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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ten Ichi’s Donburi is Comfort in a Bowl

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 11:01 AM

click to enlarge donburi.jpg

If you’ve lived in San Francisco for many years, chances are you’ve walked by Ten Ichi on Fillmore and Clay. The sign, with its cresting blue waves beneath the restaurant name, is hard to miss. It’s a place you might drop into for dinner before or after a film at the Clay, and while it doesn’t have the dazzle of SPQR or the retro charm of Palmers Tavern, it has served its reliably good Japanese fare for over thirty-five years.

Sushi can be had – there is a curved sushi bar in the back of the space – but where Ten Ichi shines is with its home-style dishes: sukiyaki, yosenabe, udon, and donburi. This is food that comforts, fills your stomach, and doesn’t put a huge strain on your wallet.

Inside, Ten Ichi has the look of a family restaurant: yellow walls hung with kimono art, glass-topped tables with white tablecloths underneath, burgundy banquettes with floral backrests, a fish-tank with tiny (non-edible) sea creatures. A fountain trickles by the host station and smooth jazz plays; many of the customers are families with kids. It’s a good place to settle in, drink a few cups of sake, and order something like salmon donburi. The main dish is preceded by an unremarkable bowl of miso soup, floating with the requisite soft cubes of tofu and shreds of nori. It’s the rice bowl – a white bowl that tips up, making for a pretty display – that delivers the goods.

Marinated sprouts fill the bottom of the bowl that taste of pepper and sesame oil. All around the bowl's perimeter are triangles of omelet, slightly sweet spinach with sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, diagonal cuts of steamed asparagus, and a pile of pink pickled cabbage. In the center: pieces of tender pink salmon brushed with teriyaki sauce, which sweetens the white rice below.

Each mouthful can combine several tastes, though the salmon is clearly the star. You might crave a bit more teriyaki sauce for your rice, but the modest amount seems in keeping with the beautiful simplicity of the dish. At around $15, this is moderately priced comfort food at its best (without the greasy, stomach-stretching regrets). And if you’re craving dessert, there’s always popcorn at the Clay Theater.

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Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer


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