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Jul 10, 2008 09:12 PM

Uni in San Diego?

Visiting from NY for a few days, and looking for the freshest uni/urchin at a resto, Japanese or otherwise...willing to go almost anywhere in the area for good stuff...thanks

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  1. Kaito in Encinitas

    Kaito Sushi
    130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

    4 Replies
    1. re: Enorah

      sushi ota - the most highly reviewed sushi restaurant in the city

      Sea Rocket Bistro = new restaurant serving local and sustainable seafood.

      1. re: Enorah

        Kaito also gets my vote as your best bet for uni, but with a caveat.

        Kaito is the rare (U.S.) sushi bar that will only stock items that are at their very best... It has never been their nature to forsake quality in order to always have certain items in stock. So while customers from other sushi bars may be surprised to walk in and see, say, no uni or maguro in the case, they will be sure to have many items simply not available at other shops, nor at a level of quality so consistently high. (Almost all of their customers order omakase, which indeed is the wisest way to go at a sushi bar of their caliber.)

        So if you can, give them a call to see if they have any uni that day, or monitor their "sushi blog" during your stay for the latest in ingredient arrivals:

        Note: Though they receive shipments every day, they tend to post to their "sushi blog" only 2-3 times a week.

        And even if they don't happen to carry any uni during your stay, you still may want to consider stopping in for the best sushi experience San Diego has to offer.

        1. re: Enorah

          I have had wonderful Uni at Kaito whenever Morita-san has it. Check the sushi blog cgfan mentioned below or call ahead to see if they are serving uni.

          Uni at Kaito:

          1. re: Pablo

            I had uni for the first time at Kaito, while sitting next to Pablo and clan.


        2. Also...Zenbu sushi and lounge in the village part of La Jolla. Try to get there early so you can get a seat at the sushi bar. The owner has access to a fleet that brings it in fresh every morning.

          I guess it depends on what part of town you are staying, as there are a few very good sources in SD County as you can read from my CH compatriates from the North County. Enorah and cgfan are the best experts on this board for that part of San Diego. Although I don't get there that often, when I do I have always found their recs impeccable.

          5 Replies
            1. re: porkido

              These are generally good recs. For Japanese feel and izakaya dishes as well as sushi, I like Izakaya Sakura (search board for more info).

              But it the freshest uni is your main thing, I would call Sammy at Sammy Sushi and arrange to have live uni. This uni is prepared from a live animal in its shell and is just washed in cold water - no chemical bath. But you need to call in advance: (858) 560-1782 .

              1. re: porkido

                BTW to add to your uni experience, please do ask wherever you go where the uni was sourced, and pay attention to how it was acquired. In the San Diego area most of our uni will either come from local waters or from Santa Barbara. The other factor is that oftentimes it will come in live in its shell.

                As expectations tend to affect one's culinary experiences, do keep in mind that often, (and this is true with many sushi tane), the freshest tane is often the most mildly, or even neutral, flavored. Of course there are exceptions such as in any of the clams and the quickly oxidizing tane such as Katsuo, but in general many tane needs some rest time to taste its best, sometimes up to several days.

                Many of these longer developing tane are most intriguing to sample, if you can, on successive or alternate days. I've done that in the past, for instance, when tracking some Kohada or Maguro.

                (It always makes me chuckle when I read in sushi bar reviews, usually written by a hyperventilating author, describe their sushi bar as having the freshest ingredients. Having the freshest ingredients can be the safe harbor of undertrained or timid chefs that do not have the knowledge or confidence in how taste develops in their tane. It often reads to me like code that the author means the ingredients are not spoiled, which is a very low bar indeed...

                It's all about timing and being able to read their ingredients, and only the traditionally-trained chef will know how. [It's not unlike a game of dare, as tane tends to develop slowly in quality but then when it reaches its peak tumbles precipitously in quality.] And it is left to their customers to have access to some of the most fulfilling experiences one can have in the culinary world.)

                Enjoy the San Diego sushi scene, and if your can please do return to these boards and post your findings if you can!

                1. re: cgfan

                  You make excellent points, and as I have already said, I have a tremendous respect for your knowledge and experience. And indeed, some folks may prefer uni a couple of days old.

                  Also, live uni has not been graded, so quality will vary more than with uni that has been commercially packed. It is definitely more of a crap shoot. But sometimes (as with the uni in the pic), live uni can be exquisite - the mild flavor accenting the rich, creamy freshness.

                  I was just providing some alternatives for the OP, who was asking for "freshest" and is unlikely to ever be able to experience absolutely fresh San Diego uni in NYC. Of course, if she/he has the time and pocketbook, he/she could do worse than sample several of SD's better sushi bars.


                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    Hi Ed - I apologize if it appeared as if I was replying directly to your post. Given the timestamps we each must have been at our keyboards at just about the same time, though apparently I must have stayed in "edit mode" a bit longer. Rest assured that I had not seen your post at the time I made mine.

                    On the subject of the live uni, this year's uni seems to be on the rebound from last year, but the yields appear to be low. I have personally seen Kaito bring in an entire batch of diver caught uni, but only be able to use 1/4 of it. I have heard from them that at other times they had to throw out the entire lot. (Last season they almost completely stayed out of serving uni due to its poor quality due to the condition of our kelp beds.)

                    So to the OP, if you know you can trust the sushi bar to be willing to throw out an entire batch of live uni in order to save serving the customer an inferior product, than you have a sushi bar that you can put your trust in. (They have to buy the whole lot, regardle$$ of yield... Ouch!) For this and so many other reasons, Kaito remains my top recommendation for you. If they have uni, it will be good, whether or not it was live or not.

                    Here are some stills and videos I took at Kaito the day they took in a batch of live uni only to yield 25%. Due to privacy reasons only the videos and pics where no one appears are publicly visible, though I took a lot more on that day:

            2. Izakaya Sakura on Convoy would be an excellent choice. They are located behind the Original Pancake House. There is no sign on the door, so if you go, be sure to look for the neon "Open" sign.


              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. porkido: Word is that you were able to drop into Kaito for some uni... (It's a very small [sushi] world!)

                  Care to share your experience there, and elsewhere, in your quest for uni in San Diego?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cgfan

                    CGFAN - I find your posts very informative. Could you explain the concept of "tane" further? Thanks!

                    1. re: Esqo

                      Esqo: Thank you for the kind words!

                      Well "tane" used in this context just refers to the main ingredient in a nigiri. So for example in an uni gunkanmaki, uni would be the tane, or main ingredient. On the other hand the shari, or sushi rice, would not be referred to in this manner.

                      However in other contexts it can be used more broadly to refer to any number of key ingredients of a dish.