San Francisco's Ittoryu Gozu Offers a New Spin on the Wagyu Tasting Menu
Ittoryu Gozu’s U-shaped counter gives guests a close-up view of the intricacies of each dish.
It's easy to miss the entry to Ittoryu Gozu. Located on the ground floor of a brick high-rise in the South of Market, its minimalist facade both reflects and belies what awaits you inside.
When entering the restaurant, you wonder if you’re in the right place. A blackened steel wall shields the dining area from the entryway, creating a feeling that you’re about to enter an exclusive club. Once you wind your way around the wall, however, the heart of the restaurant is exposed: an open-fire robata with several grills, a flurry of chefs working in orchestrated fashion and a U-shaped counter seating 25 guests surrounding the action. If you’re coming in from a long day, the color palette is sure to calm with its dark charcoal walls and cloth murals. The entire space is not very large, but the open design works well, thanks in large part to the folks at a l m project, the design agency enlisted by Gozu to transform the space.
To the right is the restaurant’s whiskey chamber, with a long marble table that seats up to 12 guests. Despite all the action in the main dining area, this room is somewhat secluded and has a completely different feel. Here, you can sit back in one of the leather-cushioned oak seats from Germany’s E-15 and sip on any of the 40 whiskeys in the bar program’s collection.
But if you’ve come for the food, pull up a chair at the counter and be prepared to experience a wagyu tasting menu that may surprise you. Gozu’s executive chef and owner, Marc Zimmerman, is no stranger to wagyu, having launched locations of Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco, Tokyo and Taipei as business development chef and executive chef of San Francisco. But if you’re expecting a heavy, beef-forward meal, you’ll need to have an open mind and a willing palate. Both Zimmerman and co-founder Ben Jorgensen of the MZ Dining Group set out to create a different wagyu experience.
“Wagyu is seen as a luxury item,” says Zimmerman. “At Gozu, we are serving it in a way that allows guests to taste it in new, different and approachable preparations.”
Guests are guided through a 2.5-hour tasting menu of 15 items over 10 courses comprised of Japanese and local sea life, wild food and wagyu (tasting menus $120 to $150 per person). On this night, the tasting menu included standouts such as the wagyu tartare (charcoal, egg, pickled cucumber, candied shrimp); chawanmushi (wagyu and duck egg custard, wild mushroom, smoked roe); and a selection of A5 snow beef kushiyaki, including beef tare, shichimi and sansyo. For dessert, a pumpkin mochi cake is served with toasted seeds and ginger-scented sweet cream.
Diners have a front-row seat to how each dish is prepared and plated. Servers present each course with a meticulous description of the ingredients. If you opt for the wine pairing, Beverage Director Lindsey Young takes time to explain how each wine and sake complements your next bite of food.
Don’t judge Gozu by its unassuming entryway. There’s a lot to explore behind that wall. 201 Spear St., #120, 415.523.9745, gozusf.com
Below: In addition to the tasting menu, the restaurant offers a secluded whiskey bar with an elaborate menu of spirits.
Photography by: Joseph Weaver