UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
DSC_0078

A labor of love has finally been realized after nearly two years in the making: a Japanese-style bathhouse and restaurant in San Francisco! Opened in the Tenderloin neighborhood by husband and wife team Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith, Onsen is a relaxing oasis in the middle of the city, in a location that was once an auto body shop.

DSC_0141

DSC_0138

DSC_1468

The space is pristine and indeed invokes a sense of calm. No detail has been missed – Caroline and Sunny clearly had a vision for Onsen and it is a delight to simply walk around and revel in the details. From the fixtures and joinery, to the art on the walls, and even the well-tended bathrooms, Onsen is a must-go destination for those who appreciate design and architecture, or to simply be pampered.

DSC_1480

DSC_1481

DSC_1490

DSC_1512

Sunny was raised in California and grew up going to hot springs in the Pacific Northwest with his family. He told me that he had always wanted to create a space where people can relax in a hot springs setting and connect with each other. Sunny is a builder. He amassed tons of wood over the last 20 years during site projects, which was used to build Onsen.

DSC_1508

DSC_1511

The bathhouse is an open space with lots of natural light and greenery. It is open for women-only on Mondays and Thursdays, and men-only on Wednesdays. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are co-ed. There is also a dry and steam sauna.

DSC_1501

And this cold shower!

DSC_1495

Caroline is an acupuncturist and artist. She did most of the art on the walls throughout the bathhouse and treatment rooms.

DSC_1510

DSC_1516

Massage and acupuncture treatments will be offered soon in individual rooms. The space is labyrinthian and seems to go on forever.

I was especially excited for the tea house and restaurant, which can be found right as you walk in the front door.

DSC_1520

DSC_1522

DSC_1524

DSC_0088

DSC_0128

Yoko and I had a stellar meal here last week. Presided by chef George Meza, formerly of Ame, the menu features fresh, local ingredients, all served with Japan-inspired twists.

There are a couple of shochu cocktails, beers, and wines on the menu and a varied, nicely curated sake list.

DSC_0063

DSC_0091

Pickles and ferments of beets, cucumbers, and greens:

DSC_0067

Mount Lassen trout served raw with dashi infused with peppers and onions, topped with shiso oil:

DSC_0078

I don't think I have ever had raw trout before. It was mellow and clean. Loved this flavor and texture combination!

Soft egg custard with Dungeness crab, ginnan, shiitake, and yuzu:

DSC_0083DSC_0086

Grilled Shishito peppers and Monterey squid:

DSC_0095

Kakuni braised lamb and "boneless chicken wings" yakitori:

DSC_0096

Asian pear preserved in loquat tea, with chocolate and black sesame, garnished with Concord grapes:

DSC_0122

It looks like a sea cucumber, right?

DSC_0124

We were pretty floored by this dessert. The flavors all worked in harmony. Dare I call it DIVINE?!?!?

Tea service is well-executed here, with a concise list of Japanese and Chinese teas and tisanes.

DSC_0110

The hashioki (chopsticks rests) are imitation Legos made of wood!

DSC_0102

We warmly welcome Onsen to the Japanese food community in the Bay Area. Congratulations to Caroline and Sunny for creating such a welcoming and cozy space, effortlessly melding together food, tea, and relaxation. Bravo to Chef George who has such a creative and playful vision for the restaurant. Kanpai!

DSC_1527

ONSEN 
466 Eddy Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
T: 415.780.4987

Photos by Yoko Kumano