San Francisco Eats – Hitachino Beer & Wagyu
Nest is best! Hitachino Nest Beer is a craft brewery created in 1823 in Hitachi, Japan, located in the Ibaraki prefecture outside of Tokyo. I’ve been a huge fan ever since being introduced to Hitachino Nest’s White Ale beer in California during a work trip. It’s hard to find Hitachino beers in Vancouver, so I take advantage of the convenience of finding it in California on my visits. Thanks to San Francisco Eater, I found out that Chef Noriyuki Sugie has recently opened Hitachino Beer & Wagyu near Union Square in San Francisco, Hitachino’s first restaurant in North America.
As Hitachino Beer & Wagyu is currently in its soft launch phase, a limited number of reservations each day are available to book online each week. These seated dining sessions result in an opportunity for foodie enthusiasts to be introduced to a 8-course Wagyu tasting menu for $68, with the option to add a beer & sake pairing for an additional $30. Thanks to Chef Nori and Casey from Hitachino Beer & Wagyu, I was able to confirm a last minute table for 2 to try the menu.
Upon arrival, Chef Nori is preparing every dish that will be served on the tasting menu with the assistance from his team while Casey and her front line team are introducing each dish and the beer/sake recommendations to be paired with the dishes.
The highlights of the tasting menu included:
The US wagyu beef tataki was thinly sliced, seared, and on top of eggplant and yamaimo and a smoked tosazu vinegar-based sauce. Tonight Chef Nori also added a small piece of foie gras to top it off. I’m normally not a huge fan of foie gras, but combined with the US wagyu tataki and the smoked tosazu, this dish is light with the right mix of textures and tanginess to make it work for my tastebuds.
One of my favourites of the evening was an East meets West dish combining Italian ingredients and Japanese flavours. The Kobujime consisted of Hitachi Wagyu (a level 10-11 beef out of 12 for best quality of Japanese wagyu beef), sliced and cured similar to prosciutto, on top of locally sourced burrata cheese with edamame, ginger and the dashi broth has dry tomatoes and katsuo-bushi. The Hitachi Wagyu is so marbelized, when you put it in your mouth, it just dissolves. The burrata is so creamy you will need the spoon they provide to scoop it up. Every bite of this dish left me wanting more.
Another highlight of the evening was the Tantanmen – as most of the tasting menu are small bites, the tantanmen rounded out the meal quite nicely and provided a good portion of noodles and soup to provide a filling tasting menu. The broth is made of a mixture of chicken and beef stock, with coconut milk and coconut flakes. The noodles are different than ramen noodles, thin and round, and served al dente topped with ground US Wagyu beef. The soup broth wasn’t too salty, and I could see myself ordering this just on its own with a beer for dinner.
I opted for the beer and sake pairing along with my meal. The pairing offers you a 4 oz glass of sake on tap, which is a nama sake, a fresh, unpasteurized sake which is a bit cloudy, but light tasting and naturally sparkling drink. There’s also a 4 oz glass of Hitachino Nest’s White ale, my favourite, as it’s a great summer ale, light, fragrant, with coriander, nutmeg, and orange peel, and a 4 oz glass of Hitachino Nest’s Red Rice ale, which is closer to an amber ale but with sake and strawberry flavours. The 4th drink you have the option to select any drink on their menu and receive it in its full glass. I opted for their plum wine which fit well with dessert.
Speaking of dessert, but their soy milk panna cotta topped with mandarin granita, as well as the mini brown butter cookies accompanied by barley tea, were amongst the favourite dishes of the night.
Overall the tasting menu gradually builds up in flavour to an apex with Oden Oxtail and the Hitachi Yakiniku, and then gradually reduces the flavours to cleanse the palette with the soy milk panna cotta.
This was my first time tasting and enjoying a Wagyu tasting menu, and as I had discussed with Chef Nori and Casey, I hope to see this eventually come to Vancouver so we can all enjoy the many flavours of Hitachi, Japan and Chef Nori’s creative East meets West influenced dishes.
If you’re in San Francisco and would like to try the Hitachino Beer & Wagyu tasting menu, sign up at www.hitachinosf.com to find out when the next reservation opportunity will be – they open up their reservation once a week currently.