Modern Izakaya with Michael Mina at Pabu

After reading about Pabu, Michael Mina’s newest San Francisco venture with Chef Ken Tominaga back in April, I couldn’t wait to try it! It just so happened that I was able to score a reservation for my (then) upcoming August trip through OpenTable before they opened on July 1st. Just in that month, I had heard such great things about the location, service, ambience, and cuisine. It was probably a little risky choosing a new and hyped restaurant for my birthday dinner, instead of an old favorite, but I’m sure glad I did!

We started out with their classic Kaiso Seaweed Salad served with hand-ground sweet sesame dressing. Sometimes, an Izakaya-take on seaweed salad means that they serve several kinds of seaweed. While I like the variety, I was glad that they chose to stick to the classic seaweed and sesame flavors.

Fortunately for us, there was room at the sushi bar, so we got to enjoy seeing the sushi chefs prepare the Tasting Menu for others. We didn’t do this because I wanted to try other options, but I have heard rave reviews and witnessed the artistry that goes into crafting each and every course. It was an experience in it of itself to witness. To get our sashimi fix, we ordered the 10 Fish Sashimi Platter. The presentation was gorgeous and the selection was delectable. From Tuna to Amberjack to Mackerel, we had a nice balance of flavors and consistencies.

Next, and my favorite dish of the evening, we enjoyed the Monterey Squid Okonomiyaki. This was one of the Hot Small Plates on the Dinner menu. The pork belly and squid patty was topped with a sunny-side up egg and bonito. If I could eat this day, I would be one happy gal. The combination of flavors was absolutely amazing and the best example of “everything is better with an egg on it.”

Steven and I don’t usually get sushi rolls that have any “cooked” or “baked” aspect to them. We made an exception at the urging of our waitress and ordered the Crispy Spicy Roll. Filled with yellowtail, amberjack, scallions, and tobiko, the warmth of the roll and the spiciness of the sauce was a great combination.

Lastly, we finished off our meal with a classic Spider Roll. Filled with soft shell crab, kaiware, tobiko, and spicy mayo, this was the best Spider Roll I have ever had. The crab was cooked to perfection and provided the perfect crunch in each oversized bite.

I can’t wait to visit SF again, so I can try their luxurious Tasting Menu and more of their Izakaya options. With mentions on and, Michael Mina has another winner on his hands. Pabu is quickly becoming FiDi staple and the praises will continue to roll in! Be sure to visit Mina’s The Ramen Bar directly next door to check out Chef Ken’s signature Tokyo-style ramen recipes.
For more information on Pabu, visit

Nopalito: So Much More Than a “Little Cactus”

Since it’s Thursday, I wanted to do a “throwback” post highlighting a restaurant I visited a couple weeks ago when I was in San Francisco. This post has nothing to do with the fact that I miss San Francisco desperately and want to go back every second of every day.

My boyfriend lived in San Francisco for two years, so we were no strangers to the amazing food scene, but it takes a lifetime to try all of the amazing dining options. It’s hard not to stick to the favorites, but we try and explore our options when we go back up to visit. I’m so glad we finally tried Nopalito. With two locations, it just so happens we were staying within walking distance to the Inner Sunset location. We ventured out on one of our last nights in the city and were able to be seated right away. It is a medium size space with a fresh green color scheme and light wood tables. The wall between the kitchen and dining room is low and has a glass display, so you can look in on the chefs preparing the colorful meals from scratch, including the tortillas. Their website boasts that they are a “vibrant neighborhood Mexican kitchen celebrating the traditional cookery of Mexico with the philosophy of purchasing local, organic and sustainable ingredients.” This description could not be any more true. From the decor, to the service, to the food, everything was very clean and fresh with a locals only feel.

To start, they bring complimentary roasted garbanzo beans to the table. I love garbanzo beans, but have never had them so roasted or so spicy. The combination was addicting and definitely more fun than starting off with bread or chips.

We both indulged in their housemade horchata. Steven got the traditional Almond Horchata while I opted for the Strawberry-Almond Horchata. I won. Steven’s was delicious, but mine was colorful, beautiful, and a bit sweeter because of the fresh strawberry puree-like juice on top.

We chose the Quesadilla Roja con Chicharron as one of our appetizers to share. We had seen photos of this amazing dish on Instagram and, although drool-worty, did not do the dish justice. The chile-corn tortilla was filled with crispy pork belly, salsa, jack cheese, queso fresco, onions and cilantro. The chicharrones were light and added the perfect crunch to every bite. This is easily the best quesadilla I have ever had.

Our next shared plate was the Empanada con Deshebrada de Res. We had seen at least 20 of them come out to the other tables, so we knew it was a must-try. We were not disappointed. The fried masa pastry was filled with grass-fed beef, tomato, jalapeno, and cabbage. It was topped with avocado, queso fresco and salsa frita de guajillo. We ate it too quickly for a picture, so I snagged this one from Nopalito’s Instagram. Between this and the quesadilla, we could’ve been done with our meal and left completely satisfied. Both were filling and perfect to share.

I ordered the Pescado a la Veracruzana, a seared white fish with tomato, jalapeno, green olives, capers, pickled chile guero, cilantro and saffron rice. I love fish Veracruz style, and this didn’t disappoint. The tomato sauce wasn’t spicy enough for Steven’s liking, but if you took a bite of jalapeno with it, it was the perfect spice level for me. The fish was fresh and juicy, not at all dry, and the saffron rice paired well with the sauce.

I loved my dish, but I will be completely honest: Steven won for best entree. I have had a lot of carnitas in my day, Nopalito had to be the best. He got the Carnitas entree which consisted of the braised pork, orange bay leaf, milk, cinnamon, beer Cabbage salad, pickled jalapeno and salsa de tomatillo. The carnitas were perfectly cooked and not oily, but so tender and juicy. We took some carnitas, cabbage, and the heavenly green sauce and put it all in a small tortilla. The combination was a party in my mouth.

The best part is that this restaurant is an offshoot of Nopa, an urban rustic restaurant that specializes in organic wood-fired cuisine, located north of the Panhandle. This place is always bustling and I was lucky enough to celebrate my 21st birthday there two years ago. Once we found out that owners Allyson and Laurence Jossel opened another restaurant, and that restaurant would be serving traditional Mexican fare, we were intrigued. I’m so glad we were finally able to go.
The food was delicious and the service was impeccable. The only complaint I have is that I was too full for dessert! If you are ever in the Inner Sunset or Lower Haight areas, I highly recommend popping in to either of their locations. You won’t regret it.

At Home with the Italian Fisherman

As of recent, I have been trying to eat out just a little bit less. In doing so, I have been having some amazing kitchen adventures with fellow foodies that I am lucky enough to call my friends. I will be featuring some of these dinners with you. For the first “At Home” post, I wanted to share with you my friend Andrew, also known as the Italian Fisherman. A little bit of a backstory, he has been friends with my boyfriend since elementary school and they share many memories of Catalina trips and fishing excursions over the years. Recently, though, it seems Andrew is on an overnight fishing trip every other weekend, but we can’t complain for not seeing him as much, because when we do…
He shares the fruits of his labor with all of us. Last week, we were invited over for seafood night with some close friends and family. It was truly a group effort in preparing the meal. Andrew was running the kitchen and showing off his Yellowtail catches, his girlfriend was frying some pieces, I was forming rice balls for the nigiri, and my boyfriend and others were rolling sushi rolls and preparing poke with onions, avocado, Sriracha and some secret ingredients.


With 15 pounds of fish prepared four different ways, everyone had a different favorite. My favorite was the Yellowtail Sashimi and Spicy Poke. Even though summer is almost over with August right around the corner, I hope that we get to have many more dinners with our friends.
Maybe even a pizza night coming up…(hint hint: keep a look out for At Home with the Garske brothers).