Delica serving impeccable Japanese dinners 

Devotees of the lush, California-inspired Japanese food to go at Delica in the Ferry Building will be ecstatic to learn that Delica now serves sushi and Japanese “tapas” at tables in the evenings.

The daytime delicatessen counter, whichdispenses dewy, panko-crusted deep-fried scallops, tender shrimp cakes, chicken patties lightened with tofu and vegetables and bento boxes of extraordinary Japanese salads, shuts down  around 6 p.m.

Then the staff erects long, high, wooden tables with folding stools.

Two chefs man the newly constructed five-seat sushi bar, and black clad servers post the daily fish and tapas specials on the blackboard. 

With Thelonious Monk-like jazz in the background, the bustling delicatessen magically becomes a warm and inviting corner for dining at night in the Ferry Building.

Bespectacled owner Yasuhiro Iwata, whose father started the chain of 345 Delica rf 1 delicatessens in Japan, welcomes diners with his pixie-like smile, but he is dead serious about Delica’s mission to use organic and sustainable local ingredients along with the finest Japanese imports.

The sushi bar serves only wild fish, not farmed, and features sustainable choices such as toro from abundant albacore tuna.

This foie gras of the sea is equally as buttery, and actually a little more interesting in flavor, than belly cuts from the over-fished bluefin tuna.

The entire sushi and sashimi service is impeccable. You can feel each firm grain of delicately adhesive rice on your tongue, and the proportion of rice to fish to garnish is balletic. But you don’t have to eat just raw fish to have a spectacular meal here.

The cooks at Delica understand deep frying. The kitchen makes panko out of bread crumbs from Acme pan de mie, a white bread with character. Anything coated in these crumbs and fried in Delica’s clean, hot, neutral oil will emerge golden, crunchy and moist within.

This same frying magic works with mixed vegetable and shrimp tempura ($6.50), which gets an ethereal batter, not crumbs.

From the “tapas” menu come fried, de-boned whole sardines in Japanese escabeche with carrots and onions ($6), everything gently pickled in rice wine vinegar, soy and dashi.

Chicken aficionados will adore  provocatively chewy, panko-crumbed, deep-fried chicken gizzards ($7). Curry potato and minced beef croquettes ($5) are soft and creamy inside.

Fried cubes of organic tofu get a sheer coating so its natural creaminess comes forward, enlivened with a sweet-and-sour sesame seed sauce ($5).

I always start with lacy lotus root chips ($3), super thin and crisp, better than any potato chip, accompanied with an overflowing glass of chilled Dewazakura Oka ($10), a ginjo sake from Yamagata prefecture. A square lacquered box called a masu collects the extra sake which you pour into your glass at the end.

One of the best of the “tapas” is  a plate of seared albacore, sliced, each rectangle topped with half moons of fresh black truffle, all atop a salty, reduced truffle scented miso sauce ($14). I mopped up every drop of this haunting sauce with poufs of baby mizuna.

The purity of Delica’s Japanese and Californian ingredients combined with bounteous presentation really does merge two cultures in a way that brings the best of both to the table.  

Patricia Unterman is author of the second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at



Location: Ferry Building, S.F.
Contact: (415) 834-0344;
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays for dinner; Japanese delicatessen open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to 6:30 Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
Price range: $3 to $14 for dinner
Recommended dishes: Albacore toro, deep-fried chicken gizzards, lotus root chips, tempura, sardines in Japanese escabeche, seared tuna with truffles, sea urchin sushi
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Accepted for sushi bar

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Patricia Unterman

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