A sign for Echigo Home Cook displayed on a window.
Echigo Home Cook on Feb. 20, 2024. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Echigo Home Cook is named after a province in Japan, though I’m not sure what the “Home Cook” refers to, as the food here is a far cry from much home cooking I’ve encountered. Then again, I’ve never been to a home in Japan. 

Echigo Home Cook took over the former Borderlands space on Valencia and, while it’s always sad to lose a bookstore, this is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The new décor is … interesting. They kept the Dutch door (and they leave the top half open, even on rainy, chilly nights, unless you ask nicely), there’s a wall of faux flowers as you enter (pretty), a wall of very Holly Hobby-type straw wreaths (odd), and yet another wall of Japanese prints, most of them of cats (cute!) Also, there’s no actual sushi bar, just tables. Nonetheless, the space is comfortable and spacious. 

On my first visit with friends, we began our order with a 49er roll.

A plate of sushi on a wooden table.
49er roll.

It’s your standard California roll, with salmon atop and thinly sliced lemon, but with a kind of sweet-ish sauce that I didn’t particularly love, but my friends really enjoyed. 

The sake nigiri was beautifully cut, with a lovely texture; someone’s got knife skills in the kitchen.

Japanese sashimi on a blue and white plate.
Sake nigiri.

We ordered pork gyoza for the table.

Dumplings with dipping sauce on a plate.

Nicely crispy, flavorful pork filling; good, though not a standout.

Next, hirame kobejime sashimi (marinated halibut),

A plate with a piece of fish on it.
Hirame kobejime sashimi

Here’s where things started to shine: Four beautiful, satiny slices, with delicate flavor. Outstanding.

Followed by a stunning trio of hamachi toro sashimi (yellowtail belly), kurudai nigiri (black sea bream), and shimi aji nigiri (striped jack):

A platter of sushi on a wooden table.
Hamachi, kurudai, shima aji

All exceedingly delicious, delicate and silky. The hamachi toro, in particular, was incredibly meaty, with a good snap to it. The kurudai was, pleasantly and surprisingly, lightly smoked. All worth ordering again, and double the amount, please.

They brought us a plate of crispy fried tofu on the house:

Fried tots with dipping sauce on a plate.
Fried tofu.

With spicy daikon and a dipping sauce (I believe the same sauce that was on the 49ers roll). The tofu was fried perfectly: Outer satisfying crunch, inner tender goodness.

I’d espied something on the menu that I was dying to try, so we got the pork katsu sando as dessert.

A sandwich is sitting on a plate in front of a bar.
Pork katsu sandwich.

Stunned silence at our table! A fantastically crispy and very tender breaded hunk of pork (braised for 12 hours!), fried golden, sandwiched between two slices of pillowy milk bread with a light smear of delicately flavored, house-made tonkatsu sauce, and organic, thinly sliced mixed greens (seemed like mostly crunchy cabbage), sided by a few sweet/tart pickles. Utterly fabulous, we all loved it, and it was a good thing to end the meal on. Get this!

If you search for a menu online, you’re likely to come across what appears to be the former takeout space’s listing of an abundance of tea, matcha, hojicha, and fruit-themed drinks, along with sake and beer. On my second visit, my sister and I wanted tea, but all that was on offer at the restaurant were four or five choices of “hot tea.” Our server said their tea menu was not ready yet, so we ordered a pot each of hojicha and jasmine. (NB: They are quite large pots, and we could have shared one — the server did warn us). My hojicha was nutty, reminiscent of buckwheat tea to me, and did the job on a cold night. The jasmine was delightfully aromatic and delicate.

We started out with the hamachi carpaccio from the specials menu.

A plate of sushi on a wooden table.
Hamachi carpaccio.

Each slice was beautifully presented with sliced avocado, like little silken gifts, and again, the lustrous flesh was served at the perfect room temp (so many places serve their fish too cold, which obliterates the subtle flavor).

Next, soy-marinated zuke king salmon, and amaebi spotted prawn:

Three pieces of sushi are sitting on a stone plate.
Zuke king salmon and amaebi spotted prawn.
A plate of fried shrimp on a wooden table.
Spotted prawn head

Zuke is salmon that has been marinated in a combination of sake, soy, vinegar, mirin, and/or a pickling agent that results from the sake-making process. This rendered a lovely, silky and delicate piece of sake with a subtle soy flavor. As delicious as that was, the spotted prawn edged it out slightly, with its gelatinous elegance and accompanying crispy fried head. 

We ordered the pork katsu curry:

A bowl of curry with meat and rice on a wooden table.

I was thrilled with the substantial portion of perfectly crispy fried pork, lovingly resting in a luxurious pool of thick curry and rice. The curry had a dark sweetness, with notes of cinnamon. Excellent on a cold night.  

We also got the uni-lobster udon:

A plate with noodles and vegetables on it.
Lobster udon with uni.

A beauty. Between the luscious uni and the porny onsen egg just lying under the surface, waiting to be dipped into and spread over fat noodles, with strips of crispy nori and slivers of parmigiano reggiano, this dish promised to be an umami fest. However, I found it almost too subtle in flavor. There was the overall sense of the lobster, though I only encountered one actual chunk of the crustacean. The dish kind of melded into a soupy, albeit comforting, blend of textures. I added a little soy, which made it pop a bit, and finished the whole bowl. I don’t think I’d get it again, but it was actually quite lovely if you’re not looking for a flavor bomb.

My sister ordered a “creamy” scallop handroll to finish:

A sushi roll is sitting on a blue plate on a wooden table.
Scallop handroll.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t really creamy, but she deemed it “good.”

The menu is quite extensive (rice bowls, karaage, curries, noodles, potato croquette sando, many types of rolls, in addition to much more sashimi and nigiri options, and (coming soon), a huge selection of tea, matcha and hojicha drinks, along with sake, beer and a small section of wine.  

Overall, and considering Echigo Home Cook is still in its soft-opening phase, this is a worthy spot that has been missing from the Mission food scene: High-quality, beautiful Japanese food prepared with care, and not just sushi (although it is fabulous sushi).

Echigo Home Cook isn’t cheap, but neither is it exorbitant for what you get. It’s good to have more high-end sushi options in this part of the Mission, too. And friendly service seals the deal.

Rush right out and give a hearty “irasshaimase” to our new neighbors!

Echigo Home Cook
870 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

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    1. Wait.

      The room is cold. The music skips because the WiFi is messed up. The waiter asked if I wanted water but didn’t bring any. I had to remind him to bring my wine (which was a tiny pour). Hard to get his attention, too.

      All normal stuff for a new restaurant. And the food is fantastic. I wish them well and will return, but … wait.

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