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photo credit: Krescent Carasso

Pabu review image

PABU

$$$$

101 California St, San Francisco
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Work dinners. Sometimes they have to happen, and sorry boss, but a last minute 7pm reservation at Zuni just isn’t in the cards. When you’re on the company dime, you want to eat well. But let’s be real, the ideal situation is a place that’s near the office with tasty food that’s probably slightly outside your price range for a normal dinner.

Time to get familiar with the izakaya spot Pabu. It’s big, it’s in the heart of Fidi (literally in the bottom of an office building), you can get a reservation easily, and the sharable Japanese small plates are pretty damn good.

The high-ceilinged space doesn't have the most intimate ambience, but since you’ll most likely be here with your boss and some interns, that’s cool. Service is quick, and the waiters will inform you about the details of the long, long menu with extreme specificity. The ‘happy spoon’ has housemade ponzu creme fraiche? Super.

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As for the menu, the small plates are where Pabu excels - you'll want to load up on fried chicken, vegetables, tempura, and some of the skewers. Stay away from the sushi side of the menu, as the rolls we’ve had all tasted of nothing. Do be sure to order sake - they bring out a selection of unique sake cups to choose your own. If you don’t snag the biggest one, you can only blame yourself.

We won't be hitting up Pabu for date night or for a catch up with some non-corporate friends, but it has an ideal location and pricey food that’s perfect for any work-related eating and drinking. Save those receipts.

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Food Rundown

Happy Spoon

Uni, oyster and the aforementioned ponzu creme fraiche? Yes please. At $9 each, It’s ridiculously priced for a spoonful of food, but it’s pretty spectacular to look at and to consume. Treat yourself/hope your corporate card per diem is high.

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Bloomsdale Spinach

A heaping pile of chilled spinach with a delicious sesame paste situation. Get this for sure.

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Karaage Fried Chicken

Fancy chicken nuggets that hit your table five minutes after you order. Even if that’s a little disconcerting, we’re ok with it because the dish rules. The spicy mayo sauce is bomb and the chicken is great.

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Skewers

Definitely order at least two of the steak skewers, but skip the disappointing rubbery chicken meatball ones.

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Squid Okonomiyaki

This is a seafood and pork belly pancake that is very good and very filling. Small but mighty.

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Pork Gyoza

There is never a good reason not to get gyoza, and Pabu does the pork dumplings better than most. Crispy outside, soft inside, we’re all in on these.

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Dueling Tempura Service

Surprisingly, the vegetables defeated the fish in the duel. The batter is light and the tempura is done right, but the seafood to veggie ratio is weak. We want more sea meats.

Hamachi Collar

Sometimes Pabu has this as a special, and when they do, jump on it. The sauce is delightful and the fish is top-quality and well-cooked. Just be aware of the bones.

Sushi

We’ve tried a variety of rolls at Pabu and have been disappointed across the board. They’re expensive and bland. Stick with the small plates.

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