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Outside Japan, it’s rare to find a restaurant like Ijji. Think minimalist. Serenity. Ritual. Understatement. Precision.

On a busy block on a busy San Francisco street, Ijji is almost invisible. Even if you’re looking for it, you could still miss it. No sign, no grand entrance, only a discrete iii on the Japanese curtains that face the street.

Once inside, it’s tiny. Just 15 seats, seven of them at the counter. If you can, sit at the counter. You’ll not only watch your chef — one of three — prepare each item of your 19-course meal, you’ll talk to him about the meal, about the special ginger, the house-prepared soy sauce, which items to eat with chopsticks and which to use your fingers.

Seafood is the big item here, much of it flown in from Japan. Oyster, mackerel, eel, octopus, tuna, sea urchin, snow crab and more. Each just a bite or two; each a different taste and texture from the ones before and after.

You’ll notice the minimalism in the design, the décor, in your chef’s economy of motion and words. From the Japanese greeting to the sidewalk farewell and thank you, you’ll experience the ritual. In the whispered words between chefs and the silky silent service from the waiters, you’ll understand the understatement. And from watching your chef make exacting cuts with his impossibly sharp knife in a ribbon of tuna, the precision will quietly announce itself.

Dinner at Ijji is much more than just a meal; it’s a rich experience. The cost is $135 for 19 courses. Reservations are expected. There are two seatings a night: 6:00 and 8:30. Get there early for each; parking is iffy and traffic, dense.

Ijji Sushi  www.ijjisf.com; 252 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117; (415) 658-7388;

Closed Monday and Tuesday.

 

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On the way to the Frank Stella retrospective at the de Young Museum, we wondered why this exhibition is so important. Is Stella that influential in the art world beyond abstract expressionism?
 
The short answer is yes.
Over the past six decades, the very-much-alive Stella has done more to innovate, disrupt and re-invent art than just about anyone on the planet. What’s more, he’s done all that to his own work, as well.
The current exhibit, which runs through February 26, shows it all: Stella as minimalist, maximalist, abstract expressionist, painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and 3D printer. He’s the breaker of molds, the creator of artistic lawlessness, the shape-shifting artist who’s still open, after six decades, to the tenor and technical advances of his times.
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