Shinmai – Oakland

Finding Shinmai is like a game of where’s Waldo. It’s unmarked, painted all black with no windows, and during the day the doors are closed. Very mysterious. When we followed our trusty friend Google Maps to the pin, we looked lost like tourists. Did we pass it? Luckily they had their doors wide open for dinner and after a moment of confusion, we awkwardly entered the abyss that is Shinmai.

It wasn’t super dark when we got there, but as time went on it got darker and darker. It’s a long restaurant with room towards the back that looks like you can close to make private. Very chic and hip. You can get a good view of the kitchen from virtually everywhere you sit.

We didn’t make reservations so they offered to seat us at the communal table in the front or towards the back on high top chairs. We opted to sit near the front since near the bar. Hopefully the pictures give you an idea of the place. Fairly upscale Japanese, minimalist decor, with a bar and a large communal table in the front for large groups or people who don’t make reservations…aka, us.

Chicken Karaage – miso tartar, tsuya bbq, lemon ($13)

Right off the bat we dove into one of our favorite appetizers, chicken karaage. Their version didn’t disappoint. Paired with the miso tartar and the ginger worcestershire sauce the dish came together ever so smoothly. The chicken itself was fried nicely with enough juicy goodness to turn frowns upside down.

It took a few bites to really appreciate the sauces, but once that time hit there was no going back to naked chicken.

Beef Ribeye – medium rare, black garlic & ginger tare, sesame seeds, scallions ($14)

As expected, the meat was flavorful, albeit a little overcooked to a good well done. You can’t tell the scale here but these are fairly large pieces. Probably the size of 3 oz. pieces. Think 8 oz. filet mignon. We only had chopsticks so we ripped through the steak like starving sharks. While the flavor was there, having a good balance of savory and sweet, the meat just was a little too tough for our liking.

Tonkotsu Ramen – pork chashu, shoyu egg, wood ear mushroom, bamboo, garlic oil, scallion ($16)

We had to order ramen to see how it stacks up to some of the more popular places in the bay. It did ramen justice and then some. The broth was fatty and full of flavor. I actually was kind of surprised. The noodles also had a nice chew, and I would totally order it again.

This was the other location we could have sat at to get a front row seat at the action in the kitchen. Normally I would want to experience this but man is it dark over there…

Final Thoughts

The reviews on Yelp are pretty high for a place I’ve passed probably a dozen times that never even knew existed. The food was better than I expected and we had a nice meal. I did feel underdressed given the vibe of the restaurant. Would I go back? Probably, just not anytime soon. It’s a little pricey for this type of fare and I feel like I can get food just as good at a more run down casual eatery not too far away. But if I needed a nice place to go with friends or family to celebrate something I think it would be a great place to congregate and chow down at.

Although this may not be so hidden to you, it was for me! Anyone know of any hidden gems in the bay? We are always on the lookout for new places! 🙂

1825-3 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA 94612

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