Monday, September 14

Wakuriya - 2015 One Michelin Star Kaiseki Restaurant

Wakuriya is a One Michelin Star restaurant in San Mateo serving a Japanese kaiseki menu which is a multi-course meal of small plates. The restaurant only seats 18 people at max  (I think) and even then they stagger the serving times so that diners come in two waves. The reservation process is strict. You call at midnight or after and leave a voicemail for your reservation. If you're lucky to get in, the reservation will be for 30 days from the date of your voicemail, you don't get to choose.

A few years ago, I tried once to get in and received a call back that I was on the wait list. I never got in. Our aunt was kind enough to call in for us as an anniversary/birthday gift. She tried multiple times on many nights and finally got us the reservation which we went to last week! Thanks to her efforts, I can share with you the photos from my 8 courses + 1 palate cleanser. The cost is $98 per person then we ordered beer and a sake flight.

The place setting is a wooden board, clean pressed linen napkin, abalone shell holder and small tongs. 

The grape flavored sake shot with a cube of ice was a complimentary drink to greet all guests. It was sweet, smooth, and mild, maybe 4% alcohol, according to Mayumi (Floor Manager).

This Ryujin brand Ozeno Yukidoke White Weizen tastes most like a Blue Moon Belgian White with slightly less "bite" up front. I'm trying to say it's even mellower than Blue Moon but not as light as Sapporo or Kirin.

Fruity Sake Flight ($20) from left to right: strawberry flavored, mandarin orange, and milky unfiltered. In increasing alcohol content level: the mandarin orange tasted like juice, strawberry was sweet but still tasted like sake, and the unfiltered was strongest.

Abalone from Big Island (Hawaii) grilled on a hot stone. This is why the tongs in an abalone shell are part of the place setting. The abalone is already cooked and need just a quick grill on the stone to bring out the flavors of the special sauce it's coated in. I found that grilling a little longer like 30 seconds was perfect. It was sweet and tender and the sauce when heated up gave it a not-charred but burnt-ish grill flavor.

Assorted appetizers

Spaghetti squash somen in a creamy nutty sauce with sashimi grade shrimp and soft boiled quail egg. I broke the quail egg yolk and mixed it into the sauce giving it a carbonara taste. And who doesn't love sashimi grade shrimp!

Salmon sashimi with sliced grapes, grated daikon, ikura (salmon roe), in a citrusy sauce. As good as it sounds.

Pan sauteed duck foie gras on top of a mountain potato cake or mash. This was the best one and tasted best when still hot. The foie gras is a creamy texture and the potato is mushy like how taro would be - altogether a big ball of really tasty mush. I didn't like it with too much wasabi and scraped most of it off.

A soup of soy milk and miso with juicy flaky black cod, mushroom slices, and greens. The broth was mild and the cod was perfect. However, this was my least memorable dish compared to the others.

Chef's choice sashimi, today it was seared Bonito with a ponzu sauce to pour over. The fish tastes like a tuna. I enjoyed eating the pile of shredded daikon and various greens like shiso soaked in the ponzu sauce with each bite of fish.

Homemade kabocha tofu, tempura veggies, and snow crab pieces in a consomme (clear soup). First off, everything was good in this dish but let's dive into the highlights. The kabocha tofu was unlike any tofu I have ever tasted. It is silken like tofu but with a starchiness like green bean paste or cooked pumpkin. It's really good. I don't think I will have another chance to taste something like this again.
Secondly, the consomme was like a shark fin soup - a little gelatinous and light but with a thin sheen of fat (seen in photo).

Palate cleanser - pear and yuzu sorbet with a pink peppercorn on top. Nice, refreshing, just enough taste to reset your 'buds for the next two heavier courses.

American Kobe beef, shimeji mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, with miso sauce served in an oven broiled cast iron Le Creuset mini cocotte. Isn't the tiny pot so adorable? From our seat at the bar, I saw the chef put the cocottes into the oven, and then place cold wagyu slices on top and drizzle with the miso sauce. Everything was still very hot when it was served. The wagyu beef was a little plain to me but it was cooked just to my desired done-ness. The Japanese eggplant and shimeji mushrooms had been sitting in the miso sauce which had gotten slightly caramelized from the heat of the cocotte and a bite of this was really good.

Unagi with free range chicken egg omelet in a dashi soy sauce over rice and a side of pickled cucumber and daikon. This dish was all about textures and mouth-feel as you can just imagine from the photo. I don't even know how eggs can be cooked in this interesting texture like little hand molded pasta strips. The rice was soft and fluffy as ever. The dashi soy sauce was somewhere between liquid and viscous. Overall, an enjoyable dish with a home-cooked attitude.

An autumn sundae with chestnut mousse, a layer of Japanese black sugar jelly, a glob of creme with a sesame cookie and a sprig of mint. The mint is just a garnish but oh man, if you enjoy herbs, this is an interesting mildish varietal. The black sugar jelly tasted rather herbaceous which I kinda liked. The chestnut mousse was a bit too grainy and nutty.

The restaurant was sweet to give us this complimentary strawberry ice cream which was divine! Chunks of fresh strawberry in there.

Can we take a moment to discuss all the wonderfully crafted utensils, placemats, chopstick holders, plates, and glassware? Much of it was made in Japan - like the sake glasses. I love the wooden spoons and tear shaped sauce bowls.

Wakuriya is worth the effort to make the reservation. $98 per person for a Michelin star meal is not bad at all. 


  1. Great post, I'm going to try to get a reservation ASAP =)

    If you haven't tried Kusakabe in San Francisco or Sawa Sushi in Sunnyvale, I would highly recommend checking both out. Kusakabe had the best nigiri I have ever had... zero need for adding anything wasabi or soy sauce--each bite was flawless. It also has a Michelin star and is slightly more expensive, but at least reservations are pretty easy to get.



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