For some reason, I'd accumulated a small collection of photos from visits for sushi over the last couple of months. Each place had it's own personality. I thought it would probably be appropriate to start with my visit to what I call "transplanted Kazumi", now located in Moby Dick Fishmarket. Before there was Sakura, Kaito, or Shirahama, there was Sushi Bar Kazumi. Kazumi was actually the first sushi bar I ate at back in the late 90's. My clients were located in the Hillcrest area and Kazumi was within walking distance. And to take things even farther back, from what I've been told, the current location of Sushi Yaro, was the original location of Sushi Bar Kazumi, before it was Ishikawa. After moving to San Diego proper, I always found parking to be a hassle in the area, so I didn't return until about early 2005. By then Kazumi had started looking a bit run down and the sushi I had that evening kind of reflected that. Eventually he closed down......Zo-san, who I seem to run into all over the place told me that Kazumi was looking to reopen in the Convoy area. But I never expected him to reopen in Moby Dick Fishmarket and Grill. The concept seemed a weird marraige of fishmarket, pseudo fast-food, combined with sushi bar in the evening. Still, I was delighted when reading Kirbie's post on Kazumi, it seemed he had returned to form. Nothing nouvelle about it, but good, solid, old-school sushi.
I had made reservations and I arrived finding the sushi bar empty, but groups of patrons, "roll-a-holics" all on the tables in the restaurant. I took my seat and saw Kazumi moving at the speed of light, a one man show, with a single Server, efficient, and just friendly enough.
He had a pile of fish sliced in front of him when I arrived and I just told him that I'd take whatever he thought was good, and not to worry and rush. To my surprise, he immediately started making nigiri of the fish in front of him, stopping only to cut two pieces of engawa, and within minutes things were started with a rather shabby looking eight pieces of nigiri.
When I asked, I was told that the tuna was Bigeye, aka Ahi, and what my relatives called "mebachi". That explained the rather lean chu-toro....which still looked like it had part of the dark blood line it in, making it look rather unappetizing. The akami was dry and had broken into pieces before being placed on the rice. The hamachi was dry and stringy.....not a good start at all. Though the engawa, the dorsal fin muscle of the halibut was very good, very mildly sweet, with a nice chew, it was also cut in a rather haphazardly way.
To me, this just seemed like "neta ( the topping of nigiri) fail" and just kind of sad overall. Yet Kazumi was working like a madman putting together roll after roll, even handing me a negi-toro (fatty tuna-green onion) temaki.
The chu-toro in this handroll was actually better than what was on the nigiri.....I love negi-toro and negi-hama, so this pleased me. I was once told that temakiwas actually invented in the United States! I also noticed that Kazumi's sushi-meshi was not quite as strong in the vinegar department; though time could be a factor here.
After a few minutes, the dust had settled and things had slowed down a bit. Kazumi then got down to work......opening and cleaning a Hotategai(scallop) and creating a combination of scallop nigiri and hotate-uni gunkanmaki.
The gunkanmaki seemed a bit sloppy and the uni was not of the highest quality, but it was not bad. Kazumi had not put any wasabi on the hotate nigiri, which was an excellent choice, as the wonderful sweet and mildly briney flavor came through quite well. That was quite a treat. Kazumi had wound down a bit and started making conversation with me as well......I still enjoyed his wit and sense of humor.
I enjoyed the saba-kazunoko (fish roe) temaki.
Great combination of textures.
I love shiromi, white meat fish, but the hirame (halibut) I was served was dry and on the gummy side.
Amazingly, only 40 minutes had passed at this point.......but I was just about totally gassed, so I gave the sign for "just one more"......which ended up being pretty good. This was a cured-"smoked" salmon, which I really enjoyed.
This was something that all the "old school" places used to serve ages ago, but I don't see much nowadays. I asked Kazumi about this prep........he mentioned salt and hickory, but not smoking. Then I realized, this is cured in a combination of salt and liquid smoke! Man, I got to figure this one out.
Dinner ended on a high note, and I'm sure that he'd do a good job if not inundated by orders for 6 California Rolls and 5 crunchy rolls at a time. Also, this dinner ended up being the most expensive of the four at over $80, so I'm not sure I'll return, especially in this format/ locale.
Sushi Bar Kazumi (Inside of Moby Dick Fish Market & Grill)
4805 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111