SFReview

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image
8.9

Rintaro

$$$$

82 14th St, San Francisco
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Walk into Rintaro and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a utopia where everything smells like sizzling chicken skewers and sweet umeshu flows out of faucets and waterfalls. The umeshu waterfall may not actually exist, but a trip to the Mission izakaya is still special. It becomes apparent the minute you sit in the serene, plant-filled courtyard or inside in a booth under arched wooden beams. Like the space, the Japanese small plates are magical—and the best izakaya dishes in the city. 

At Rintaro, the shareable dishes are the main attraction. And you certainly won’t find sake bombs or rowdy groups throwing back soju cocktails here. Instead, you’re treated to gyoza with lacy skirts that resemble UFOs, and soft tofu that melts in your mouth. The larger plates, like hand-rolled udon and the juiciest tonkatsu ever, are just as flawless. And the little details are on point every time—chances are you’ll be thinking about the precisely stacked tower of sunomono, or the freshly grated wasabi that hits right in the nose, for days after dinner. 

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Then there’s the yakitori. They’re all so damn good across the board that we often lie awake at night, contemplating how much money we’d pay to have one of the perfectly cooked skewers beamed across town and straight into our mouths. Rintaro feels like a sacred space for people dedicated to worshiping yakitori (a cult we would gladly join, theoretically speaking). There are plump king trumpet mushrooms that have a slightly smoky char from the grill, chicken oysters brightened up with a squeeze of lemon, and chunks of chicken thigh layered with onion. And the queen bee: the crispy tsukune that’s unbelievably tender on the inside, which tastes even better when you swirl it in the side of egg yolk sauce. 

A dinner at Rintaro means taking a night off from the sh*t show that is the outside world, entering a perfect little enclave filled with phenomenal yakitori, and physically feeling any lingering tension from the day leave your body by the time the meal ends. Which is why we come here for birthdays, special occasions with our parents, or date nights in the courtyard whenever we have the chance. Rintaro is the only place in town that feels so comforting, charming, and exciting at the same time. We’re lucky to have it right here in SF.

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Food Rundown

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Yakitori Tsukune

Not ordering yakitori at Rintaro would be blasphemous. Start with the tsukune—the oblong chicken meatballs are melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a show-stopping char on the outside. Getting the rich egg yolk dipping sauce to dunk each bite in is a must.

Yakitori Negima

Another yakitori we love is the skewer of chicken thigh and crunchy onion slices. The slightly sweet glaze is also so shiny it could practically function as a mirror.

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Gindara No Sunomono

You’ll find miso black cod on approximately 257 restaurant menus across the city. But the crackly skin on the cod and the frankly adorable tower of sliced vinegar-y cucumbers on the side make this our absolute favorite version. Get this on your table.

Kurobuta Tonkatsu

Rintaro nails this plate of tonkatsu, because of course they do. It’s unbelievably juicy, with a crisp breading. The whole thing is served with just cabbage, Japanese mustard, and black hatcho miso dipping sauce.

Sashimi

You can feel okay about skipping this section of the menu. Even though the sashimi at Rintaro is super high-quality and won’t disappoint, there are more interesting dishes that you should focus on instead.

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Yosedofu

This house dish is the creamy, refreshing treat we want on a hot summer day. We could sit here for hours crafting the perfect little bites out of the ginger, scallion, bonito flakes, and shiitake shoyu the tofu comes with.

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Hanetsuki Gyoza

Encased in a wrapper that’s almost too pretty to tear open, this dish gets extra points for presentation—and it also tastes fantastic. The thick skin soaks up the juice from the well-seasoned pork filling, and the crispy skirt around it adds even more crunch. It’ll take a lot of self-control to avoid filling up on these alone. We believe in you.

Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image

Kake Udon

The udon is rolled in house, so the noodles get a sprinkle of whatever magical dust is floating in the air before landing in a bowl of dashi broth. Adding on the sponge-like lingcod fish cake and a hot spring egg is always a good idea.

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