I enjoyed lunch enough at Kokoro that I decided, what the heck; let's roll the dice and go for the omakase dinner.
So I made reservations for an early dinner. I like to give places like this the best chance of creating a nice meal, so we usually eat early. The Missus wasn't quite sure and She had to work anyway, so this was a solo deal.
I was given the nice corner of the bar area, a place I really like to sit. It's quiet and I get to concentrate on my meal.
Things started off with a very well done ohitashi....spinach with mushroom served in the typical kobachi - small bowl.
Subtle and very balanced, the dashi wasn't too over-powering, you could taste the mushrooms, not too salty....clean and refreshing.
The shiromi (white fish) was nice and firm, the ponzu bracing, making this a nice follow-up.
Next up was the sashimi.
I really enjoy the saba here, maybe I'll go ahead and try the battera here next time. The San Diego Uni was excellent. We got into a nice short discussion on uni. Akio-san told me that the best uni comes from the waters off San Clemente and is almost impossible to get since most of it goes to Japan. He used to have connections when he owned Kappo Ishito, but no longer. The toro was ok, though the kanpachi was very firm which I enjoyed.
I really enjoyed the Ushio-jiru.
This had a very clean finish, almost restorative. Light, delicate, the wonderful broth made from tai (snapper) bones just hit the right spots. If I bring the Missus, I'll need to make sure She can try this....it's something She would love. The seemingly simple dishes are deceptively difficult to make....it may not impress some, but for me, I really enjoyed the balance and subtle flavors.
The next dish was a kamo, duck breast, which seemed braised, along with daikon and okra.
The sweet, soy sauce flavor reminded me of buta kakuni. The duck was good, a bit more chewy than I prefer, but it was that piece of daikon, that I really enjoyed. It held shape until I placed in my mouth, which then proceeded to melt away.
Next up was the dish I enjoyed the least.....something that should perhaps be banished from these type of meals.....Saikyo miso Tara (True Cod).
Call me jaded because I've been eating this all my life, but this just didn't do it for me. The fish needed a bit more time under high heat....it just tasted mundane and mediocre compared to what had preceded.
Next up were the nigiri, starting with a large slab of maguro.
The kohada - gizzard shad wasn't as "milky" in flavor as I enjoy.
I do enjoy the preparation of anago here and also appreciate the yuzu kosho which added a nice, mild punch to the nigiri.
At this point, I was asked if I wanted more nigiri, or if I'd go the soba route. I asked Akio-san which direction to take in this fork in the road. He told me "I think you'd like our soba, you should try it......we do a good gobo tempura soba."
And he was right....the soba was perfectly prepared, with a nice texture. The tsuyu was balanced without being too salty. The gobo....well, I love gobo, was crisp and earthy, not oily in the least. I was full and ready for a nap after this.
But I was told, "you must have dessert!" So I did.....
The damage? Dinner and a beer.....$70 bucks without tip. Not bad at all. Here's the thing. I think the fork in the road was after those pieces of nigiri....go for more and you'll hit the $85 plus category, which I think is just dandy if that's what you want. The one really telling moment was when Akio-san recommended I have the soba......it was an honest recommendation. He could have easily led me down the road to more $$$, but whether it was experience or intuition, he looked past the possible additional revenue and gave me his recommendation. The preparations here are more straight forward and traditional than other places. The folks here are really great; I'm not sure what happens when they get slammed, but I try to put myself in the best situation for a good meal and I definitely got one. I'm not going to get into the "is this place better than that place" thing. What I will say is....I'll be back and that's what matters to me.
3298 Greyling Dr
San Diego, CA 92123