**** Kokoro no longer serves lunch
Timing is a funny thing. First off, I hadn't had rice for almost 5 weeks. Our trip, then supporting the Missus with Her latest "thing" meant rice was "no bueno". I was given the ok to consume said grain on "my own time", but I still didn't hae the motivation to do so. Until I received and email from "FOY" SomTommy who told me that the former owner of the well regarded Little Tokyo Sushi, cum Kaiseki restaurant Kappo Ishito had opened a small restaurant in Serra Mesa. A day later, I read about it in Eater San Diego. Apparently, Akio Ishito had been biding his time at Oton, before opening his own place. This kinda made me waver a bit.....I've never been the biggest fan of Oton having had a couple of rather uneven meals there. So I contacted SomTommy again who also mentioned that he dropped over $250 for the omakase for two at this new place called Kokoro. Now I'm not adverse to spending that kind of money for an outstanding meal......but I truly had my doubts. Then I read that they did lunch......I realize that lunch would not display the full range of what the Itamae could pull off, but it would give some indication of his style and preparation.
So, I believe this location used to be the combination Chinese Fast Food - Western Steakburger? It's not got a simple front; no large sign yet, looking somewhat incomplete from the outside. The interior is simple, clean, and rather generic. The woman working, who I assume is Akio-san's wife is so very nice, in a calm, relaxing way.
The lunch menu is set with a combination bento like offering, a bunch of rice bowls (only to-go I believe), chirashi, and a nigiri combination. There's also a page full of rolls, which I really didn't pay attention to.
I ordered the Nigiri Lunch Special - 8 pieces and miso soup ($15). First thing I noticed was that Akio-san works fast, I mean like a well oiled machine fast. He put my lunch together in less than 5 minutes. But don't get the idea that his work is sloppy, rather, things look quite uniform.
Things I noticed right away; it seemed like the nigiri were bigger than I was used too....perhaps I've been consuming a bit too much Edomae style nigiri. The amount of wasabi was consistent on each piece and was to my taste....heck even at Shunji, there was bit too much wasabi in the first two pieces of nigiri before things settled down. And while the offerings were pretty much routine, I thought it was an excellent $15 lunch, 8 pieces nigiri, miso soup (not bad - a bit too light), and two decent pieces of tamago (good), was more than enough for me.
The best items by far was the Tako, which was nice and tender, the saba was prepared, I'm not sure if he does the curing himself....I'll ask next time, but it had a nice meatiness to it, while still being very tender, with a faint cheesiness, and good oil. The anago was really good....it really didn't look too promising, but it basically melted in my mouth.
While not too talkative initially, Akio-san got a bit more chatty as the meal went on. In the end, this was a very nice lunch....I left satisfied.
So what about that omakase? Well, you notice that this is "part 1", right?
3298 Greyling Dr
San Diego, CA 92123
Mon - Thurs 1130am - 10pm
Fri - Sat 1130am - 11pm