Convoy Notes & Questions
So has anyone been to the new San Diego branch of Curry House in the Nijiya Shopping center yet? I have never tried it as I am unable to justify eating curry out of house yet I love japanese style pasta dishes such as uni spagetti so maybe next time.
Has anyone had any experience with the Tasty Bakery? Reccomendations?
Any Ichiro or Sirahama experiences worth sharing?
Noticed a Korean Kissaten --thoughts?
I walked into Parisan market to find a bustling lunchtime crowd and I was quite impressed with the fact that there was a nice older lady patting out fresh dough for pita. Smells wonderful in there and the pilaf looked great.
I am starting a "Panchan-a-visit" taste test from Zion Market. First Review:
Not bad, leaning toward ambivalence (but would buy again in a pinch.)
Slightly sweet - which I am not a fan of - but wholly tolerable with rice.
The daikon is cut into thin triangles, *a big minus* as I prefer the texture that cubed daikon provides.
Agressive sesame aroma and generous scallion presence- me likes.
Next up: Marinated Skate wing...if I dare.
No Gimbap today :^(
Speaking of Convoy, i was meeting up with some people at O Briens and had some time to kill so i ended up at Izakaya Sakura. This was on a friday night and as usual it was fantastic. I got a couple of cooked dishes grilled smelt and miso salmon which i usually get and then went a little nuts with the sushi. Everything was top notch, highlights included the best Ankimo i have had, mirugai, aji, toro and Uni. Man these were good! Also had above average hamachi and ikura. I could go on and on about how great it was, but i am at work. Needless to say i think i enjoyed myself as much as when i ate at Alinea last week, albeit for different reasons.
I have been meaning to make it up to Kaito for awhile now and unfortunately spent november's sushi budget here. Oh well December it will be my Christmas present.
MVNYC: I'll be looking forward to hearing your report. Morita-san has been noticing the influx of Chowhounder's to Kaito. I believe so far he has attributed 4 different parties as card-carrying CHer's, all of whom he's been very impressed with their knowledge and/or enthusiasm for trying out traditional sushi.
I just returned from Kaito last night and they had the most phenomenal sanma. Sanma is such a versatile fish, great both salt-grilled (shio-yaki) when either acquired fresh or (partially) air dried (himono), or as sashimi or sushi. (Winter is sanma season, with the fish coming in right now air-freighted from Japan...)
Last night I had it 2 ways, as sushi as well as as shio-yaki, the latter with the fringe and the bones (with some residual meat still on it). The taste experience when cooked in this manner is entirely different, and the nature of these thin slightly salty slivers of fringe and bones compliments beer well.
Sanma, amongst the hikarimono (shiny fish), has a very elegant taste to it. To me the fish oils in fresh sanma are "thinner" in texture and more refined in taste, complimented with an incredibly long after-taste. It was the highlight of the evening!
Also quite special was the whole live scallop which he prepared with ikura in a light soy broth and lightly finished in its own shell in the broiler. The scallop contributed its own stamp of flavor to the broth while the broth reciprocated by contributing a light soy flavor to the scallop. Particularly good with the broth were the fringe and liver which gave the dish a pleasant earthyness, while the (very-thin skinned and fresh) ikura (my favorite kind!) provided both some bright notes along with bursts of briney goodness...
I recently paid my second visit to Shirahama, and just as in my first visit the sushi was ***mind-blowingly good***. As I've detailed in my earlier post about my first visit there (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/339926 ), quality such as this is no accident.
From the outside it looks intimidating; the blacked-out windows gives it the look of an underground gambling parlor or club. The clientelle is also almost exclusively Japanese, more so than at Sakura, so it may feel to some like entering into some private social club. But what once were somewhat threatening and impersonal blacked-out windows on the outside, on the inside these same windows creates a hideaway that's a tasteful and serene Japanese environment. The space itself is small enough not to be out of place anywhere in Japan, with the small 'L-shaped' bar taking up perhaps 80% of the room and seating some 8-10 guests at a time.
With only Kotani-san behind the bar with a lone waitress and quiet Japanese music playing, the place has a serenity to it that makes it a peaceful respite from the jumble of storefronts, stores, and eateries that makes up Kearny Mesa. The case is kept sparse enough to allow attention on what makes this place good - the tane, or ingredients.
On each of my two visits I asked Kotani-san what the specials were for the day, and both times he said that they're all good. While that answer at most places would tend to indicate just the opposite, I did find that he is good on his word. Everything that I ordered on both of my visits demonstrated an "ingredients first" commitment to quality.
On my second visit, which was still a "surveillance visit" of sorts, I was able to notice other small details. Finally here was a sushi bar where I felt served their sushi with a shoyu of a high-enough quality where you can taste all of the "deep notes" in the shoyu without the distracting presence of some off "high notes", saltiness, and a chemical-like flavor. This was a shoyu that one can confidently use sparingly and still get the complimentary depth of flavor that provides the ideal backdrop for the taste of the tane to shine.
The other thing I noticed was the quality of the shari. High quality rice has a sheen on it that can be seen both in it's dried and cooked form. (This is in large part why some of the higher grades of rice comes in bags that many times sports a little viewing window...) Now this is not so much the superficial shine that one can get from the addition of the su (vinegar) to the rice, but rather a more substantive sheen that just looks like it's coming from deeper into the grain. (As in the deep luster of a pearl.) Such was the case of Kotani-san's shari. It had a shine to it that spoke volumes of its quality. (I only noticed this when one piece fell on its side as I grabbed the other, presenting a side-view to the nigiri...)
So how good was the sushi? Well you know when you eat something that is just so perfect and so unmistakably good to its core that you just can't react in any other way than to simply laugh, be amazed at how ridiculously good some ingredients can be, while grinning from ear to ear at your own good fortune? It was that good. Period. Multiply that with each item that I ordered, save, amazingly, for the tamago, that I thought was missing some of the expected sweetness and was drier than I would have liked...
As I've been there only twice I hesitate to say too much more. So far, however, all my gut instincts [are there any other kind of instincts for a Chowhound?] are telling me that what we have here is a sushi bar of the utmost quality.
I feel I can now go out of "surveillance mode" at Shirahama; the next time I'll return for the sheer pleasure of just enjoying a meal. As I left the shop after my second visit and was saying my good-bye's and thank-you's, Kotani-san suggested that the next time I try the omakase.
Omakase indeed... That sounds like the right way to go the next time I'm at his wonderful shop...
Excellent review cgfan! I was wondering how you would compare Kaito to Shirahama? Rice, shoyu, shari, and of course wasabi. We have been having the most excellent sweet aji at Kaito for the last two weeks and watch out if there is katsuo!! Hoping Morita-san has another Hoya for me on Friday, I have to have it again! Also have you seen any kamasu around? Matsuoka used to serve it up tataki style or grilled, it was fantastic!
I haven't been there for years, either, but Ichiro's was a regular stop for us when we lived in Clairemont. Their tonkatsu used to be my favorite. I've had better Japanese food at a lot of places, but never one that had a name as delightful as "Ichiro's Happy Restaurant." Just seeing that sign makes me smile.
. . . jim strain in san diego.
I've tried Tasty Bakery. It's just OK, IMO. For Asian desserts, my favorite so far is Zion's carrot cake - that stuff is addictive.
I've had some good panchan from Zion - I had spicy dried fish (forgot the name) once, and another time tried the beef in soy sauce. The latter was just OK, beef was pretty overcooked I thought. The spicy dried fish was great though.
Parsian market has great bread. It tastes as good as it smells. Their food (kebabs, etc.) is pretty good - the only demerit I give them is for bottled Italian dressing on the green salad.