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Top Chef Finalist Melissa King's Favorite SF Japanese Restaurants

Plus, more details on her SF pop-up with winner Mei Lin, coming next month.

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[Spoiler Alert: Haven't seen the Top Chef finale this season? Read no further.]

Fans of the most recent season of Top Chef will recall that SF's own Melissa King is a connoisseur when it comes to both knife skills and butchery. So it's no surprise that she's really into Japanese food. In honor of King's third-place finish on the show, we polled the well-trained chef, who's cooked under Dominique Crenn, Craig Stoll, and Ron Siegel, about her favorites. From the Sunset to Japantown, she's got the lowdown on the chawanmushi, chicken knee cartilage, Wagyu beef, and sushi that inspired her efforts on the show. (Want to taste her cooking for yourself? She's doing a collaborative dinner with this season's winner, Mei Lin, on March 9.)

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Halu

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312 8th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 221-9165
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"This is a hidden gem in the Richmond that is just down to earth with their Beatles themed posters, small bar counter, and yakitori. I can't walk away without ordering the pan-fried soy and brown butter mochi wrapped in nori. But save room for an okonomiyaki."

2. Yuzuki Japanese Eatery

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598 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 556-9898
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"They make something as simple as pure steamed rice in a claypot worth craving. I order mine topped with salmon roe and fresh crab meat. Their homemade tofu and chawanmushi with Japanese uni are equally noteworthy."

3. Izakaya Sozai

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1500 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 745-5122
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"This is my neighborhood go-to when I just want a hearty bowl of tonkotsu ramen with pork belly and some grilled things on sticks! I like to put my name on the list and walk to a local Sunset bar for a beer while I wait, as the line can get crazy. The pork jowls and chicken meatballs are heaven."

4. Nabe

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1325 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 731-2658
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"This isn't technically an izakaya, but it is my favorite Japanese shabu house in the city. I always order the sukiyaki with Wagyu beef, a side of mochi, and some sake. The best part is the Zosui rice soup that is made in front of you at the end of your meal; it's like a Japanese risotto or porridge."

5. Ippuku

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2130 Center St
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 665-1969
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All I've got to say is, bacon-wrapped mochi. Try the squid ink fried rice or chicken knee cartilage, but if you want to get even more adventurous, go for the chicken tartare.

6. Waraku Ramen Izakaya

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1638 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 292-3388
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"I like to come here for a reasonably priced bowl of rich tonkotsu ramen before watching a movie at the Kabuki. They also have tsukemen dipping noodles in a fish-based broth, crispy gyoza, and chicken karaage."

7. Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar

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431 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 397-3218
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"This place has the freshest-quality omakase this city has to offer. It's small, so make sure you have a reservation. I like to sit at the bar so I can see all the action. Their chawanmushi is pure silk, and make sure you try their Umami Ikura with grated frozen monkfish liver, and their A5 Wagyu beef with truffle shavings!"

1. Halu

312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118
"This is a hidden gem in the Richmond that is just down to earth with their Beatles themed posters, small bar counter, and yakitori. I can't walk away without ordering the pan-fried soy and brown butter mochi wrapped in nori. But save room for an okonomiyaki."
312 8th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94118

2. Yuzuki Japanese Eatery

598 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110
"They make something as simple as pure steamed rice in a claypot worth craving. I order mine topped with salmon roe and fresh crab meat. Their homemade tofu and chawanmushi with Japanese uni are equally noteworthy."
598 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110

3. Izakaya Sozai

1500 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
"This is my neighborhood go-to when I just want a hearty bowl of tonkotsu ramen with pork belly and some grilled things on sticks! I like to put my name on the list and walk to a local Sunset bar for a beer while I wait, as the line can get crazy. The pork jowls and chicken meatballs are heaven."
1500 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122

4. Nabe

1325 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
"This isn't technically an izakaya, but it is my favorite Japanese shabu house in the city. I always order the sukiyaki with Wagyu beef, a side of mochi, and some sake. The best part is the Zosui rice soup that is made in front of you at the end of your meal; it's like a Japanese risotto or porridge."
1325 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

5. Ippuku

2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704
All I've got to say is, bacon-wrapped mochi. Try the squid ink fried rice or chicken knee cartilage, but if you want to get even more adventurous, go for the chicken tartare.
2130 Center St
Berkeley, CA 94704

6. Waraku Ramen Izakaya

1638 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115
"I like to come here for a reasonably priced bowl of rich tonkotsu ramen before watching a movie at the Kabuki. They also have tsukemen dipping noodles in a fish-based broth, crispy gyoza, and chicken karaage."
1638 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

7. Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar

431 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108
"This place has the freshest-quality omakase this city has to offer. It's small, so make sure you have a reservation. I like to sit at the bar so I can see all the action. Their chawanmushi is pure silk, and make sure you try their Umami Ikura with grated frozen monkfish liver, and their A5 Wagyu beef with truffle shavings!"
431 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108

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