If, like us, you've questioned the right of dozens of local restaurants to call themselves an izakaya, you may want to pay a visit to Izakaya Roku, where JapaCurry's Jay Hamada is trying to do the right thing.
He has a few essentials down: rowdy coworkers squeezed together around forests of beer mugs. Hand-scrawled specials taped to the wall. Questionable uses of cheese (example: tofu au gratin).
Sure, Izakaya Roku is more of a proper restaurant than a local pub serving snacks, but Hamada is keeping the cooking eclectic and booze-friendly.
Try a homey bowl of ochazuke ($6), green tea and dashi poured over a scoop of rice toppled with pickled plums, or a flashy plate of "devil tofu" ($5) topped with chile oil and seaweed and wreathed in dried pepper threads.
Fried and braised dishes, such as the bubbly fried chicken skin ($4) and kakuni, or slow-cooked pork belly ($8), seem to be the kitchen's strengths.
We have to thank Hamada for introducing us to another izakaya staple: tonpei-yaki ($6), a simple pork-and-cabbage stir-fry wrapped in a thin egg omelet that is then buried under bonito flakes, scallions and squiggles of mayonnaise.
It's just the sort of dish we could imagine ordering after our fourth glass of shochu.
Izakaya Roku, 1819 Market St. (at Pearl St.); 415-861-6500 or rokusf.com