When I moved to San Francisco from Japan, one of the most depressing things about it was the paltry lunch selections near my office. In Japan, we had a choice of endless restaurants specializing in an endless assortment of foods. There was a place we went to just for Chinese Mabo Tofu, and another for rice bowls cooked in a clay pot. Other favorites included Korean, Thai, ramen, sushi, and a number of traditional Japanese restaurants. In San Francisco, my choices were all of a sudden limited to a salad, a sandwich, Chinese takeout, or Mexican.
I go to Muracci’s when I’m feeling really nostalgic for the lunches we used to have in Tokyo. Their main thing is Japanese-style curry, which is very good, but I go there for the non-curry bentos they have. None of them are particularly creative, but that’s what makes them so deeply satisfying. All the items are traditional Japanese bento dishes - karaage bento (fried chicken), sake (grilled salted salmon), tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet), oyako donburi (chicken and egg over rice) etc… The bentos come with whatever the main dish is, a potato salad, a green salad, miso soup and your choice of white or brown rice. At lunch time, the lines can get long because they prepare the food items after you make your order.
Two days ago, I went there and ordered a tonkatsu bento. Even in Japan, tokatsu can be a risky choice because the breading can disguise a bad piece of meat, but Muracci’s has it just right. It’s thin and crisp because they deep fry it to order, and it really hits the spot when nothing else will do but a taste of Japan. I sat at my desk and savored my tonkatsu and rice while I took sips of my miso soup in between bites. It was a short moment of bliss during my otherwise stressful and hectic day.
My other favorite bento there is karaage, but Muracci’s also has udon noodles with curry and an assortment of curry bentos. If you want the curry, I would recommend ordering it as is. They will ask you if you want it spicier, but that just means they add chili powder on top (which only gives it a one-dimensional spiciness that isn’t very authentic). If you don’t want to wait, call in your order ahead of time.
307 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA
Open: Mon.-Thu. 11am-6pm; Fri. 11am-5pm