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Dec 28, 2006 09:44 PM

Izakaya Sakura newbie (San Diego)

Hey there,

Tonight will be my first visit to Izakaya Sakura. After having read so much about it here, I'm anxiously awaiting my first experience.

What are some "can't miss" items? What are things best avoided?

Any tips you can offer would be most appreciated.

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  1. Josh, something I have not seen around that I think is a must at Sakura, tako wasabi. I did not care so much for the mochi rice appetizer, but they have so much to offer I don't think you can go wrong! Excellent pours on the sake too! Enjoy!

    1. I havent tried these as I have yet to dine there for dinner - but these are on my list:

      Gindara kasuzuke: Black cod in sake lees
      Seabass Misozuke: Miso mar. sea bass
      Buta Kimuchi: Pork and kimchi stirfry
      Buta Kakuni
      Unagi Kimo: grilled eel liver (interesting - traditionally served in a soup)

      I think they have a Kimuchi nabe: Might be nice on a cold night.

      The croquettes are superb as is the Buta shouga.

      Have fun.

      13 Replies
      1. re: kare_raisu

        kare raisu, I had the chance to have some grilled unagi kimo last night at Sakura, they were great! Started with some assorted sashimi - aji, kanpachi, maguro, a little chewy awabi and the most excellent live spot prawns. Followed by ankimo, baked nasu, and some sort of salt dried baby sole or flounder. The Gindara kasuzuke was very tasty, big piece! Overall an excellent dinner! Kazu-san had no issue with us sitting at the sushi bar, even with the reservation signs. Place was packed by 7PM. Sorry no pics this time.

        1. re: Pablo

          Funny. I was there at the same time with 4 other people.

          1. re: Josh

            Too bad we didn't meet! I was the sole gaijin at the counter, my partner in crime was wearing a Matsuoka shirt. Did you get a taste of those live prawns?

            1. re: Pablo

              ah those prawns were delicious. And their heads even more so =P

          2. re: Pablo

            How did you like his ankimo? I think it is the best i have had

            1. re: MVNYC

              Think I would have to agree with you there MVNYC! It was a kimo kind of evening with my first try of grilled Unagi kimo as well. I had a great time!

              1. re: Pablo

                I love liver but i have never had that unagi kimo. I will have to give that a shot next time i am there.

            2. re: Pablo

              Hey Pablo,
              Thanks for the report. How would you rate the gindara up against Yumeya's version? (Although I think YMY is miso marinated rather than sake lees)

              How big were the livers & can you describe the taste? What about garnishes?

              How did you come across the dried flounder?

              1. re: kare_raisu

                kare, the gindara was twice the size at Sakura, probably twice the price too, I 'm not sure. You are correct about sake vs miso, I failed to mention that important difference. I think I prefer the miso one, Yumeya's has this nice caramel glaze on the edges of the fish and miso seems to pronounce the sweetness of the fish. Interestingly enough, the texture of the fish doesn't seem to change based on miso vs. sake. Then again this could have been coincidental as I am sure marinating time must have some sort of effect. Sounds like an experiment is needed!

                The unagi liver, two little skewers on a plate, no garnish. The taste, grilled, earthy, slightly sweet from some sauce they must have used. It didn't have a very strong liver taste, yet it was distinctive enough as I can still recall the flavor and I would easily do it again!

                The baby dried flounder - my friend just ordered it!

                One other thing, could have been my imagination or sake, but the Japanese menu looks far more extensive than the gaijin menu. Any one know for sure? I can't read Japanese yet!

                1. re: Pablo

                  Sounds like a job for cgfan! [wherever he might be ;( ]

                  Pablo -- what were the prices on the liver and flounder? The flounder seems like a riff on the more typical dried squid or jellyfish tapas offering.

                  1. re: kare_raisu

                    [here I am...!] I never noticed any difference between the two menus, though I never made it a point to compare the two. It's now been a while since I've last been there, but there are usually some items handwritten in Japanese and posted on the wall by the front door that I never recall seeing on their menu, for instance the kamo, or duck. (It seems this list hardly ever changes, though...) The items posted on the other walls (do they still do that?) are just selections off of the regular menu.

                    1. re: cgfan

                      Thanks cgfan, nice to have you back! What's your opinion/preference on the sake vs miso gindara?

                      1. re: Pablo

                        Ahhh, gindara, one of my favorites! I love them both, they each have their qualities, but if I were given the choice my preferences would go towards the gindara prepared with the sake kasu. For me it's lighter, somewhat "volatile" taste is a better match to the delicacy of the flesh, with a much more active retronasal component... In fact it's that last part that I enjoy the most of the sake version - when it's out of the kitchen hot the aromas practically leap out from the dish and precedes the taste experience - once you get it in your mouth you can just about inhale the flavor...

          3. One think I didn't mention is I'm taking someone who is less adventurous than myself.


            But after reading all the raves, I'm sure we can find some good stuff.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Josh

              Hi Josh - If I were taking you to dinner at Sakura, this is what I'd do, order a few items that I know you enjoy, and a few that I think you'd enjoy, and at least one item that I know you'd never think of eating. I don't think everything would be a hit, but I know it would be a nice experience. When I visit with E.D. all of the sashimi is Omakase, and we get sent a few different things not on the menu, I'll usually order a few items, and they have all been good.

              Because I know you enjoy the Tuna Tataki at Tajima, I'd pick the Albacore Tataki as a nice way to start, along with probably the Buta Kakuni. For less adventurous eaters Chicken Karaage is always a good choice, or even the Tebashio.I'd also recommend the Shishito Tempura, but I don't think it's in season right now.

              Though it's not quite in season, I'd go with the Aji Sashimi - once you are done with the sashimi, the fish bones are taken and deep fried for you to consume. The Gindara kasuzake is very good as well. Though not on the menu, my Wife loves the Karei Karaage.

              If you sit at the sushi bar, start up a conversation with Kazu Maeda and ask what is good.

              I enjoy the Maguro Yamakake, but that may be stretching it a bit too far. Same for Ankimo and Shiokara. As for Tako Wasabi, Tajima, Ichiro, and Osaka Kitchen serve it, I think Sakura's is the best, but my Wife enjoys Tajima's version the most.

              The sake selection is excellent, you can get a sampler of 5 sakes as well.

              Like you said, I'm sure you'll find some good stuff.

              Have fun!

              1. re: KirkK

                Thanks for the tips Kirk. I will let you know what I think!

                1. re: KirkK

                  I agree, Sake selection is quite good. This months Wine Spectator has a nice section on sake, it beaks sake manufacturing down to the smallest detail. Read most of it last night, very informative.


              2. If you do like liver, make sure to get the ankimo. This is the best version i have had, the foie gras of the sea. Other than that i would get whatever sushi is on special today, cant go wrong with that. The miso salmon is also very tasty and would be good for someone not so adventurous.

                1. We had an awesome meal. We had barbecued beef with sesame sauce, salt-grilled sea bass, broiled eggplant gratin, mixed sushi, gyoza, beef tataki, and grilled yellowtail teriyaki.

                  While everything was good, the sea bass, eggplant, and beef tataki were definite standouts. I was impressed by the difference between Sakura's beef tataki and Tajima's. Sakura's was far superior - with better quality beef, and a more delicate flavor.

                  Another big surprise was the eggplant gratin. My SO doesn't even care for eggplant and she enjoyed it.

                  We will definitely be going back - what a great experience.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Josh

                    Glad you enjoyed. It is a real treasure.