Gochi in Cupertino, California
One of my old faves in San Jose was an izakaya called Tanto, a very crowded place that, in my experiences at least, had better food than many izakaya in Japan. Well, it'd been years since I'd been there, and tonight, my friend recommended that we try a new spot called Gochi (19980 Homestead Road in Cupertino, 408-725-0542), which is run by one of the former chefs at Tanto. When I first arrived, I was a bit worried as the signs called the food "Japanese Fusion Tapas," which to me rang panic bells all over, especially considering how much I dislike fusion (and I'm not a big fan of modern Japanese either). But, with Tanto being one of my favorite places ever, I figured that "tapas" was maybe just an easy way to describe the little izakaya plates to a population accustomed to so many Spanish places up in SF. Fortunately, this place was indeed pretty good and close to Tanto.
Although the menu was a bit different, there were still quite a few of our old Tanto favorites here, including the daikon sarada, potato mentaiko, and gyutan shioyaki, and they were all largely prepared just as well as at Tanto (I would have liked the gyutan to be cut a bit thinner, but it was pretty well grilled like Tanto did though). They also had a ribeye with garlic flakes similar to Tanto's gariku suteki and just as tasty, although the meat had a few too many chunks of fat in it. Drinkwise, they had some of my favorite sake, including Oni Goroshi. We also picked up a bottle of Orion, an Okinawan beer, as well as some rice-based beer, which I originally expected to taste more sake-like due to its rice, but it ended up tasting just like most other beers.
Some things that we ventured into though included the kare korokke (curry croquettes), which were surprisingly light and fluffy, as well as the yaki onigiri chazuke. The latter was an interesting but simple concept that I'm surprised no one ever really though of before: combine two popular Japanese closers, yaki onigiri and ochazuke, thus making a decently good dish, especially if you like crispy burnt rice). In addition, we grabbed the furufuki daikon, which, with its simple miso paste and sprouts was definitely not as exquisite as the one at Shiro, but it was also much much cheaper (US$5.50 here compared to S$18 or US$10.50 at Shiro).
So in the end, this place was definitely worth the while, and, as with Tanto, still in many ways better than some places that I've been to in Japan. But if I had to choose between the two, I'd have still stick to Tanto. From what I can remember from four years ago, Tanto did an even better job of many of these already very-well-done dishes. I just hope that they haven't changed since they got more popular (apparently they have expanded to three locations now).