Offalmania in the Inner Richmond : The Organ Trail Part 3
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The Richmond. Utter that small collection of phonemes three times in a row a la Beetlejuice and you might suddenly find yourself clad in a thick, grey knit sweater, gazing thoughtfully over the thick foaming head of a pint of stout from a plush barstool at flocks of angry asian women fighting over dragon fruit and flip-flops on the sidewalk outside. Frequently grey and cold, Clement Street between 2nd and 13th Streets is also a fantastic promenade whose edible entertainments I have yet to exhaust.
Halu Restaurant is an elder statesman of the San Francisco izakaya scene. It’s a shoe box crowded with Beatles memorabilia and skewered meat (kushiyaki) grilled over special hot coals called bincho-tan. Much of what gets skewered are various odds and ends of the chicken, collectively known as yakitori. Gizzard, liver, heart, skin and plain old thigh are some of the tidbits commonly impaled for your gustatory pleasure. If you’re starting to feel the first swellings of gout in your feet, they offer grilled shishito peppers and enoki mushroom….wrapped in bacon.
That Liverpudlian paradise was my sojourn’s sophomore stop, however. First up was Wako, one of the newer additions to Clement Street’s already riotous dining scene. The atmosphere inside would make a cricket blush, however. If you’re looking to gulp down tepid sake at a bargain sushi den and carry on like a latter day Falstaff, this isn’t your scene. Respect and patience -as well as mortuary-level vocal decibel levels- will result in a pleasant dining experience. If that sounds painful, well, go find a fucking sushi boat to throw yourself off of. The people at Wako are good at what they do so sit on your hands and enjoy the food. At most good high-end sushi spots opting for Omakase (chef’s choice) is a great bet; the chef improvises a series of beautifully dressed nigiri featuring a wide variety of sea creatures, no soy sauce necessary
Ika Shiokara at Wako Sushi: Be Not Afraid
In addition to the Omakase I tried their Ika Shiokara, one of the weirdest dishes in the offal canon, consisting of squid legs sitting in a sauce made from its own fermented guts. It is bracingly salty but if made right, a gorgeous delicacy. Another favorite of mine is Ankimo, i.e. monkfish liver which is steamed, deveined, torchon’d into tube shape and then cut into coins with the circumference of silver dollars and about a half-inch thick. Dip these pieces of glorious velvet currency in a little ponzu and enjoy. Recognizing me for a depraved food pervert, the chef also devised a small plate consisting of the odd bits of the codfish: a piece of its liver against which was propped a small length of it’s own pristine, translucent poop-shoot, a dainty little Cronenbergian yule log.
If Wako sounds too rich for your blood, know that cheaper options abound, like the aforementioned pho. Plus, down a few blocks is Spices, a Chris Cosentino-approved Szechuan restaurant featuring classics like Numbing Spicy Pork Kidney, Pig’s Ear and Stinky Tofu with Pork Intestines. Don’t dwell too much on the pairing of the words “stinky” and “intestines”. Instead, savor the grassiness of bovine fudge tunnel, and let the tang of kidney take you to far off landscapes of the imagination where children jump rope with digestive tracts and old men play checkers with discs of jellied pork blood. No guts, no glory.
312 8th Ave.,
211 Clement St.
Spices 294 8th Ave.,