Bay weather. There are few places I know of that work both as an everyday spot if you are lucky enough to live or work nearby and also as a really satisfying reason to make a special trip from slightly further in the area. Standard Fare is definitely one of them!

Standard Fare 2701 Eighth Street, Berkeley, CA, 94710

Try: any sandwich

big king

big king is that place that I will always drag you to if you’re in town. Partly because I really want other people to love it as much as I do—and partly because I selfishly will use any excuse to go. This is a restaurant very dear to my heart!

This restaurant is chef James Mark’s second one in Providence, and took over the location of his first one, north. But things look a bit different these days. When that wonderful restaurant got all grown up and moved to its new spot in the Dean Hotel in downtown Providence, its tiny space got an absolutely beautiful redesign. It’s downright classy. As you enter, there are a few counter seats in front of seafood prep, and moving down the narrow space a few seats at the bar counter. Behind the bar are a some cool, small shelves with extremely tempting whiskies on display. Center of attention—and almost exactly dead center of the whole small room—is the long row of big sake bottles on the bar counter, a mission statement right in your face. At the end of the counter, two booths to fit four people each close around a small table, and beyond those the walkway to the kitchen, through which chefs will come bearing gifts all evening long.

View this post on Instagram

New sign, who dis?

A post shared by big king (@bigkingpvd) on

The food menu is handwritten daily in a notebook, which, if you’re the curious type, lets you travel back in time by flipping back through the old pages. As you might guess, things here are swift and seasonal. There’s typically two sets, one four dishes and one six, and a few a la carte dishes. Nothing is heavy or hard to eat so you can really go for it with the menu. I could go on and on about the amazing things I’ve eaten here. Cabbage or spring onion or chicken hearts off the charcoal grill. Nigiri with mackerel, or sardine, or live scallop. A dish of tempura potato with Japanese curry that spawns addictions. Astonishing sauces and dashis. The soufflé cheesecake that is one of the best desserts I ever had.

Sitting in one of those booths, in a place so small it feels like you’re in on a secret, sharing a bottle of sake with friends, plate after delicious plate hitting the table—it must be the most comfortable place in the world. I’m trying hard not to use the word “intimate” here because it seems like such a cliche, but when something this good is so humble and relaxed, when your hosts are all so positive and talented, when everything feels personal, it seems alright. I guess I’ll forgive myself in this case.

I’ve been lucky to have had many fun evenings with friends at big king. But I still get excited before every visit. I still try to find a way to order everything on the menu every time, and I still find the conversation getting louder and happier with eat bite and sip. Like a kind and generous friend, this is a place that you want to hang out with whenever you can.

big king 231 Carpenter St, Providence, RI 02903


This casual spot near Suitengumae serves a pretty distinctive version of oyakodon that I thought was really tasty. This was one of those dishes that has a lot of food but is really easy to eat. There is a rich flavor that had me eating bite after bite with hardly a pause, but it’s not too heavy so that I (mercifully) didn’t suffer too much for my gluttony. I ate it on a drizzly Saturday for lunch before heading to a baseball game and it fit that kind of day perfectly.

The chicken here is cooked over charcoal and comes out smoky and, unusually, quite dry. That means that this isn’t a silky smooth oyakodon with juicy chicken and barely-set eggs. This one is much more like a contrast between the textures of the chicken and the egg. I think it works. The smoky char of the chicken holds in flavor in a really interesting way and goes great with the rich dashi on the eggs. The effect is a bit like American barbecue, where a good charred meat and a rich barbecue sauce go together perfectly. It’s the same kind of principle here—with completely different flavors, of course!

For a neighborhood place, Bonbori is surprisingly spacious and bright inside and it has a pretty stress-free vibe. If you happen to find yourself in the area, I think this is a nice place for a cheap, delicious meal.

Bonbori 1-chome-5-1 Nihonbashikakigaracho, Chuo City, Tokyo

Last visited: Summer 2019

Tips: seems to be busy during the week but much quieter on the weekend


Hakkoku is a cool place. The interior of the restaurant is spacious, airy, and mellow, with three six-seat sushi counters, spacious and separated by shoji screens, and kind of new-agey ambient music playing in the background. The decor is elegant and classy. It’s almost like an exclusive spa in some ways—which feels weird to say, but there we are!

The food, by the way, is remarkable. The course here is (notoriously) fully thirty nigiri with some palate cleansers mixed in—no otsumami here. It’s kind of relentless, but in a good way that I really enjoyed. So many of the nigiri are unusual, or surprising, or simply more delicious than I’m used to, but there isn’t too much time to reflect before it’s on to the next. Despite that I didn’t find it overwhelming though, but instead an amazing crescendo that swept me along in a memorable way. It had the effect of harnessing everything to the beautiful shari that keeps the whole course together and is more than delicious enough to support it.

Mushiawabi, botan ebi, and ankimo were among the ingredients that took on a new profile for me as nigiri rather than their more common guise of otsumami. On the drinks side, I left sake selections up to my hosts, and was rewarded with several great glasses. All around, this was a very satisfying meal that I would happily eat again and again.

The fact that there are three counters makes this restaurant perhaps a bit more accessible than other places in town. I sat with Chef Hiroyuki Sato at the first counter—he is a great host, open-minded and wryly funny with a calm demeanor that fits the vibe perfectly. His Instagram account is a fun one as he is often traveling on his so-called “world tour” to bring Hakkoku’s sushi to far-flung corners of the world, and sometimes posts live video from the Toyosu fish market for a fun behind-the-scenes look at the world of Tokyo sushi.

I think the things that make Hakkoku a little different are exactly the things that make it worth visiting—I found the ethos to be clear, consistent, and self-justifying, with nothing done simply for its own sake. The quality and ambition are second to none, and that’s a very impressive thing indeed!

Hakkoku 3F, 6-7-6, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Last visited: Summer 2019


There’s no shortage of amazing food in Copenhagen but Vækst really sticks in my memory. When I visited Copenhagen there was a heatwave that locals assured me was seriously unusual. The setting at Vækst is a beautiful, airy greenhouse-like space that, under the circumstances, turned out to be a perfect spot for lunch on my first day in town.

The vibe of the place is light and casual, matching the setting. I ordered the vegetarian lunch menu and both on paper and when it arrived to the table it also looked consistent with that theme. But I was totally surprised by how it tasted! Dishes with pea greens and asparagus at their base had a really great depth that made them both fresh and strangely rich. It’s always fun to be humbled by superficially simple-looking food, and I definitely had that feeling here. Vegetables, herbs, grains, and oils added up to something really satisfying. I really felt like I could taste each ingredient distinctly and together at the same time.

As an added bonus, this restaurant is relatively affordable—by Copenhagen standards at least! It’s true what they say about the cost of visiting here, but it’s well worth it. By the way, I thought the Design Museum was excellent, if you like that kind of thing!

Vækst Sankt Peders Stræde 34, 1453 København, Denmark

Visited: Summer 2018