Inside Corkage And Its (Not-So) Secret Happy Hour

Inside Corkage And Its (Not-So) Secret Happy Hour
Photos: Stephen Jackson / Hoodline
By Stephen Jackson - Published on May 09, 2014.
If you live in the neighborhood, you’ve probably heard of Tsunami Sushi over on Fulton and Divisadero. However, if you pop in next door, you will find yourself inside a lesser-known boutique sake and wine shop turned Japanese pub called Corkage.

Tucked between Tsunami and Café Abir, Corkage doesn't just do retail: it offers an oft-overlooked menu of otsumami (Japanese for small dishes eaten while drinking alcohol) and raw oysters, as well as a few Western-inspired appetizers.

It’s also home to a happy hour that might be right up your alley. From 5pm to 7pm, Monday through Saturday, Corkage offers the following menu:
  • Half Dozen Oysters (Chef’s choice but usually Miyagi) for $5.00
  • Otsumami Sampler for $4.00
  • Sake of the Day for $5.00
  • Wine of the Day for $5.00

You’ll be hard-pressed to find oysters (at least good ones) for under a dollar anywhere in the city, and both the wine and sake are served on tap. The Otsumami Sampler consists of takoyaki (deep-fried octopus dumpling), tako wasabi (basically a raw octopus ceviche), ika sansai (squid with ginger) and sunomonu salad (cucumber/seaweed salad).

All of this is served with a smile by Manager Todd Eng, a Boston-born UC Berkeley grad who first moved to San Francisco in 1996. He’s also the wine and sake buyer for Corkage and Tsunami, as well as the Mission's Nihon Whiskey Lounge. Todd has been studying sake for over 10 years, receiving his Level II Certification from the Sake Education Council through a class he took in Japan from John Gauntner, an American sake expert. Here's his advice on picking out a good sake:
“I think the most important thing is knowing the grade of the sake. Remember, sake is just water and rice. The higher-grade stuff is ginjo or daiginjo. Those come from more highly refined rice. If you don’t remember anything else, just remember the word ginjo. It tells you what you are drinking is a more premium sake.”
Not bad for an impromptu primer. If you stop by, pick his brain a bit for more insights.

In addition to the items offered at happy hour, Corkage boasts a thoughtfully curated wine list, a host of Japanese craft beers (jibiru) and, of course, a whole lot more sake. Pay attention to the English translations. Our favorite was Yaegaki Mu, which simply means “nothingness”.
Existential nomenclature aside, Corkage is a Japanese pub—hidden in plain sight—with a lot going on. Stop by sometime and see for yourself.