Hidden Gem Revealed: Japanese Whisky and Grilled Skewers in San Francisco

In 2016, Marc Zimmerman embarked on a culinary journey as the opening chef at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Tokyo, Japan. During his time in Japan, he developed a deep appreciation for Tokyo’s vibrant post-work dining and drinking culture. Now, Zimmerman is bringing a taste of that culture to San Francisco with the opening of Yokai, a Japanese-inspired hi-fi listening bar and restaurant.

Yokai promises an immersive experience that blends food, drinks, and music, all influenced by Japanese traditions. Zimmerman’s menu features an array of delectable dishes, with skewers grilled over Japanese binchotan coals taking center stage. These skewers include offerings like Wolfe Ranch quail, baby Spanish octopus, and Château Uenae chuck roll A5 Wagyu, showcasing Zimmerman’s skillful use of premium ingredients. Small plates, such as oysters with beet mignonette and Dungeness crab salad, offer delightful accompaniments. For vegetable enthusiasts, options like shredded Brussels sprouts with sesame dressing and wild California mushrooms are also available. Larger plates range from koji-cured Sonoma duck to a unique burger served “Gozu style” with wasabi thousand island dressing and local sea urchin.

The beverage program at Yokai, overseen by Beverage Director Jordan Abraham, complements the cuisine with an emphasis on Japanese spirits, brandies, and Cognacs. Guests can indulge in Japanese whiskies and explore Japan’s burgeoning gin scene. Signature cocktails like the Imperial Garden, crafted with Ki No Bi Go green tea gin and Saint Germain, or the Pretty Bird, featuring Kiyomi Japanese rum, coconut water, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and lime, offer a taste of Japan’s diverse flavors. Non-alcoholic options, including carbonated teas, cater to those who prefer alcohol-free choices.

Beyond the culinary offerings, Yokai boasts a unique auditory experience, with vintage mint JBL Pro Series studio speakers sourced by Zimmerman himself. Jazz records will be played throughout the space, creating an immersive atmosphere that elevates the dining and drinking experience. Yokai embodies Zimmerman’s passion for creating places and experiences rooted in authenticity, personal connection, and soul, making it a promising addition to San Francisco’s culinary scene.

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