If you like eating raw fish below street level, two options come to mind. The first: Sushi Time, a tiny shoe box crammed into the corner of a small subterranean plaza in The Castro. If that sounds like a recipe for a claustrophobia-related panic attack, try the second: Ryoko’s, a long-time Tendernob favorite and today’s subject. Where Sushi Time has the feel of a subway car lying abandoned among the ruins of a post-apocalyptic landscape, Ryoko’s has the atmosphere of a brothel or opium den. Coming down the stairs, it’s hard to make out where the place ends. They manage to jam tables into odd nooks that you might have missed on first glance, and what seems like another room turns out to be you and your surroundings reflected in a well-polished mirror (and vice/versa). In keeping with the den of iniquity metaphor, the staff are adept hustlers, up-selling wherever possible and making damned sure you’re never without some liquid to keep the buzz rolling. Caution: my four friends and I received several items we were sure weren’t ordered, but they were so insistent upon the contrary that we just shrugged and grabbed ankle.
Ryoko’s isn’t a destination for any serious food geek, but it’s not at all bad and it’s cheap. Plus, they have some pretty freakish shit, like a roll which combines peanut butter with jalapeño, among other things. Available, to my surprise, was Ankimo (monkfish liver) and it was very good. Another favorite: fried shrimp heads.
I didn’t check, but I doubt they take reservations. It’s strictly turn and burn. If you ain’t drinking and eating like a lord, you’ll start to notice the waitress hovering nearby, clicking her nails against the wall as she glances back at the hordes of people filing down the steps to register their name on a long wait list. Oh, I almost forgot: Ryoko’s is open til 2 a.m. Enter drunk, stay drunk and you’ll enjoy the food and the bizarre vibe that much more.
619 Taylor Street (@ Cosmo)