Tucked away in a nondescript residential building on a venerable block of Jones Street, Keiko à Nob Hill is an oasis for fine Japanese infused-French cuisine. This is the San Francisco city re-birth of a Michelin-starred, husband-wife, sommelier and executive chef team, Seigo Takei and namesake Keiko Takashai. Far from being the bastard that is Asian Fusion, Keiko à Nob Hill showcases what Japanese cuisine is known for: an incredible attention to detail, precise knife work, effervescent tastes of the ocean and that je nais se quoi, assari quality only authentic Japanese people can create with classic French dishes.
From the silverware coordinating with the table linens, every item in the dining room or on the menu has been well thought out. This reflects upon their experience at their previous restaurant, El Paseo in Los Gatos, which was notably purchased by Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar. Keiko à Nob Hill is a labor of love and dedication by both Keiko and Seigo. Keiko offers a 8 course tasting menu in the dining room and an al a carte Izakaya-tinged menu in the quaint bar. Her signature dish of seared foie gras with an espresso reduction and puree of artichoke is available on both menus and something that everyone must try. Instead of the banal syrupy-sweet fruity reduction that usually accompanies foie to cut the fattiness, she uses bitterness, a much forgotten section of the taste palate. The fact that they dry age their own beef for the meat course shows their impeccable attention to detail and demand for consistency. She infuses pilars of Japanese cuisine such as japanese curry, black garlic and uni into classically french dishes for that touch of whimsy.
Seigo is the sommelier with a vast collection of 38,000 bottles of wine. If that heavy tome of a winelist intimidates you with its thump as it is placed on the table, Seigo’s demeanor will certainly set you at ease. A wine pairing is also available for the tasting menu. However, the highlight of the beverage service is the non-alcoholic wine-like pairings that Seigo masterfully mixes himself. Starting with Cabernet grape bases, he surmounts the plateau of one note flatness that happens in grape juice by carefully mixing in a multitude of syrups that range from the peach to bacon to mimic the tannins and bouquet of wine. Seigo expresses how difficult it is was to create his faux Cabernet and Pinot Noir because of how ones taste buds would quickly tire out from all the experimenting.
Good things are hard to keep secret and reservations during the main dining hours have become difficult to attain so it’s time to use that Centurion concierge. Furthermore parking in the area is troublesome. But then again, no one said getting to the top of the hill was easy.
Keiko à Nob Hill
1250 Jones Street
$77 for an 8 course tasting menu (prices change to reflect menu offerings)
$78 for wine pairing
$58 for non-alcoholic pairing