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Tsuruahashi (SD)

Josh Jun 8, 2007 07:52 AM

Finally made it there last night. Great stuff, highly recommended.

The menu lists a number of different items for you to grill yourself at the table, as well as various noodle dishes and soups. We opted for grilled stuff only, and had prime skirt, two orders of prime rib-eye cap, "kobe" (wagyu) short rib, pork cheek, and prime rib-eye tataki.

The table next to us started off with pork belly, which looked awesome and is on the list for the next visit.

All the meat was great, though overall I preferred the rib-eye to the short rib. The short rib was quite fatty. The rib-eye's marbling was amazing to see. It looked like good quality toro.

Pork cheek was really great. Came out topped with thinly sliced green onion and black pepper, and grilled up very sweet in flavor. It was served with two dipping sauces, one spicy and bitter, the other heavy with sesame oil and a little sweeter.

Total bill w/ an order of vegetables, two bowls of rice, tea, and tip was $70. Quite a bargain, considering the quality and abundance of the food.

The place is on Convoy, in the same lot as Sakura and OPH. Definitely worth a visit.

 
 
 
  1. Josh Jun 8, 2007 07:53 AM

    Short rib pic

     
    1. j
      JRSD Jun 8, 2007 08:34 AM

      Josh, how many people was that for? The pics look great.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JRSD
        Josh Jun 8, 2007 08:43 AM

        2 people.

        Let me say that we ordered some of the most expensive meat items. The Kobe and Prime stuff was all quite a bit more expensive than the other options. Some of the stuff was downright cheap. IIRC the rib eye was $13, the short rib about the same, the skirt $8, and the pork cheek $6. I definitely felt for the quality of meat and the experience it was well worth the cost.

      2. cgfan Jun 8, 2007 08:53 AM

        Great to start a thread on Tsuruhashi, Josh. The quality of their ingredients is superb. I think I must have gone there 5 times during their opening month!

        Here are pics from my Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayama/sets/72157594583225637/

        ...and slideshow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam...

        8 Replies
        1. re: cgfan
          Pablo Jun 8, 2007 09:20 AM

          Is there any kind of fish/shellfish on the menu or is it mainly a meat thing?

          1. re: Pablo
            Josh Jun 8, 2007 09:56 AM

            They have fish and shellfish both. But I didn't see the need to bother with it. ;)

            1. re: Pablo
              cgfan Jun 8, 2007 11:56 AM

              Unfortunately (for the vegetarians amongst us) Tsuruhashi mainly caters to the carnivores. As I recall there is only one seafood moriawase plate available, though it does contain a good selection of very high quality seafood. In my last visit we had one vegetarian in our party, and while I felt guilty that the meat-eaters had all of the abundance and variety, the vegetarian in the group left feeling very satisfied. (The seafood plate looked so good that I was very much tempted to try a bite!) There is also a mixed vegetable plate as well, the combination of which would make for a very filling meal.

              The only issue is variety. A second visit would probably have vegetarians ordering the same thing, whereas the meat-eaters will have an endless set of cuts to mix and match to customize each visit...

              1. re: cgfan
                Pablo Jun 8, 2007 12:08 PM

                Thanks cgfan, I am going to have to give it try then! Are they using binchotan or is it gas bbq?

                1. re: Pablo
                  Josh Jun 8, 2007 12:18 PM

                  It's a combo of gas and charcoal. See attached photo.

                   
                  1. re: Josh
                    cgfan Jun 8, 2007 12:36 PM

                    Great photo, Josh... I never managed to capture a pic of what's underneath the grill.

                    The type of charcoal is called oga-binchotan, which is not a natural bincho but rather an extruded product. However if of high quality, it can be very good, and much easier to use than the traditional bincho charcoal. (I myself started to use a similar product at home, after much experimenting with both natural binchotan as well as many forms and makers of the oga-binchotan. Apparently not all oga-cinchotan is the same! http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam... For my own personal use I ended up special-ordering a box from Marukai, which has worked out wonderfully.

                    )

                    However at the density which they use it at Tsuruhashi it's really debatable whether the bincho has much of an effect at all. When I use it at home I turn off all sources of heat after the bincho is started. At Tsuruhashi, given their setup, I'd suspect that there would not be enough heat if you were to turn off the burners.

                    1. re: cgfan
                      Josh Jun 8, 2007 01:05 PM

                      My understanding is that the flavor you get from charcoal is from the meat juices hitting it and evaporating. I will say there was a noticeable difference in flavor between this and Buga, which is just straight gas.

                      1. re: Josh
                        cgfan Jun 8, 2007 03:58 PM

                        That's a great topic, Josh. I think that topic alone is worthy of a discussion all on its own. That is, what is it that causes such a unique and pleasant taste when using bincho charcoal. There are numerous discrepencies in the role of the bincho, and how it is used, in terms of explaining its impact on taste.

                        In general in Japanese cooking the burning of fat, for instance fat dripping down on a fire, is looked down upon. That is why in a traditional robata-yaki the items are cooked on long skewers and the skewers stuck into the sand at an angle around a charcoal fire. This encourages the fat to drip off and avoid the flames, vs. dropping straight down into the coals. Flare-ups are generally discouraged.

                        The bincho is known to give off a tasteless and odorless heat, and is particularly praised for the intensity of its heat and ability to cook predominantly radiatively (via long-wave IR). So could it be the radiative cooking that's a factor? This would be in contrast with gas, which would largely be a convective approach.

                        But undoubtably fat does fall back onto the charcoal and combust. Could it perhaps be the higher heat of the bincho that allows for a more complete burning of the fat and therefore produces less of the noxious and sooty compounds that can result from a less efficient burn?

                        Not sure quite how, but I do agree that charcoal definitely makes a difference.

          2. amyzan Jun 8, 2007 03:19 PM

            My brother took my mom weekend before last. She doesn't eat red meat but thoroughly enjoyed the seafood and vegetable grill, so I would say there are good choices for non-carnivorous folk, (not just sides, for example.) I believe they said their bill for two was under $50, but I don't think they drank alcohol?

            1. d
              daantaat Jun 8, 2007 07:43 PM

              so Josh, my questions are: how does it compare to the old Boo Cho's BBQ (charcoal grilled to charcoal grilled meat) and to Buga for flavor and quality, gas vs charcoal grill aside?

              5 Replies
              1. re: daantaat
                Josh Jun 8, 2007 11:36 PM

                I actually never made it to Boo Cho (much to my chagrin). They closed down before I got over there.

                The food is different from Buga in some significant ways. No panchan, and the meat is not marinated in advance. Overall, I'd have to say I preferred Tsuruhashi to Buga because the meat wasn't marinated. While there isn't the great selection of panchan, and nothing to wrap the grilled meat in, the flavor of the unseasoned beef at Tsuruhashi was just sublime. It made the sauces, marinades, and wraps of Buga seem at best superfluous.

                Meat quality is definitely a cut above Buga. Flavor, pretty different - not sure it's a straight across comparison. Overall on the value front I'd actually put Tsuruhashi ahead, mainly because they sell small portions. You can really control how much you get there, whereas at Buga you're basically looking at $20 minimum for a barbecued beef item. At Tsuruhashi, a lot of the meat options are around $6, so mixing it up is much easier to do, and much less risky.

                1. re: Josh
                  k
                  KirkK Jun 8, 2007 11:56 PM

                  I hope you don't mind my interjection here......

                  The quality of meat alone is much better than Dae Jang Keum. Supposedly, you can't beat the flavor of charcoal BBQ, but because the panchan at Dae Jang Keum was so poor and the grade of meat doesn't match up, there's no comparison. You can get unmarinated meat at both DJK and Buga, but it is not as good as Tsuruhashi. Even though Yakiniku is said to be based on Korean BBQ it is IMHO distinct. The one interesting thing about Tsuruhashi, and we do love the place, we've been there almost 6-7 times (about every other week), is that I find the dipping sauces to be on the weak side....not that you really need them. My wife loves all the beef tongue preparations...especially the one topped with onions and the miso mairnted beef tongue.
                  I was kinda interested in the charcoal used, because whenever I use Binchotan on my small Hida Konro it took a very long time to get well lit....when I did watch them changing grills, it did look almost like some type of briquette was used. But I noticed that the longer the food was cooked the more "smoky" flavor was imparted. For us, we usually start with a nice medium-high fat meat...we find that it lubricates the grill really well(pork belly does quite well) for other lower fat items.

                   
                  1. re: KirkK
                    Josh Jun 9, 2007 07:04 AM

                    Thanks Kirk. Yeah, I've actually had some of the non-marinated meat at Buga. I don't normally get it though, with the exception of the pork belly.

                    I agree that the dipping sauces aren't as full-flavored as Buga, but I wonder if that's deliberate, so that you don't mask the flavors of the meat? The dipping sauces that came with the pork cheek were quite a but more flavorful that the two they brought out for the beef.

                    1. re: Josh
                      k
                      KirkK Jun 9, 2007 09:45 AM

                      Could be, though I've been to Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley, Suzuya here in San Diego, Gyu-kakku in Los Angeles, and the dipping sauces there where all different. You're right though, I didn't need the sauces for any of the beef dishes.
                      I'm still trying to get an "in" to Totoraku in LA.

                    2. re: KirkK
                      d
                      daantaat Jun 9, 2007 03:54 PM

                      KirkK and Josh--thanks for the comparisons. Given that the unmarinaded meat fell a bit flat for us at Buga, we'll have to gieve Tsuruhashi a go and not except to stuff ourselves w/ complimentary panchan.

                2. j
                  justagthing Jun 8, 2007 11:55 PM

                  Wondering if this is related to the Tsuruahashi in Fountain Valley?

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: justagthing
                    cgfan Jun 9, 2007 12:28 AM

                    justagthing , yes they're part of the same operation. The manager of the San Diego Tsuruhashi spent a half-year training at the F.V. branch before opening up in San Diego.

                    In an impressive commitment to cross-training and service during their opening they had the full complement of San Diego-based crew in addition to their F.V. crew There were so many wait staff that it was almost comical... Like ducks at a carnival game booth they rotated constantly between the front of the house to the kitchen, in a never-ending procession of waitresses. There must have been 5-6 at a time out front, there were so many.

                    Since opening they've certainly done well, and if anything they suffer from too much success. A long wait is the norm there, (no reservations are taken), and I've seen many groups come and go who could not afford the wait. But for those who don't mind, and I count myself as one, a fantastic meal awaits you.

                    1. re: cgfan
                      k
                      KirkK Jun 9, 2007 09:52 AM

                      At first we found the manager to be a bit of a "grump", but I could tell that they were getting customers who didn't quite know what Tsuruhashi was about. We once saw two women come in, have a seat, look at the menu, order two plates, and hurry out. So I think at that point, he felt much more comfortable with Japanese speaking customers. Over the weeks he's become much more friendly, and started smiling more....nowadays he always stops by and says hello. The service has always been very good, the Servers work hard and most are very efficient and helpful. When those lists of "best new restaurants" come out at the end of the year, Tsuruhashi should be on it.

                      1. re: KirkK
                        Josh Jun 9, 2007 10:31 AM

                        I always get the impression that the ethnic restaurants (despite being some of the better restaurants in the city) aren't ever really discussed in the same way as the big-name chef eateries. Very unfortunate and myopic, IMO.

                        1. re: KirkK
                          c
                          clayfu Jun 12, 2007 11:18 AM

                          the owner is so formal yet extremely helpful. Whenever we look confused he's always there to point stuff out haha

                        2. re: cgfan
                          j
                          justagthing Jun 9, 2007 11:01 AM

                          That is very impressive and says a lot about the company/owners. I am going for dinner tonight for the first time (first date as well). I have heard and read so much about the FV location. I can't wait!

                          1. re: justagthing
                            Josh Jun 9, 2007 11:28 AM

                            Word of advice: get there early!

                            1. re: Josh
                              cgfan Jun 9, 2007 12:21 PM

                              ...or for that matter, get there late. The quickest time I got to a seat at Tsuruhashi was when a group of us went on a late night, post 9 pm run.

                              1. re: cgfan
                                j
                                justagthing Jun 9, 2007 12:34 PM

                                Would that be the same for the SD location? wait time that is...

                                1. re: justagthing
                                  cgfan Jun 9, 2007 01:35 PM

                                  That was for the SD location.

                                  However if you do end up with a wait, you might want to think about leaving your mobile number once you're there. In past visits they've taken my mobile number so I could kill some time at Video Eye in the same plaza, or at Nijiya Market just one mini-mall south. Of course there are other places within walking distance to kill some time, such as the boba shop or the cafe French Cake.

                                2. re: cgfan
                                  Josh Jun 9, 2007 12:39 PM

                                  I hear though that they can run out of the higher-end meat items by the end of the evening.

                                  1. re: Josh
                                    c
                                    clayfu Jun 12, 2007 11:17 AM

                                    sometimes by 6pm they already run out of their top end kobe stuff. They also have "secret" items that aren't on the menu that you have to ask for. Its usually some type of kobe beef that's cheaper than the highest grade.

                                    They also right now have a deal for a pitcher of beer for $6!
                                    The great thing about this place is the more people that go eat the cheaper it gets =P .

                                    i've also been extremely lucky with seating, friday night at 6:20 for a party of 3 and Thursday night at 6:30 for a party of 2, both seated within 5 minutes.

                                    I HIGHLY suggest you guys get the seafood, its soooooooo good. The shrimp is so delicious when grilled to perfection!

                                    http://clayfood.blogspot.com

                        3. d
                          daantaat Jun 22, 2007 10:42 PM

                          We finally made it here for dinner and really loved it! We had the highest grade of beef short ribs, salted beef w/ onion, miso marinaded chicken, grilled veggies, Korean kimchi fried rice, mixed kimchi and mixed Japanese pickles.

                          The Kobe beef short ribs were soft, juicy and flavorful--really didn't need much seasoning, if at all. Chicken was also very good, moist and tender thigh pieces. The beef with onion pleasantly surprised me by its texture--crispy bottom (since you don't flip the beef over) and soft top of lesser cooked beef and onion.

                          Even though we had to pay for the panchan, this had to be one of the best kimchi I've had for a very long time! Crisp, clean, gently spicy and vinegary--obviously fresh! The mixed Japanese pickles were also very fresh and crisp. Had a hard time not trying to hog the entire thing for myself.

                          Korean fried rice was a very flavorful mix of veggies, beef and kimchi topped by a deep-fried egg. I could have eaten the whole thing alone for dinner and been very very happy!

                          The main difference I could tell between Korean and Japanese BBQ is that Japanese BBQ has cleaner, lighter and brighter flavors compared to Korean BBQ. Tsuruhashi also seems to use a higher quality of meat than most Korean BBQs I have been to, making dipping sauces and/or marinades less essential.

                          We'll definitely be going back!

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