photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Ken image



Lower Haight

$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsEating At The BarDining Solo
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Walk through an unmarked door on Divisadero Street, and you’ll find a space that’s the size of a dentist’s waiting room with a seven-seat omakase counter. After you scooch into your seat, you’ll overhear the couple next to you discussing what color to paint their bathroom walls (eggshell blue) as the eponymous chef Ken cracks jokes about cod milt virgins and puts the finishing touches on a platter of sashimi. You’ll feel like you’re at a dinner party you never want to leave—and one with a non-stop parade of incredible fish.

Dinner at the omakase-only spot in Lower Haight runs $225 per person for 15 courses, so it’s not a place you can casually pop into on a whim. What is casual is how you’ll feel when you’re here. Like all memorable dinner parties, the host's relaxed banter flows in a way that will immediately put the entire room at ease.

Ken image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Like most omakase places, Ken's menu changes with the seasons. We have yet to be handed a dish we didn’t end up taking a photo of and hanging on our fridge. The first dish that will land in front of you is a peeled, quartered tomato that gets juicier by soaking in a shallow pool of dashi broth. From there, hits keep coming. The eight nigiri courses, like buttery uni or Japanese striped jack, are garnished with tiny piles of daikon, shaved egg yolk, and other toppings. You’ll feel like you’re sitting in a friend’s kitchen—and that friend happens to serve the best melt-in-your-mouth toro handroll you've ever tasted.

Smaller dishes break up the sushi courses. One you'll leave thinking about is the jiggly chawanmushi with creamy cod milt buried a few spoonfuls in, like a surprise gift. Another highlight is the bowl of poached ikura in ume and rock sugar water. The house-cured roe gets sticky and delicate after being dipped briefly in hot water. You'll be told by Ken to down it in two sips, and these are two sips you'll relive on loop in your head for days on end. We haven't encountered anything like it at any other omakase spots in San Francisco.

Ken image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

As the meal progresses, you and your six new best friends will learn about everything from the rationale behind aging the otoro (to get rid of any metallic traces) and the types of vinegar Ken uses to season the rice (two different red ones). The chef encourages asking questions, so expect to walk out of dinner armed with more than a few fun facts about toro. Every moment of the meal is designed to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room—compliment the delicate sake glasses, and Ken will take a second to write down the website they’re from so you can buy some for yourself.

For anyone who's remotely serious about fish, Ken is an unmissable experience, whether you’re a seasoned omakase-goer scoping out a new spot or a first timer looking for a non-intimidating entryway. Whatever the occasion, you'll leave with a full stomach and a sense that you just attended the best dinner party ever—plus a newfound appreciation for aged tuna.

Food Rundown

Ken image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth


The 14-course meal runs $175 per person and is the only option here. The meal starts with a peeled, quartered tomato in dashi broth that pops in your mouth like a water balloon, and ends with a scoop of yuzu, shiso, and peach sorbet with a tingly finish. In between, you’ll get a steady stream of flawless nigiri, like aged otoro and Japanese striped jack with a tiny pile of daikon, and unique small dishes like poached ikura in a slightly sweet rock sugar and ume broth. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy.

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Suggested Reading

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