We go way back with Sylvan Mishima-Brackett, chef-owner of Rintaro. To this day, we still get phone calls and customers asking, "Do you still have those Peko Peko bentos?" Peko Peko was the name of Sylvan's catering company - providing special events with Japanese bites and drinks - and Yoko and I both used to work for him from time to time before opening Umami Mart in Oakland.
When we first opened our doors in 2012, we sold Sylvan's bentos every day for lunch. They were a huge hit and the service continued for over a year. Then, Sylvan pursued his dreams and opened Rintaro in San Francisco - obviously he had to shut down his bento business.
Rintaro has been a success since it opened in 2015, garnering Bon Appetit's prestigious Best New Restaurant award in that same year. Sylvan, who worked with Alice Waters for many years, brings influences of Chez Panisse to Rintaro, from sourcing local ingredients, to impeccable service. The menu changes frequently, with fresh seafood and vegetables of the season - which Sylvan lets shine with minimal fuss. Sylvan is also known for his kickass udon - handpulled and hand-cut, then boiled, to reveal toothsome noodles.
Recently Rintaro opened its doors for lunch, and it is my favorite place to go for a midday meal, whether with friends or solo. Tucked away in the outskirts between SoMA and the Mission, Rintaro has become well-known as a dinner destination, but it is an especially cozy space for lunch. Shining bright during the daytime hours, Rintaro brings respite in the din of city traffic.
The vision for Rintaro came to life by Sylvan and his father, Lee Brackett, who designed and built out the space in its entirety. The space evokes a sense of serenity and openness, and its design and spectacular carpentry features are highlighted by the day light that pours through the space.
Lunch differs from Rintaro's dinner service chiefly in the menu - it is a pared down version, offering teishoku (set meal). It is very common in Japan for breakfast and lunch, with a main dish served with a bowl of rice, miso soup and some pickles. At Rintaro, you get much more!
On my last visit, I ordered the fried local swordfish teishoku, which also came with two generous sides in addition to the rice, soup and pickles. It was delicious, hearty, and thoughtfully presented.
Rintaro is known for perfectly fried dishes - whether pork or seafood. The outside was hot and crispy while the swordfish and shiso within were fresh and juicy.
Also served during lunch are Sylvan's hand-cut udon - served hot or cold, depending on the season. Often the soup comes with house-made satsuma-age (fish cake), which I love.
The noodles are fresh and have a wonderful texture, balanced with Sylvan's signature dashi.
Ceramic dishware at Rintaro are always tastefully curated, and presentation plays a major role in the dining experience.
Lunch at Rintaro is a special treat, whether you choose to be seated indoors or on the patio. Its hours are limited to Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11:30am-2pm. I encourage everyone to make it for lunch for an experience that will make you feel like you found a diamond in the rough, and won't break the bank!
82 14th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Lunch service: Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11:30am-2pm