Isn't it nice to be able to walk into a place and say, "I'm hungry, can I just get some sashimi?" And get something like this?
I'm not expecting anything mind-blowing, no Michelin star experience. It's been a long week and I want some decent fish, a good meal, to leave satisfied. I get all of the above.
I've known Sam for over a decade now. And he knows me....such is the relationship of the Itamae and his regulars. That is why the term "Sushi bar" seems so appropriate. Like your favorite watering hole, be it here or wherever......it's such a great feeling to walk in after a hard day and have your drink waiting on the counter when you arrive. As a regular customer, I feel that I have some responsibility as well. I'll often request to be served last, new customers are the lifeblood of a small business, I try to tip well, and I never take freebees.. At Tadokoro, I make reservations for the earliest possible time. I know Take-san will do his best and when you're slammed, regardless of your profession, you can't do that. It's about being a good regular customer as well......
The reason I'm writing this is because I've seen various posts on sites such as Chowhound that flaunt this idea of self-entitlement, and have even seen in person cases where folks will say; "I'm a Elite (the four lettered review website) member and I want xxxx". It disturbs me. So I needed a sashimi break......though really....it's not all about just me.
Thank you for once again stopping to read mmm-yoso!!! Todays food centric blog post is written by Cathy because Kirk is (once again) very busy and Ed(from Yuma) is very retired and busy in his own way.
I've mentioned before that we still get newspapers delivered to our home daily. There are many advantages to this old fashioned way of receiving news, not limited to easier comprehension for those of us who grew up learning to read the printed word on paper. Yes, I'm talking ads that can't be 'blocked'.
For the past few months, on a Saturday, the Los Angeles Times has run full page ads for L.A. based 'Revolving Sushi' restaurant, Kula. The ads mention specials (January was 'Winter's Hot Food Fair', February until March 12 is 'Salmon Fair', no ad was in this past Saturday newspaper, so I expect to see something next Saturday).
There are three $5 off of $20 coupons at the bottom of the page. This was a reason to put the ad into the car when we were taking a drive North one weekday. We were hoping to find a place closer to home that reminded us of our experience at A'Float Sushi, in 2010.Unsure of how crowded this restaurant would be, we chose the Rancho Cucamonga location (one of seven) and had alternative plans to stop at the Bass Pro Shop a few miles away, remembering our meal at the in-store restaurant, Islamorada Fish Company, in 2008. As you can see, we had no worries on this weekday morning.Walking in, we saw the sushi conveyor moving around the restaurant. Each booth, table and seat at the bar has access to the plates. It wasn't crowded at opening (11:30), but was almost filled up by the time we were leaving.Taking seats at the bar gave us access to watching the rice maker, which not only cooks the (organic, from Lundberg Family Farms) rice, but pops out pre-formed, uniformly sized servings. I was fascinated by this machine. We also were privy to watching the constant preparation of conveyor items.
The sushi conveyor constantly moves via a belt under the crescent shaped chain, turns at the end to return in the opposite direction. The sushi makers prepare three plates of a serving (all conveyor items are $2.25), placing a plate with a description which you see first, then the three serving plates, each covered for your protection. Some servings have one, two or three items, some servings are in bowls.Above, you can see the first plate with the label for Conch, two empty spaces, where plates have been removed and one remaining plate, ready for the grabbing. When the sushi makers see only the plate with the signage passing by, they remove it and that's another order of three plates they need to prepare.Fresh wasabi is brought out to the table. The condiment tray with chopsticks, a covered ginger container, soy sauce server and red pepper are all you need here.
There is a separate menu wherein you can order items from the kitchen.
We ordered green tea, miso soup (each $2)and a soft shell crab ($ 3.80) from the kitchen. Everything else came from the kaiten, the merry-go-round track of plates moving in front of us. This is a Kula roll. Real crab, topped with both tuna and salmon. Very good.Karaage chicken, with mayonnaise for dipping. Perfectly fried.Seared steak sushi...good...different.The Mister wanted to try uni. He had never had uni. The plate has a single portion. Yes, it appears it had been frozen and a mushy thaw...let's just say The Mister has no desire to try uni again. This had a label of Chicken Sukiyaki. Smooth flavor, dark meat chicken with an onion-y sauce.Sorry for this blurry photo of the wonderful cucumber salad, a refreshing mix of sliced cucumber, seaweed and bamboo in a sesame oil-soy dressing topped with toasted sesame seeds.More apologies for this blurred photo of scallops with a sort of mayonnaise sauce on top of rice. This was very good.You keep your dishes and steam covers stacked and the waitress counts them at the end to calculate your bill.
The food is...good, the experience is fun and interesting. We spent $33 before the $5 discount...it's so easy to grab a plate; discipline is needed...
Perhaps you are wondering why I'm posting about a Los Angeles based chain. After we ate here, I was researching other posts about Kula and saw this article by Candice Woo in the Eater, written in November. The space it will occupy in San Diego shares the same parking lot with Iceskimo and appears to be ready to open very soon.
Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Website Address: 9659 Milliken Ave., Suite 104-105 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730 Phone:909-294-3429 Daily 11:30am-9:00pm (Last Seating, Last Order 8:45pm)
The "Pho" portion of the logo looks strangely familiar, but I just can't place it. I'm still hoping for decent pho in the Convoy-Kearny Mesa area......... I'm hoping this will at least be decent.
3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
The Original Tofu House opening in Mira Mesa:
I saw this a couple of days ago and drove by yesterday to take a photo.
Quite a few Korean food places opening around Mira Mesa.
I believe this used to be Arby's????
9089 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Casa Medina has moved?:
I noticed that Casa Medina had closed on the way home the other day. So I dropped by after work today to check it out.
So it looked like the place has closed, until I turned around and saw the sign for Casa Medina along side that of the old Bismallah Restaurant above World Market & Produce.
So unless the market likes to collect signs of defunct restaurants, you can now get your Halal tacos inside of World Market & Produce.
5440 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Was it cold enough for you?
I thought it was pretty chilly this morning and checked my weather app. And did a double, no triple take....
Must be a malfunction, right? This would be the weather in the Bay Park area......and would also be colder than what we experienced in Seattle!
My Christmas dinner:
Both the Missus and I have been working quite a bit. She had to work on Christmas and after grilling a ton of chicken for Her potluck and making Her a separate lunch/dinner, I really didn't feel like doing anymore cooking. So I decided to head over to Sushi Yaro and Sam put together a nice sashimi combo for me between the zillion rolls.
It made for quite a feast. It was also nice seeing Sam; it had been a while. As a bonus, a couple of the "old-time" regulars whom I haven't seen in ages also dropped by, before the place got totally swamped. Sam mentioned that I've known him for about eleven years now! Time does fly.......
Just for fun, I actually drove by Costco this past weekend. Here's what it looked like at 10 past nine, a full 20 minutes before they opened.
I was actually dragging my feet, because I had to go into work.
I worked for a couple of hours then decided I should get some ramen, so I headed off to Santouka and ran into this.....
So, I just went to Nijiya, picked this up, and headed back to the office.
I lucked out as I love natto maki....yes, while I'd never buy any prepared sushi or sashimi with raw fish in/on it kappa and natto maki is fair game. I grew up eating natto so I really love this stuff. I usually get a bento at least once a week and have rarely seen this. They probably don't make it very often.......it could very well be that I'm the only person who evers buys this.......
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
I'd planned on making our first full day in Tokyo our "red lettered day" for our trip and things were starting out great with a visit to Tsukiji and breakfast at Tenfusa. We left Tsukiji and decided to walk up to Ginza. We stopped for coffee in a nice quiet shop and struck up a conversation with a nice couple, he was retired military, his wife, a native of Tokyo, returns yearly to lecture. It was quite an entertaining discussion.
Ginza is the upscale shopping and entertainment neighborhood of Tokyo....huge multilevel department stores, like Mitsukoshi, which once had a shopping complex in Waikiki which had an entire floor of video games. So large it even has its own subway stop on the Ginza line! More on that later.
We walked around the Ginza area killing time. I'd gotten lunch reservations at Sushi Iwa through the wrangling of some friends. That's the deal with being in an apartment, there's no concierge service, but I think we did fine. For what it's worth, the place has a Michelin Star, which, I guess for some people is all that really matters...... sigh.
Now finding a single doorway on a side street in Ginza while trying to use the Japanese address system, can be frustrating. Armed with a photo of the storefront, finding the address 8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku ranks right up there with spending your day chewing on aluminum foil. For some reason, the Missus did exceptionally well once we could locate the "chome" - district, in this case 8-chome. The next number is the block, which was easy enough....you find 4 or 6 and you know "5" is in there somewhere. That last number is the building....the trick here being that the numbering for buildings is not consecutive. Rather, buildings are numbered in the order in which they were built or in reference to some "center"! All this made finding almost everything an adventure. We really didn't feel bad after seeing so many Japanese visitors and even residents of Tokyo...even our friend Reiko has no idea how to find a place without using a business card, an app, or asking directions. Given the immense tolerance and patience of folks we ran into, this is fairly common.
The shop itself is quite tiny; only six seats. The lines very clean, very neat, the space wide open for viewing the chef Hisayoshi Iwa preparing our meal.
So why lunch? Well, the Missus was having a hard time justifying spending over $200 per person for a sushi dinner, kaiseki maybe, but just not sushi. Plus, with rice involved, we tend to fill up rather quickly. Sushi Iwa has a basic sushi lunch (10 pieces) for 4750 yen - (under $50, you can get the 13 pieces for $85). This is a bargain in my eyes.
We started with a nice clean, cold sake, which the Chef recommended.
It was a joy to watch the precision practiced by the rather young (mid-late 30's) Chef. I love the single bite Edo style sushi. The rice here is very mild and balanced in flavor, which is my preference. The nikiri is also quite neutral, no heavy sweet or salty tones, just adding a mild umami. I loved what I call the "rice explosion", when the nigiri enters the mouth and just breaks down without chewing....the Missus still isn't used to this having had too much neighborhood sushi back in the states.
1 - Hirame.
It's standard operating procedure to start with a firm and mild shiromi and hirame (fluke/flounder) fits the bill. I personally love shiromi, the subtle flavors, rasied by a nice nikiri. This had a bit too much wasabi on it for my taste, but was still a nice firm piece.
2 - Madai
Firm then yielding, my kind of fish.
3 - Kinmedai
I really loved this fish, golden eye sea bream, when I had it earlier in the year at Shunji. This just confirmed my love for the firm, yet deceivingly fatty flesh which was elevated by the nikiri. We basically used no soy sauce for any of our nigiri.
4 - Akami-zuke
Lean maguro, "cured" in a soy sauce mixture. This was fine, but really nothing special in terms of flavor or texture. In fact, this one just reinforced how good Tadokoro is in my mind.
5 - The prep for the ika was amazing to watch. The squid was sliced horizontinally into paper thin sheets....you could actually see through them! It was then cut into very thin strips.
It almost looked like shio ebi! After having mine, I told the Missus this one was going to change Her view of ika. And it did! It was amazingly tender with great flavor....it nearly melted in our mouth.
6 - Katsuo
Good oil, but still quite mild, nice meaty texture.....the usual ginger helped refresh.
7 - Ishigaki Clam
At first I thought it looked like mirugai, but I was told it was Ishigaki-gai - Giant Clam from Ishigaki Island, something new for me. It was firm and crisp and more briney than sweet. In fact, the rather heady flavor reminded me of Chocolate Clams.
8 - The hotate (scallop) was cured, then massaged.
Man, this was awesome, so tender, sweet, and almost ethereal as it melted away in your mouth.
9 - Ikura
The Missus had also never had ikura that tasted like this. It was clean, like a orb of the cleanest, sweetest, ocean water. I often go back to this line, "I've been told that the freshest, cleanest salt water in the world exists several hundred miles off the South coast of the Big Island, deep in the ocean, the Ikura made me think of how clean and refreshing that water would taste" from a post from the past.
10 - Anago.
True Edo-mae sushi places in Tokyo will never serve you unagi, rather, only items from the ocean, and out of Tokyo bay will be served. This was an excellent example of the sweet, mild, melt in your mouth, anago nigiri. Nothing I've ever had (Kaito, Kokoro, Tadokoro, places in LA) has ever been this good.
11 & 12 - Things ended with some miso shiru and a combination of rolls.
All in all, a wonderful meal, and a bargain at $110 for the two of us.
Sushi Iwa 8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan
Wow, we'd had quite a day....and it was only half over!
It's actually more like spinal fluid/disc material...but who's keeping score, right? I had been curious about it for a while and I gotta say, I really love the texture and the mild briney.ocean flavor of Swordfish Bone Marrow....think of the mildest oyster in flavor, clean and crisp, combined with the texture of Liangfen 凉粉 - starch jelly noodles. Man, this stuff was really good!
I have to thank Tommy of Catalina Offshore for having Candice and I as his guests, along with Maria and Jonathan for being such great company!
Tommy had been trying to get Candice and I over to Wrench and Rodent for a while for a blow-out Omakase. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant since, like Candice warned Tommy, I'm a bit of a "traditionalist" when it comes to sushi and sashimi. But you can't forget that I'm from the home of Pacific Rim Cuisine, Hawaii....which is why I hate slapped together con "fusion" dishes..... After reading Faye's post, I thought at the least, this would be an interesting meal.
I gotta say, some of the stuff Davin Waite puts out was so very creative, risky, but still trying to capture the essense of the product. I really enjoyed this meal, even though it was enough to feed an army, or at the least, one hungry Tommy.
My preferred way of having the bone marrow was plain, in the shot glass; there was something so pure and refreshing about it.
I have to say, some of the dishes were just wonderful; the bluefin collar was just out of his world....moist, fatty, like eating "buttah".....it was well seasoned without killing the product.
I thought this pseudo gunkan maki of toro was a wonderful combination of textures. The cucumber crisp and refreshing, the masago added crunch and the flavor of the ocean, the gari, which I usually have between bites to refresh and clear my palate actually did well here.
Of the nigiri; it was the anchovy with a dengaku style miso paste was my favorite.
The Hamachi Kama was just wonderful as well.
Don't let all this fusiony stuff fool you; Davin makes a decent nigiri......
I quickly found out that Davin's sauces tend to run on the fruity/sweet side; which goes well with a pristine scallop; though I could have just eaten this plain....
I did think there was a bit too much mirin action in his nikiri for the maguro.
His pesto type concoction works relatively well with salmon.
There's no denying there's a good amount of creativity going on here. Davin takes risks and has some chops as well.
When it works, like this wonderful Opah, or was it Monchong cheek, BLT dish, it's quite delicious.
When it doesn't, you can't blame him for trying......
You'll notice, not a single Gringo roll....and only one item I say that belonged on another table.
No mayo, surimi..... though I did see a good amount of tempura/mayo/cream cheese rolls going out.
I really need to thank Tommy for arranging this; and for being a fantastic host.....and keeping us entertained as well. You can tell that Davin loves food and creating, it was a blast talking about different ingredients, products, and techniques.
And I got to cross an item off my bucket list as well.
Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub 1815 S Coast Hwy (inside of Bull Taco) Oceanside, CA 92054
W&R isn't the only little treasure hidden in Bull Taco. Brewmaster Havin Harris has opened a little microbrewery named Beer Brewing Company in the back of W&R.
I had a taster of the beers available and my favorite....well, I'm not so comfortable writing this; was the, ahem..."breast beer". Apparently, Havin did a ton of research and developed a beer that is supposed to aid in lactogenesis. As strange as it may seem, this was the breast, um, best beer I tasted and Candice agreed. As to it's effects on lactation...well, you're asking the wrong person!
Overall, it was an amazing night of new experiences; from swordfish bone marrow to breast beer!
I really enjoy the miso soup and also how Akio-san seasons his rice, which is just about right for my tastes. Though the fish are the usual suspects; maguro, salmon, etc..... I always enjoy the anago, which I was told is steamed, making it a melt-in-your mouth experience. The tamago isn't too tough and nor overly sweet as well.
Recently, I read a post on the lunch Chirashi by Dennis. It looked lovely (the power of suggestion), so I just had to order it on my next visit. It's quite a generous sized affair, in my mind worth the $18 price tag.
Akio-san dips a bit deeper into his stock of fish for this; on this day, the katsuo was outstanding and the uni creamy, oceany, and refreshing. The rice was as usual perfect for me; though there was too much of it. I think I'll see if he'll do a sashimi lunch for me one of these days since I just can't put away the carbs like I used to.
It's really nice to have a little splurge lunch spot, for those weeks that I feel in need of a little R&R - reward an respite from the grind.
Kokoro Restaurant 3298 Greyling Dr San Diego, CA 92123
In case I'm in need of some variety; what are your favorite splurge lunch spots?
Not Kirk, not Cathy, today it's Ed (from Yuma) enjoying an omakase dinner with you.
Knowing I needed another location for a good sushi dinner, Kirk suggested Kokoro where he had good omakase recently. That made my decision easy.
Finding the sushi bar was harder because its address was on Greyling Drive, which connects to Sandrock, which runs south from Aero Road near Montgomery Field. Traffic on Aero was down to two lanes because of construction, so I distractedly missed the Sandrock intersection and had to come back and try again. Also confusing is Greyling Drive, which is called Gramercy Drive east of Sandrock . Then when I finally found what had to be the right stripmall, there was no evidence of a sushi bar anywhere. I remembered reading that Kokoro was next to a Subway, so I began looking carefully and spotted an anonymous storefront on the back side of the Subway building. I detected an A in the window, and just then, someone raised the window screen and I saw what I was looking for:
Almost as anonymous as Sakura.
Inside there were a few tables, one holding a party of six or eight individuals, and six seats around the sushi bar:
The arrangement of the sushi bar’s workspace itself struck me as unusual. There was no glassed-in display of fish. In addition, a large preparation area adjoined the bar so that the itamae, Akio-san, worked behind the large wooden cutting board and rice tub and handed trays or plates to the server who would then place them in front of me at the bar or people at a table:
Omakase dinners were available at three different price points, the most expensive being $85; however, that required ordering a few days in advance, but Akio-san told me that he could do something for me almost as good. My meal would cost $75.
It began with (stealing Kirk's words) " ohitashi....spinach with mushroom served in the typical kobachi - small bowl.”:
This version had different mushrooms than Kirk's and they were very narrowly sliced. Great knife work. The main flavor was green fresh spinach merely accented by the light dashi sauce.
Next to arrive were three items on a long rectangular tray:
On the left, two slices of skipjack sashimi, accompanied by a lemon slice, propped up by green seaweed, and touched with a thick and complex plum sauce:
Very good and well presented, I thought, the fresh fishy flavors of the tender jack balanced by the sweet umami of the sauce.
The braised duck was the centerpiece of the presentation, laying up against a large fresh shiso leaf and topped by thinly sliced scallion:
As Kirk commented, this rich presentation calls to mind braised pork belly – rich, meaty, and slightly salty. The shiso offered a fresh herbal contrast.
On the right was a sliced Japanese scallop atop sliced cucumber and highlighted with attractive red onion:
The scallop had a great solid soft texture, its mild flavor was enhanced by the sweet touch of light miso.
The next course, the sashimi plate, was the highlight of the meal, and Akio-san explained each of the items on the beautiful plate. In the back, two soft pink pieces of rich toro stood in front of a shiso leaf propped up with shredded daikon. Perhaps not as good as the toro at Shirahama, but really excellent anyway. Like the tuna belly, the other slices of fish were arranged to face me by laying up against little mounds of red and green seaweed. On the left were two slices of wild hamachi, firm and very flavorful but not as unctuous as the toro. In the middle of that central row, two pieces of solid and meaty "snapper, but not real snapper" (Akio-san) provided contrast to the hamachi and toro. On the right of that row, were two slices of rather ordinary tako, not bad by any means but rather mundane. On the right front of the tray, a deep golden piece of nutty and creamy uni tasted just about perfect, its consistency like a somewhat firm custard on its upper surface that melted into a soft rich sea urchin butter underneath:
OMG!! Somebody must have eaten all of that wonderful sashimi before I could remember to take a picture.
Oooooops. But it really did look good before it was eaten.
In contrast to the sashimi plate, the soup that followed was very simple and focused:
I lifted it up to my face and inhaled the light clean aromas arising from the bowl. Very lightly seasoned, excellent. Though the piece of whitefish at the bottom the bowl seemed to have given much of its flavor to the soup stock, the ethereal broth was warm and refreshing.
One thing that I had found wonderful about the meal so far was the variation of dishes served. In contrast to the long parade of sushi at Shirahama, each course at Kokoro was different. For example, this plate arrived in front of me after the soup:
On the left is braised daikon, which as Kirk pointed out is exceptionally good here. The firm bland root has become full of flavor and tender softness. The roasted eggplant wedges had more texture and were perfectly cooked, and the whole dish swam in rich gelatinous crab sauce. Intensely crabby (which is a good thing in a sauce). The thin slices of awabe (abalone) provided more textural contrast than taste.
Black cod misoyaki came next:
This sablefish was flavorful and perfectly cooked medium rare with just a touch of char. Unlike true cod, a dry fleshed fish that stores its body fat in its liver – hence cod liver oil, this black cod easily flaked into rich bite sized pieces. While the marinade certainly broke no new ground, it seemed adequate to me (of course, I have not eaten misoyaki all my life). I even liked the mild pickled carrot athwart the slice of fish.
Gobo root tempura, accompanied by coarse salt, followed:
I've never had this before, but wow! Crunchy and distinctively woody in flavor. Can't think of anything else that matches those flavors.
The nigiri sushi plate, which arrived next, added another dimension to the dinner:
The Spanish mackerel served with the touch with a touch of soy and decorated with thinly sliced scallions was very nice. The ebi next to it was just okay, a bit dry and ordinary:
Similarly, the tuna was fine, but far from exceptional. The sea eel, anago, was the highlight of the entire plate, moist, flavorful, and lightly salted. The yuzu kosho added a spicy tangy complexity. Very satisfying eel:
The tamago (omelet slices) were sweet, firm, and moist, and would have made a fitting conclusion the meal if I had not been offered a choice of Italian style ice creams. I selected rum raisin:
In a recent interview, Bishop Desmond Tutu said that his favorite indulgence is rum raisin ice cream; ice cream this good could become a favorite indulgence of mine as well.
I truly enjoyed my meal at Kokoro. While there were a couple clunkers, I appreciated its variety and the generally excellent quality of the ingredients and preparation. The simple decor and the tasteful jazz music in the background created a space that felt friendly to me. While not garrulous or charismatic, Akio-san was welcoming and helpful. Koji-san at Shirahama projects the humble persona of a craftsman continuing an ancient tradition; Akio-san, even while wearing traditional wooden shoes, displays a certain creative pride. He has reason to.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr, Ste B, San Diego CA 92123, (858) 565-4113, open 11:30-2:00 and 5:30-10:00.
Usually at the mmm-yoso foodblog, Kirk is the head chef, presenting meals from around the world and in San Diego; many times Cathy serves up some interesting dishes here too; today, however, ed (from Yuma) has some sushi (from San Diego) for you to enjoy.
Like most people, I am a creature of habit. I also love sushi, so when I find myself overwhelmed with desire for a sushi dinner (or two), I head to San Diego. Which explains my two day visit earlier this month.
The first dinner was Shirahama. I had been twice before and posted about it here and here. Because the chef’s presentations on this evening were similar to previous visits, a lot of this post will be pictures with minimal comments.
One thing that has changed in the past two years is the signage at the restaurant:
Something else different were the marinated baby squid that led off the meal:
Koji-san explained that the squid are placed in the marinade as soon as they are harvested to preserve their soft and delicate texture. These little guys were full of umami:
Next came tuna and fluke, much as before:
A mantis shrimp and a solid piece of snow crab were next:
The crab was very good, but the shrimp was rather different from what I would have expected, meaty but a bit dry and lacking in standard shrimp flavors.
The next to arrive were amberjack (kanpachi) and sprat:
The sprat was quite appealing to the eye, shining and reflecting light, a silver strip at each side of the little filet. This relative of herring had a clean fresh fishy flavor. The taste of the amberjack was even more striking – balanced firm richness, worthy of the mmm-yoso dance according to my notes.
Next came Spanish mackerel and a clam:
The mackerel was flawless and nicely accented with fresh grated ginger. On this evening, I was especially impressed by the clam which had a nice variety of textures from crunchy on the edge to soft chewy in the center, all very fresh and flavorful. One of the other customers said to his friends, "mirugai overwhelms rice; this clam is more balanced and refined." It was a good point.
I had started the meal drinking chilled water, but I finally broke down and ordered a 300 ml bottle of Dewazakura sake ($26.50):
Its label says that it has a floral nose and a mellow fruity flavor, along with "a wholesome freshness, a green apple tartness, and a refreshing finish." It seemed fine to me.
Octopus and see bream showed up next:
To me, the bream tasted a lot like good hirame, fresh clean whitefish flavor. The octopus, on the other hand, was uniquely wonderful. Uncooked, it was creamy and moist with a firm soft chewy texture and mild molluscy flavor. Three stars in my notes. Certainly one of the highlights of the meal and even better than the clam I had fallen in love with just a few bites earlier.
Fresh sardine and squid followed:
The ika was fine, pristine and mild in flavor, making it a perfect foil for the sardine, which had a big mouth filling flavor, the taste of the sea but not overly fishy, rich but not unctuous. Another excellent fish.
Koji-san had already wondered if I was finished, but I simply couldn't stop the wonderful meal. I did worry, however, that he might be running out of interesting sushi. The toro and yellowjack that he delivered next convinced me that he had not run through his bag of tricks yet:
The jack was okay though I am hard-pressed to remember much about it because the toro sitting beside it was so absolutely wonderful. Tender and buttery. It melted in my mouth, dissolving into creamy bliss. Wow!
The last item was sea eel topped with a few of salt crystals:
I thought it good, but not exceptional.
One thing that did seem exceptional that evening was this:
I took that picture of the gari as a reminder to myself. Shirahama’s pickled ginger that night seemed especially floral, complex, and sweetly spicy, so good it almost made me doubt my taste buds.
Shirahama is still on its game. Rather than trying to say what I have already said in some new way, I’m just going to plagiarize myself: Koji-san is the master of the traditional and old school and understated. Like a rock garden. If you have some extra money sitting around (this meal was $111) and want to have real Japanese sushi in a Japanese environment, this place is for you.
Sushidokoro Shirahama, 4212 Convoy, San Diego, 92111, (858) 650-3578, open daily 12:00-2:00 and 5:30-10:00
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.
Kokoro Restaurant 3298 Greyling Dr San Diego, CA 92123