Ittoryu Gozu, a.k.a. “Gozu”– the newest wagyu emporium in San Francisco, perched at 201 Spear Street – aims to be a cut above the rest, albeit an “off” one.
At an initial glance, Gozu appears to be an unpretentious, somewhat tucked in hole-in-the-wall; an odd misfit in the South of Market neighborhood it hails its address from. But a single-step into the glass-cladding restaurant front, there’s no denying that Gozu aims to take its “steak” at The omnipresent monochromatic slabs of black drywall; a welcomingly present deluge of seared meat wafts from the smoke-scented shadow box, tickling the senses of the eatery’s patrons. Globally wines are poured, truly, job-smacking amount of cherry-picked, small-batch whiskeys can be ordered at your desire.
Led by chef Marc Zimmerman, previously from the lauded steakhouse giant Alexander’s, Gozu is a departure from Zimmerman’s usually large, on-cut steak fair for the multi-pronged prior mentioned eatery. And, more specifically, putting the marbled, lipid webbed wagyu on a worthy pedestal.
(Educational tidbit: Wagyu is a breed of cattle which, given its literal translation, hailing from Japan and known globally for it’s supple, succulent flesh and umami bombs on the palate; the term “wagyu tears” is the emotional outcome of some carnivores devouring said mesmeric, well-marbled meaty morsels.)
As we sipped what was, in our memory, the third glass of sparkling wine – a variety stomped and bottled in nearby Sonoma County, stocked inside Gozu’s wine cellar – Zimmerman went on to tell the story of his long love affair of the high-price meat. Through all those romantic tellings, what became even more apparent was that Zimmerman is on a mission to showcase the umami-awe of the offcuts: cheeks, blades, oxtails, etc. Fundamentally everything that we would otherwise synonymize outside sirloins, t-bones, and other traditional steaks, Zimmerman’s gungho on blowing a second (or first) wind of popularity into.
Zimmerman’s menus introduce a beef tasting course, where a trio of perfectly done slices are roasted over a bed of binchotan coals, plated and skewered in finger-friendly fashions. An albacore tataki pre-beef dish and pumpkin mochi cake finisher were other standouts. Expect, too, a “beef tea” of sorts – which is an umami punch to the pallet, in the most welcoming way possible.
Ben Jorgensen – who’s the tech veteran and investor-savvy muse behind the steakhouse – partnered with Zimmerman as a co-owner of the establishment, with lauded beverage director Linsday Young helming the libations; Matt Bata of Alexander’s Steakhouse is behind the kitchen, as well. Jorgensen’s past experience with Single Thread, the three-Michelin-Starred lends him the needed experience to functionally run a profitable small-seat restaurant, an oddity in the city. Something of a “unicorn,” if you will, sans algorithmic nods.
Now for the interior space: It’s, says, a cut above the rest. (Pardon the pun.) Gozu exudes minimalism around every corner, with ultramodern aesthetics rounding out the corners; a dark palette and lighting the ambiance of a pet store-bought goldfish enspell the place with a certain gravity rare in Downtown. Diners, including us, sat atop cozy chairs in what’s called a Japanese-style kappo arrangement, which brings everyone around the tiered grill for warm conversation and seared meats.
A whiskey lounge – cheekily named “Nicholas Cage” for its, well, cagey exterior and ability to morph into any single ideation – sits side-saddle to the main dining hall. Populated by a long Japanese oak table, smooth as silk and as ringed as Saturn’s moons, exists around a dozen (or so) chairs; a “whiskey wall” mantles the front of the room, featuring both high-brow Japanese and Scottish whiskeys are illuminated underneath a tangerine glow.
Conclusively, we left admittedly a bit physically hungry, but absolutely satiated from a gastronomic sense, our taste buds dancing atop a mound of beef drippings and salted seasonings.
Gozu, too, finds itself in a crowded, equally lauded company, with newcomers like Niko’s Steakhouse and longtime staples – Alexander’s Steakhouse, 5A5 Steak Lounge, House of Prime Rib – cementing the trend: Read meat, despite environmental impacts, is here to stay.