Gozu, the hotly anticipated new wagyu beef restaurant, quietly hosted a friends and family dinner last week, and will officially open to the public on Tuesday, November 12. Chef Marc Zimmerman seared wagyu steaks at Alexander’s Steakhouse for eight years, developing an obsession with the richest, most finely marbled beef in the world. But Gozu doesn’t quite fit the mold of your classic, opulent American steakhouse serving huge hunks of meat for over-the-top prices. Instead, Zimmerman personally sources cattle from his favorite ranch in Japan and breaks down the whole animal to serve across a customizable tasting menu that’s made up of small bites the chef passes across the counter. It isn’t exactly cheap, but with a 13- to 15-course menu that caps out at $150, the restaurant is surprisingly accessible compared to the Bay Area’s other high-end wagyu options.
Located just off the Embarcadero on a quiet block in SoMa, the Gozu space is like a dramatic, smoke-scented black box. Alm Project, the award-winning design firm behind In Situ and Benu, designed the dining room with the grill in the center, a combination of wood and binchotan charcoal burning brightly in the dark. A glass meat locker in one corner allows voyeurs to eye the massive cuts of marbled steak. Even the bathrooms are blacked out — they also feature Toto bidet toilets from Japan.
Each customizable tasting menu features 13 to 15 small dishes — coursed out over eight rounds, which take about two and a half hours to complete — and ranges from $120 to $150, depending on what options you pick. There’s also a reduced menu of 6 to 8 dishes, served over five courses, for $95 to $125. Zimmerman hopes to tap down prices for early, late, and off hours, and tempt in industry pros after their shifts. Compare those prices to, say, Niku, from the Michelin-starred Omakase restaurant group, which charges $225 for a single wagyu tomahawk steak.
Wagyu stars in nearly every dish, but it’s parceled out one small portion at a time, so steakhouse lovers who just want to order their favorite cut might be disappointed. Fans of omakase-style sushi, on the other hand, might love the style of service. Specific dishes will change from day to day, but the courses will typically include sashimi, raw steak, cooked fish, chawanmushi, vegetables, three steak courses (including skewers, slices, and braises), followed by rice and broth, and finally dessert. Milk bread rolls provide a Japanese twist on Parker House.
Both Zimmerman and business partner Ben Jorgensen happen to be from Indiana. Between growing up in the Midwest, learning to cook in Vegas, and spending eight years at Alexander’s, chef Zimmerman believes he really knows steakhouses — the outrageous portions and decadent sauces, the guests who always want the most expensive cuts. “I spent nine years chasing the best beef all over the world,” he says, referencing frequent trips to Japan to buy snow beef from a red-roofed chateau, and rice from a farm dedicated to sustaining the stork population. “But I’m just not interested in setting nine ounces of steak in front of customers anymore, and charging them several hundred dollars. They’d ask for well done, and you could almost hear the cow crying.”
“When you’re bringing in an entire 750-pound animal, it takes over your world,” Zimmerman says. “I want to use everything, including the fat and the trim.”