This is actually the second time I have been here, but the first time was with the kids so there was really no time to take pictures of the food. There are actually very few restaurants in the Bay Area that serve yoshoku which is essentially Western influenced Japanese comfort food, and I tend to crave it every now and then, so I thought this place was worth a repeat visit. Japanese pastas along with curries tend to be staples on Yoshuko menus, particularly Mentaiko pasta dish. I always crave it every now and again, so after searching on Yelp, I ended up stumbling on Usagi, which is a little spot just a block off the main strip in Downtown San Mateo. I didn’t order the Mentaiko Spaghetti this time around since it didn’t taste as flavorful the first time. Instead, I wanted to give some of the Japanese tapas a try.
Having recently enjoyed an uni based pasta, I was immediately drawn to this Uni Risotto. As sushi, uni is quite overpowering so I don’t necessarily crave it, but it takes on a whole different level of umami when it is the main ingredient in a sauce. Its natural texture lends a richness and that you normally get with lots of butter and cream, but it has a briney depth that really hits the spot. This risotto was very much what I was hoping it would be. It looks cheesy, but it wasn’t heavy at all. In fact, the creamy risotto tasted quite light and there was just enough uni to really make the entire dish sing with goodness while still staying light and subtle.
Yes, I couldn’t resist myself, but I had to order the calamari. This was definitely the most disappointing dish. Pdho couldn’t stop complaining about how he didn’t like the heavy batter which totally masked any flavor of the calamari itself. I thought the tartar sauce would add some tangy kick, but it was nothing more than a diced egg and onion mayo. It is definitely not a dish I would recommend ordering.
The Kurobuta sausages were boiled which didn’t sound like it would be tasty, but I could not be more wrong. They were plump and oozing with meaty goodness. The sauerkraut and deli mustard brought some Western essence, but both were notably lighter versions being just a tad bit less sour and tangy, respectively. However, they both still complemented the sausages very well by helping to cut the fattiness if the pork.
The Hayashi rice which seemed to be a signature dish was not very interesting. Essentially, it is a tomato flavored rice wrapped in an egg omelet and covered with a beef flavored sauce. It is much lighter than a curry sauce and definitely lacking the depth of flavors that you find in really good curry. I didn’t like it as much as the other small plates.
All in all, I have to admit that this place is a little hit or miss. Some things are very good and others are just kind of plain. I probably will still come back though, because I want to give the other pastas a try. There are quite a few that looked interesting. Even though it is small, I like the cozy feel of the place and the wait staff is super friendly and more importantly now, much more than before, this restaurant is very kid-friendly. Not only was there a kid at almost every table in the restaurant, but they have plates and silverware specifically for children. We will definitely be back if only for the fact that we can eat there with the twins.
505 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
PAFO Ratings for Usagi:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars