“So I’ve been cooking since I was 17. I actually had my first popup in high school as my senior project. I made Japanese curry rice… It didn’t go over so well, all the people from my tiny hometown were like ‘ew looks like diarrhea!’”
Written by Kenji B. / Photographed by Brennan K.
After years of apprenticeships and chef positions in the Bay Area and Japan, Sylvan Mishima Brackett opened Rintaro, a traditional yet new kind of Izakaya restaurant in the heart of SF. Rintaro is hidden behind a wooden fence on a quiet street off of south Van Ness. Once you open the gate and step into the courtyard, you are transported.
The sounds of the city fall away and it feels as if you may have crossed into Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away by accident. Your first steps are greeted by a calm patio, the gravel and stone path lead your eye to inside the restaurant. Savory fumes slowly infiltrate the air and the sudden bustle creeps up. Rintaro is in session.
Above Sylvan ordering us and assortment of dishes for us sample, mmm…
Sylvan grew up near Nevada City, but would return to his grandmother’s town in Japan every few years. In his early 20s during his visits there, Sylvan started going to Izakayas with friends drinking and hanging out. He reminisces about these moments as fabulous experiences and it was around this time that he decided he would open an Izakaya of his own.
“Izakayas run the whole gamut from the small shack under the train tracks with the old guy smoking a cigarette and grilling little chicken skewers to that big restaurant in Kill Bill (I’ve actually been there). I wanted a food that’s really casual, where people can drink and hangout and it’s loud and fun…”
To get the experience he needed to be a restaurateur, he moved through a number of high profile apprenticeships. After working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley for seven years, he moved to Japan to work in a Kappo restaurant (traditional Japanese cuisine) right outside of Tokyo.
He moved back to Oakland after several years and began his catering company called Peko-Peko (meaning “I’m starving” in Japanese) out of his garage. It quickly became a hit throughout the Bay Area for its insanely delicious bentos. In addition to the catering, Peko Peko was also a pioneer on Off the Grid – a local street food community – and participated in numerous popups.