If you think Japanese food is all about sushi, it’s time to think outside the (bento) box and pack your gang into a cozy booth at Rintaro. This new dining spot in San Francisco’s SoMa district serves up Japanese-inspired dishes packed with local and seasonal Bay Area ingredients—all dreamt up by a dad who knows a thing or two about getting a toddler to try anything with tentacles.

Korokke_sylvanbrackett_rintaroPhoto: Peko Peko

Japan Through the Eyes of a Child
Owner and chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett spent his own childhood eating his way through Japan during family trips, and the menu at Rintaro is inspired by dishes he tried and loved as a young boy. But kids don’t need to be tiny globe trotters with worldly palates in order to enjoy his food—Brackett insists that Japanese food is inherently kid-friendly. There’s a a pre-fixe kid’s menu from 5:30-6:30 p.m. every night (closed Sundays) and it’s just $9.50. Kids will also enjoy the gyoza, the tamago (an egg dish) and the korokke, which is similar to a potato croquette. And everyone will love the ever changing dessert menu, which features ingredients like fresh persimmons and the outrageously delicious cherry roll.

rintaro_interiorPhoto courtesy of the author

A Feast for the Eyes
And while you won’t find an elaborately decorated play space or a kids’ menu, once the kids settle into the cozy booths or become captivated by the action in the open kitchen, you will realize that Rintaro boasts a more subtle version of kid-friendly design. Parents will be enchanted by the many beautiful touches, including a front garden, the reclaimed Hinoki cedar counter, hand-dyed aprons, and the dishes, which are a combination of handcrafted pieces by artist Yuko Satos and vintage items collected on Brackett’s trips to Japan. Many moms and dads may even recognize the space from date nights gone by, when Chez Spencer was in this spot.

sylvan and son_rintaroPhoto of Sylvan Mishima Brackett and son, courtesy of the author

The Man in the Kitchen
Rintaro literally translates to Woods Boy. It was a nickname given to Sylvan (which means of the woods) by one of his father’s friends on a trip to Japan. Brackett, whose past pursuits include Peko Peko catering as well as six years as Alice Water’s assistant at Chez Panisse, (yep, that Chez Panisse!) focused his menu on sustainable and local but totally authentic ingredients. The food is seasonal, and includes specialty varieties of Japanese vegetables, as well as fried goods and yakitori items.

Cherry Roll Cake_sylvanbrackett_rintaro
Photo: Peko Peko

Good to know: Street parking is the only real option, and parents should be aware that the neighborhood is…ahem…colorful. But once you step inside the gates of Rintaro, you’ll feel totally transported. Like you just got off the train at Shinjuku Station.

82 14th St. @ Folsom
San Francisco, Ca
Online: izakayarintaro.com
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 5 –11 p.m., Fri. & Sat., 5 p.m.–midnight

Will you be taking your little ones to try Rintaro?

—Amber Guetebier