Tempura At Marina Izakaya Chotto | San Francisco

At Chotto, the best bites are fried

The Japanese: They're healthier than us. They're smarter than us. Their baseball players are great. They even massage their cows, for crying out loud. And now we have to learn that they're better at the most American of culinary techniques, frying? Well, yes.

At the new Marina izakaya Chotto, the menu covers a dizzying amount of ground–a bit of sashimi, some meats cooked over binchotan charcoal, grilled fish. Go ahead and ignore all that, and turn your attention instead to the agemono: fried dishes that are an excellent match for beer, served here in a well-frosted glass (we like the German Radeberger [$7], but Hitachino Nest fans are taken care of).

This is not your average tempura, as will become evident after one bite of the kani korokke (pictured; $9), delicate croquettes filled with snow crab, fried to a greaseless crisp (with a molten béchamel center).

Or try the koika, rings of Monterey calamari clad in a lacy batter ($7), drizzled with chili aioli. They need nothing more than a spritz of lemon to perfect them. Even the agedashi tofu ($5)–in a tentsuyu broth that's at once smoky and sweet–is first-rate.

Another win for the Land of the Rising Sun.

Chotto, 3317 Steiner St.; 415-441-2223 or chottosf.com