Eating Out

Nisei Restaurant – Stunning Japanese American fine dining in San Francisco

I expect that most restaurants will have a similar style menu, even throughout the years. And I understand the appeal and ease of familiarity and consistency, even in fine dining. Personally though, as someone that loves change, it is a rare treat to experience a place that has noticeably evolved and challenged themselves so rapidly. Nisei restaurant is one such experience for me, having dined there initially in late 2021, and recently in June 2024. 

A few years prior, I was already impressed with their unique Japanese-American tasting menu that offered a fresh perspective on California cuisine. During my last visit, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the menu had matured. Not only were California ingredients and Japanese technique incorporated in a more cohesive way, the presentation was also a noticeable leap beyond my original experience. 

Nisei quickly earned a Michelin star within a year of opening, but it seems clear to me that chef David Yoshimura and team have their sights focused on even more. Between the approachable service and story-telling, combined with intentional presentation and execution, I thoroughly enjoyed the late spring menu.

I found myself audibly wow-ing at the visual feast that was this 15+ course tasting menu. I appreciated the dreamy, garden cohesiveness in the presentation, with plenty of greenery and floral accents. 

The first bite is an edible bouquet, a nod to ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Other courses were served on a bed of pine needles, including a decadently creamy pine nut miso soup that I still salivate over.

The lovely venison tataki with hues of pink and artfully placed flowers and greens was a visual standout. I could see myself hanging a photograph of this on my wall. And as a pork belly fiend, I loved the crispy kakuni, a contrasting twist on the traditionally braised, soft pork belly dish.

Not to be outdone, pastry chef Ellie Estrada-Londo matched the energy with an incredibly detailed mini bonsai tree presentation that was an enjoyable black sesame cheesecake course, with pillows of goat cheese foam. And the dessert wagashi cart had two of my favorite fruits, mulberries and hachiya persimmons (in hoshigaki form, stuffed with blue cheese).

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