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Aug 28, 2006 06:30 PM

Izakaya Sakura - San Diego with pics!

So we finally made our way down to Izakaya Sakura on Saturday evening. We were joined by a couple unsuspecting friends who had no idea what they were in for! We forewarned them that this is NOT a "sushi bar" and don't even think of a California roll or risk being thrown out! I have to say the menu was overwhelming, some great standouts and some really different things. We could have ordered more but we were had a time limit (baby sitter). Some pics suffered from bad lighting and I had to adjust digitally.

Tako wasabi - served in a martini glass. Not what I was expecting! But this (raw) octopus marinated in fresh wasabi was a unique treat. I’m not sure if our dining companions were horrified, but they ate at least half of it and I polished off the leftovers. Lucky I didn't order the shiokara!

Pirikara Maguro - spicy sauce with nice big cubes of ruby red maguro. I would have done the other maguro with the yamakake but I was pushing the limits already with our companions.

Aji sashimi - Wow, this was huge, perfectly fresh and the bones returned deep fried. Excellent!

Asari clams in sake, shoyu, and butter, these were wonderful little steamed clams. A definite standout!

Tempura Shishitou peppers - my new favorite pepper, this time deep fried in tempura batter. I think I prefer the grilled ones we had a Yu Me Ya last week. The tempura batter muted the deliciousness of these peppers.

Albacore Tataki - excellent rendition topped with sweet pickled onions.

Croquettes gratin - these were good, not sure if there was any "gratin", there are better ones at Yu Me Ya.

Fried Mochi Rice balls - my SO ordered this. It was almost like deep fried chewy mozzarella. I'm not a big "cheese" fan at all and this is what it reminded me of. I could pass on these next time.

Uni nigiri - perfect. And at this point, I would tell anyone that Uni is easy compared to raw Tako!

I need to go to Sakura maybe a dozen times to try all these different things. I think there are easily over hundred items on that menu (it's four pages long). They have about a dozen sakes by the glass, very nice pours, overflowing into cherry wood boxes. Thanks to chowhounds MVNYC and KirkK for this excellent rec!


Izakaya Sakura
3904 Convoy St #121
San Diego, CA 92111

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  1. Nice review and pictures Pablo,

    I have some questions:

    What time did you go, and was it crowded?

    Did the staff speak English?

    Do you know how late they are open?

    1. I hear the japanese menu is even longer.

      As for whether or not the staff speaks english... last time I went it certainly helped to point at the menu when ordering.

      1. We made a reservation for a table since there were four of us at 5:30. Not crowded at all, maybe three other tables while we were there, I was surprised, we left at 8PM. Sushi bar was vacant but reserved. The staff seems to speak limited English, I did not ask any questions other than if they had e.g. the Aji sashimi. The menu is pretty self explanatory. I did not interact with the chef so I am not sure about his English skills. They were competent and we very happy with our first experience. Hours? No idea, there is not even a sign for this place just a little neon OPEN in the corner of a window in between the army recruiting places.

        1. Great review!

          TI ate there a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. Following mmm-yoso advice, I also ordered the spanish makeral sashimi (Aji) which was superb - even the fried bones in the end!! I don't know enough about non-sushi Japanese food (despite many hours of iron chef) but really like it. The Agedashi tofu was pretty god - I've had more flavorful versions, but they are generous with the bonita flakes. I also had the ikura (salmon roe) which came in a martini glass. Very fresh and some of the bet tasting ikura I've had (I hate that it comes with rice in sushi joints - I just want to eat the eggs).

          The staff is very fluent, though I think we were the only ones who ordered in english.

          We didn't get a sushi menu, though they clearly have all the fish. Did I miss that or is it assumed that the patrons know the typical fish available?

          1. Glad you enjoyed. It's been my favorite since my first visit there. I usually sit at the sushi bar. That does not require that I only have sushi. Kazu is the owner as well as sushi chef and he also seems responsible for overseeing the cooked dishes. The reserved signs just mean that the places are reserved for serious sushi lovers & regulars.

            I have no problems communicating. I have also found that the place gets better as Kazu gets to know you. He is friendly and likes folks who appreciate what he is doing there.

            Almost always there are special fish and cooked dishes. I always ask if he has any special or unusual fish.

            There is no sushi menu to my knowledge. They have the standards and then what is seasonal.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Phoo D

              I should add that I have quit posting about my meals there as I have written about the place often. If anyone is interested in reading about the range of dishes I have had there, a search for Sakura limited to the California board will bring up several of my reviews, plus good reports from others as well.

              But I just have to add that last Friday night, I was served an incredible 1/2 head of kampachi braised in a mirin/soy combo that was sinfully succulent. I never realized how much rich flesh could be on a fishhead.


              1. re: Phoo D

                That sounds like Senba-jiru -- Fisherman's broth -- my favorite too. Could I ask you how it was served? veggies?

                Have you ever had Mae'un Tang, the korean spicy fish soup? I used to work at a sushi bar owned by a Korean and would beg him to make it with the leftovers from the filleting. (On a side note-- what's your favorite korean restaurant currently?)

                If you ever go there for lunch Phoo D --try the Hiyashi Chuka --best version i have had (comes with the gomadare base).

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  No veggies with fish head - unless you count the plentiful slices of ginger.

                  I've had the hiyashi chuka - perhaps on your recommendation - it was quite good. I also love the chirashi there for lunch or the zaru soba with tempura.

                  Currently, I would list Buga as my favorite Korean, but there has been mention on these boards of two new places (or at least new to me) but I haven't tried them.