Of all the restaurants in the Bay Area, my biggest nemeses are those that are (a) located in San Francisco, (b) open for dinner only, and (c) busy. Each of these circumstances can make my life difficult: San Francisco, with its one-way streets and no left turns, can be a real hassle to navigate; dinner hours, with their inherent lack of sunlight, are typically terrible for food photography; and busy restaurants, with their limited seating options, are just challenging in general. Izakaya Sozai actually falls into all three of these categories, which is why I had postponed this entry until recently.
As with many great meals, snapping a decent shot of Izakaya Sozai’s Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen required both planning and patience. At the very least, I knew that I needed to arrange my visit in the summertime, when the days are long and bright. I also needed to arrive at the restaurant right when the doors opened, in order to secure a seat near a window (and to also take full advantage of the waning daylight). As for dealing with San Francisco and its challenging infrastructure, Izakaya Sozai is located in the Sunset District, which is by far the easiest neighborhood in the city to negotiate, so I did have that one thing going for me, which was nice.
Long story short, I arrived at Izakaya Sozai at 5:20pm, grabbed the end seat at the bar, and I’ve now checked their much-heralded Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen off of my to-eat list (for the record, the dining room was jammed with people by the time I left, typical for that place).
So how did this ramen rate? It was plenty good. Tonkotsu, with its milky-white pallor, is the mother of all ramen broths, so by definition, I already respect the effort. It’s a worthy bowl of noodles, certainly somewhere in San Francisco’s top five. Of course, America’s best ramen is still located in the South Bay, this is a simple fact of life. But skewers of grilled chicken skin, like the ones pictured below, are something that you don’t encounter every day, even in San Jose and San Mateo.