3409 Geary Blvd., Inner Richmond
Phone: (415) 742-4309
After 11 years working in some of the city's best Japanese restaurants, including Umami, Ebisu, and Okazu Ya, Kevin Chen decided to set out to open a Japanese-influenced spot of his own. None of this would be too unusual, were it not for the fact that Chen is all of 24 years old. He and his partner Judy Chen (no relation) comprise the entirety of the staff at recently opened Kaiju Eats, where he runs the kitchen and she handles the front-of-house; they met doing similar jobs at now-closed Hecho.
While both Chens say their food isn't strictly Japanese, the cuisine is the menu's backbone, with some quirkier takes. There are some funky signature ramen options, including a Mongolian beef ramen (with optional kobe beef) that's accented by tortilla chips, and a coconut shoyu ramen with chicken and fried shallots. A more traditional tonkotsu and spicy miso ramen are also available, and all the broths are homemade. In general, the menu is massive, considering the small staff: there are eight kinds of grilled skewers; bar snacks like wings, tuna tataki, and satsuma fries; and donburi bowls. Kevin is also a trained sushi chef, and hopes to add sushi to the menu once he can afford an extra helper in the kitchen.
The space, a former pizzeria, is small and spare, with room for about 35 or so diners, but the welcome is warm and Judy's cute drawings and fun handwritten menus (be sure to grab one of her watercolored business cards, which she paints during slow periods) liven up the atmosphere. A beer and wine license is on the way (with plans for sake cocktails as well), but in the meantime, the space is BYOB; there's a BevMo on the next block for your drinking needs. Hours are daily from 12-3 pm and 5-9 pm; the latter can be flexible, as the small staff occasionally can run out of ingredients and close up shop early.
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