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OKAN

Captain Jack Sep 5, 2008 09:57 AM

OK hounds, news flash, the Martians have just landed in West De Moines Iowa and they have taken Shawn Johnson hostage. Just kidding. Better yet there is a new, extremely interesting venue in town called Wa Dining Okan. In the location of the old Yakitori K1, next to Nijiya market this Kozara Ryori style eatery is something I never thought I would see in sunny old San Diego. No signage, a menu predomently written in Japanese, I mean, this place is foodie cool. I am no expert on esoteric Japanese cuisine, but Okan is surely worth your time. For more information check out Kirk K's blog. (Don't miss the eggplant special, it made me weep with joy).

http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com

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    epicureous eggplant RE: Captain Jack Sep 10, 2008 01:15 PM

    Made reservations for 2 Saturday evening and really enjoyed dinner that night!
    We ordered plenty...
    Gobo Salad
    Chicken and leek skewer
    Pork Wrapped Asparagas
    Shrimp in Mayonnaise sauce (3 times!)
    Spicy Chicken Karage
    Rice (sticky and buttery tasting)

    This time, they were out of most of the vegetable dishes I wanted to try..
    I'm planning to go back to have the eggplant, taro, squash, radish and tuna salad, and everything else!
    They have 4 specials laid on on the bar and you can get those to go if you like.

    I really enjoyed the food and atmosphere of this small japanese style pub.

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      normalheightsfoodie RE: Captain Jack Sep 10, 2008 01:29 PM

      Where is this place?

      2 Replies
      1. re: normalheightsfoodie
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        epicureous eggplant RE: normalheightsfoodie Sep 10, 2008 01:41 PM

        Okan is located in a shopping plaza on Convoy, in the corner between Nijiya Market and Sage French Cake

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          normalheightsfoodie RE: epicureous eggplant Sep 11, 2008 11:22 AM

          thank you

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        royaljester RE: Captain Jack Oct 2, 2008 01:14 AM

        This place is great and just like Japan. We ordered similar to epicurious:
        Gobo Salad
        Chicken and leek skewer
        Hokke Fish
        Yaki onigiri ochazuke
        Side dish - napa and tofu
        Pudding dessert

        The Gobo salad is great, crisp fried strips of gobo great flavor. This place used to be Yakitori which is one of my favorite so I typically get chicken+leek which is a yakitori staple.

        I liked the Hokke fish, lots of meat with similar taste to grilled cod. My wife liked Tajima's fish more but this suits me more because it's more "meaty".

        The yaki onigiri is a crisp rice ball, which is served ochazuke style. Great. And we had one of their side dishes of napa and tofu which my wife really liked.

        They also have a great home-made style dessert which was a pudding asian style.

        Everything was good and very reasonably priced. At the counter are various side dishes you can order a dish of for about $3.75. Most dishes have a very authentic home-made taste similar to Yumeya in Encinitas. This place has been open for four months and is already mostly full, largely Japanese customers. It's casual enough to eat alone at the counter, but nice enough to take a date or your wife. Great decor and food - be sure to check out the specials written on the board outside.

        The location is literally next to Nijiya in Convoy, on its left. The sign might still say K-1 from back when it was just yakitori.

        This is the new place for me in Convoy, and in my opinion is as exciting if not more than Tsuruhashi one mall over (which I'd also highly recommend for yakiniku BBQ).

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          daantaat RE: Captain Jack Oct 2, 2008 09:43 PM

          Hey, I was wondering what opened up here! We saw the lights were on when we were coming back from Izakaya Sakura. It sounds good!

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            daantaat RE: Captain Jack Oct 3, 2008 10:33 PM

            Alright, we hit this place up tonight. Also suspect there were other hounds there b/c there was a larger than expected non-Asian contingent. REALLY good food! I had no idea of what I was ordering, just picked stuff off the menu that looked good. Everything was good, minus the fried udon noodles which were decent but wasn't like all the other dishes.

            Got gobo salad (yum yum yum. earthiness of gobo mixed with mizuna in a perfectly acidic dressing)
            cold tofu w/ kimchi (very fresh, soft tofu...good if you like tofu)
            chicken and vegetables on rice over a hotpot (board special. really, really good and looks deceptively simple to make)
            chicken skin in soy sauce (perfect if you like chicken skin)
            asparagus wrapped in ham (wonderful smoky flavor)
            mackerel grilled w/ soy sauce (very good but too full to finish)
            japanese yam w/ plum sauce (grilling the yam reduces the sticky texture. plum sauce is an excellent foil for the yam)
            deep fried chicken w/ spicy sauce (sauce was more sweet than spice but o/w good fried chicken thigh bits)
            chicken and green onion yakitori w/ salt (good. would try it w/ teriyaki sauce next time)
            tiramisu made with matcha green tea cake in place of ladyfingers (blissfully light and perfect after a very good meal)

            YUM YUM YUM!!!

            One question for those better versed in Japanese cuisine--are the dishes on the bar included, price wise, when you order off the menu?

            A total awesome addition to the Asian food scene!

            3 Replies
            1. re: daantaat
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              royaljester RE: daantaat Oct 4, 2008 11:15 AM

              Great report! With this place and Little Lamb in Convoy, there's so much more now than when I moved here in 2001. =)

              I think the side dishes at the bar were $3.75 each, so they're not included but a la carte. They serve it right there, so you can order it last if you're not sure about how much you'll eat.

              Great to hear about the tiramisu. All the dishes we had were made with Japanese tastes in mind, but I'm sure anybody who likes Convoy or shops at Nijiya will enjoy it.

              1. re: royaljester
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                daantaat RE: royaljester Oct 4, 2008 05:23 PM

                Next time we'll have to include the side dishes. They had lots of interesting ones---pumpkin (which looked like Kabocha squash to me), grilled saury, bamboo shoots and three other things that I forgot what they were.

                1. re: daantaat
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                  royaljester RE: daantaat Oct 7, 2008 09:01 PM

                  I've tried the lotus root recently, I prefer this simple and crisp Japanese version over Chinese style.

                  We had their macaroni gratin from the special menu outside and it was our favorite. They got the onions right, and the top layer of cheese is baked brown. This is a popular dish in Japan and I'm glad they got it right.

                  I got my wife to translate the signs written behind the bar. First is handmade gyoza, then chicken + onion, then sweet corn, saba, and a sign that says side dishes are $3.75. These are the things you'll find in the big bowl, called "Ozara ryori" literally "food in a big bowl".

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              daantaat RE: Captain Jack Oct 26, 2008 08:00 PM

              Had a craving for their gobo root salad tonight and headed down there. Unbeknownest to us, they do not offer the menu items on Sundays and instead, have a small number of "specials" that come w/ rice, miso soup and one side dish of your choice. The specials included fried chicken, grilled mackerel with salt, mackerel simmered in soy, grilled saury, sukiyaki and one or two other "main" dishes.

              We got the fried chicken (karaage) and grilled mackerel with bamboo shoots and kabocha squash for the sides. Chicken was perfectly deep fried, not greasy and battered with some chili pepper for a mild kick. Mackerel was crisply and perfectly grilled with a dusting of salt. Lemon and grated daikon accompanied the fish.

              Bamboo shoots were big chunks sprinkled with bonito flakes. Nice and semi-crunchy, mildly sweet and salty. The kabocha squash was REALLY good! Sweet with a deep "squash" flavor. It was so good that it made up for my disappointment that I couldn't get the gobo root salad!

              Total damage was $25 w/ tax and tip for two. We left pleasantly full and satisfied and looking forward to a non-Sunday dinner for the gobo root salad!

              1. Tom Armitage RE: Captain Jack Nov 17, 2008 07:04 PM

                Fortunately, I discovered Okan on a visit last weekend to San Diego, although I didn’t have the benefit of this Chowhound thread or the excellent and informative blogs of Kirk K. at mmm-yoso!!! It’s hard to find food other than sushi, noodles, tempura, yakitori, shabushabu and other standard fare at Japanese restaurants. So discovering the unique home-style dishes at Okan was beyond exciting. My wife and I selected three of the daily specials: a dish with cooked yamaimo and squid, a dish of delicate yam noodles served with tofu skin, sesame, and the faintest trace of jalapeno, and a dish of baby bamboo cooked in soy. We also ordered the traditional winter dish, oden, which included a hard-boiled egg, daikon radish, suji (beef tendons), mochi (glutinous rice pounded into a paste and moulded), hanpen (made with a fish puree called surimi), and a scallion-stuffed fish cake, accompanied by karashi (a strong Japanese mustard). From the menu, we selected the gobo salad, made of pot herb mustard leaves in a sesame dressing, topped with fried gobo (burdock root). We also had the braised pork Nagasaki-style, in which succulently tender pork was served with thinly sliced onions and karashi, and the stewed beef tongue, an incredibly delicious dish in which the tongue had been slow cooked for 72 hours, resulting in incredible tenderness and depth of taste. We finished with a milk “pudding” served with black honey. The pudding was light, smooth and silken in texture – in a word, perfect – with a taste that was as good as the mouth-feel. I wanted to try other dishes, such as the kamameshi, but alas my tummy had simply run out of room.

                Okan is an absolute treasure of a restaurant, serving food that is both unique and not generally available and that also happens to be some of the best prepared and delicious food I’ve had in ages. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about a restaurant. The bad news, for me, is that I live in Seattle, not San Diego. But I will return soon to San Diego if for no reason other than to enjoy some more meals at Okan.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tom Armitage
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                  daantaat RE: Tom Armitage Nov 17, 2008 07:06 PM

                  the gobo root salad is one of my favorites and we also loved the pudding with black honey! Can't wait to try their oden!

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                  royaljester RE: Captain Jack Nov 18, 2008 08:28 PM

                  At Okan they now have the specials listed on the wall inside, as well as the board outside. I've tried most of their rotating specials and they've all been good so far. This time we had Oden, fish, and pumpkin croquette. Among the side dishes at the counter, my favorite is the bamboo shoots. And as mentioned, their pudding is fantastic. Everything is home made style, classic Japanese food you wouldn't find in most Japanese restaurants in the US. I just got back from Japan last week, and to their credit they'd be competitive with places in Tokyo especially at their price point.

                  Price is reasonable, those four dishes mentioned plus pudding was $25.59 after tax (before tip). We eat light, so 2-3 dishes should make a meal depending on your appetite. For those who like Yumeya in Encinitas, this is a good alternative if Convoy is closer for you. The concept is similar but Okan focuses more on classic Japanese whereas Yumeya has a bit more novel experimentation.

                  The place is getting busy after 7pm on weekdays, and packed Friday/Saturday after 6pm. We just show up early rather than make reservations, but many people make reservations after 7pm.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: royaljester
                    Tom Armitage RE: royaljester Nov 19, 2008 08:21 AM

                    The highly deserved buzz about Okan reminds me of previous buzz that started on Chowhound in the 1990s. I was lucky enough to be one of the early discoverers of Saipin Chutima's amazing Northern and Northeastern Thai cooking at a little off-the-beaten-track restuarant in Norwalk, California called Renu Nakorn. Saipin and her husband Suchay ("Bill") moved to Las Vegas where they now own and operate the legendary Lotus of Siam. Discovering new treasures like LOS and Okan is what chowhounding is all about.

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                    royaljester RE: Captain Jack Apr 25, 2009 11:20 PM

                    According to this week's Lighthouse (Japanese weekly magazine), Okan will expand and start up a branch called "Oton" (father). Translating from the Japanese ad, this will be a robata-style grill specializing in "fresh fish", "just picked produce", "Japanese sake". Robata grill is the same kind of specialty as "Gonpachi" in Beverly Hills and Azabu Tokyo.

                    Wow glad they're expanding with a new concept rather than just a sequel. They're definitely filling a unique niche here in SD!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: royaljester
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                      daantaat RE: royaljester Apr 26, 2009 07:06 PM

                      Yes, this is true! One of the waitresses at Okan told me this weekend that they plan to open on May 5th. Oton will be bigger and have private rooms, as well as grills at the table, ala Japanese/Korean BBQ style. The new place will be somewhere near Mercury and Clairemont Mesa Drive, between Denny's and Shogun, I believe.

                      I can't wait!

                      1. re: daantaat
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                        mliew RE: daantaat Apr 27, 2009 10:33 AM

                        According to KirkK the new location is the former location of Osaka Kitchen between Shogun and Denny's like you said.

                        1. re: mliew
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                          daantaat RE: mliew Apr 27, 2009 08:04 PM

                          I think that is correct b/c the waitress said something about they were replacing another Japanese restaurant.

                          1. re: daantaat
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                            royaljester RE: daantaat May 4, 2009 06:35 PM

                            That's funny, because when I looked at the map I said to my wife "Oh, it's located near Osaka Kitchen." I had seen the empty lot and never made the connection! =)

                            1. re: royaljester
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                              daantaat RE: royaljester May 4, 2009 09:59 PM

                              sounds like it's due for a running of the 'hounds!

                        2. re: daantaat
                          ChocoSaint RE: daantaat May 5, 2009 07:46 PM

                          Okan has updated their website with a link to Oton's page on SanDiegoTown.com
                          http://www.sandiegotown.com/restauran...
                          It may not help those who don't read Japanese much, but you can find the hours of operation and telephone number.
                          And actually you can see on the image that the opening date is May 8th.

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                        royaljester RE: Captain Jack Nov 11, 2009 12:25 AM

                        This just in, according to the latest SD Japanese monthly magazine, Okan is now serving lunch! $6.50 for basic lunch special (3 side dishes, rice, miso, pickles), plus $2 for optional side dish. Options: Spicy chicken, fried flatfish, Japanese ratatouille. No credit card accepted for lunch. 11:30am to 2:30pm (2pm last order)

                        Also, they now support togo orders for lunch (I guess bento style?). Well, will find out more info when I visit.

                        See you there! =)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: royaljester
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                          daantaat RE: royaljester Nov 11, 2009 08:39 PM

                          mmm...lunch! I wonder if their lunch is similar to their Sunday night dinners. On Sundays, they offer a limited selection of items compared to the rest of the week.

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                          royaljester RE: Captain Jack Dec 11, 2009 04:37 PM

                          Had their lunch set this week. It's $6.50 for the base set plus $2-$3 for optional dish. I chose their weekly special of beef curry and it was fantastic. Just like what you'd get at a professional curry house in Japan, chunks of beef and curried stew. Much better than Curry House a few doors down.

                          The lunch set is a pretty homestyle Japanese meal, with seaweed brown rice, pickles, pieces of taro and squid, miso. Reminds me of eating lunch specials in downtown Tokyo.

                          I'd love to order the beef curry again but it's the rotating weekly special. There were three other optional dishes you could choose from besides the curry but I wanted to try this one before it disappeared.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: royaljester
                            honkman RE: royaljester Dec 11, 2009 04:58 PM

                            How crowded is Okan for lunch ? Is it easy to get a seat without a long wait ?

                            1. re: honkman
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                              royaljester RE: honkman Dec 11, 2009 05:07 PM

                              I went at 1:20 and it was just half full when I entered, so don't know about peak hours.

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                            daantaat RE: Captain Jack Feb 16, 2010 05:34 PM

                            made it here for lunch today. The set lunch is about $7 for a bowl of brown rice mixed w/ hijiki; pickles (cucumber, baby turnip, and the long bright magenta one); miso soup chock full of veggies; small sides of potato salad, pressed tofu w/ the brown curled veggie (don't know the name) and braised deep fried tofu. Also got deep fried oysters for about $3 and deep fried chicken w/ green onion and eggplant for $3. Was too full for dessert, but enjoyed the vanilla panna cotta w/ berries. Total damage, incl tea, tax and a generous tip for 2 was $28.

                            As always, their food is very, very good with attentive, non-intrusive service. Oysters were plump, juicy and perfectly fried. Chicken was moist, perfectly fried w/ a nice gingery sauce. I left very, very full and in retrospect, the set lunch by itself is enough of a meal, as I was having trouble helping finish the oysters and chicken.

                            One caveat: make sure you bring cash b/c they don't run the credit cards at lunchtime.

                            Place was modestly full. It was easy for anyone to get a seat right away. We were there from 11:45 am-1 pm.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: daantaat
                              Tom Armitage RE: daantaat Feb 19, 2010 04:08 PM

                              OMG, you're killing me, daantaat. I really miss Okan. It's almost worth the round-trip airfare from Seattle to get my Okan craving satisfied. There isn't anything like it in Seattle. The Mexican food scene in Seattle also sucks in general, so a visit to Super Cocina and the many other wonderful Mexican restaurants you have there would be an additional return on the investment.. Let's see --Okan, Super Cocina, Kaito Sushi, and all my other San Diego faves -- I'm torturing myself. We do have spectacular oysters up here though -- and lakes, rivers, and a lush, green environment..

                              1. re: Tom Armitage
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                                daantaat RE: Tom Armitage Feb 19, 2010 07:40 PM

                                ha! Sounds like we need to swap cities for a weekend! I REALLY love Sosios' peaches and nectarines and haven't found anything close to it down here. Even considered having them FedEx a flat of their fruit this summer!

                              2. re: daantaat
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                                hye RE: daantaat Mar 17, 2010 03:50 PM

                                The price seems to have gone up somewhat (or it could just be this week's optional dishes) - there was a side of crispy chicken with vegetables for $3, marinated mackerel for $3.50, and a simmered gobou (burdock root) and unagi for $4. I really enjoyed the dessert, which was a green tea pannacotta ($3). They didn't charge tax, which was a little surprising (is this entirely legal?), so the pricing is actually quite reasonable. Their isn't as much variety as Sakura's bento specials, but it had that Okan home cooking feel (whereas Sakura's lunch feels like a typical storebought bento).

                                1. re: hye
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                                  daantaat RE: hye Mar 17, 2010 08:12 PM

                                  It's either this week's pricing or my semi-unexact memory for prices. You're making me seriously consider going there for lunch this week!

                                  1. re: hye
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                                    royaljester RE: hye Mar 30, 2010 04:43 PM

                                    Generally speaking, a lot of the popular places raise their prices once they start getting packed. I'd say it's gone up a dollar out of ten, which is still a good deal.

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                                  daantaat RE: Captain Jack May 22, 2010 08:23 PM

                                  wow, this place is really getting popular! we went at 5:30 pm and this was the 2nd time they asked if we had reservations! They had a free soju and sochu tasting and food pairing, matched w/ 2 soju "sommeliers" from Japan tonight, possibly making it more crowded than usual. Unfortunately, tonight was not a good night for soju or sochu, but we had a lovely, delicious bowl of "Nagoya style" wheat noodles. It was a bowl of whole wheat noodles, similar to a flatter version of somen, in a clear, cool broth. Noodles came with a deep fried egg (very interesting), julienned cucumber, green onion, dried seaweed, diced Japanese mountain potato and dollop of wasabi. Noodles were a tad slippery but had good "tooth" to them. The veggies added a nice, clean crunch and texture. Wasabi added a bit of heat to the coolness. All in all, a very delicious bowl of noodles. My hope is that they'll offer this through the summer, especially when it gets hotter and more humid. It'll be a nice alternative to naeng mung.

                                  cgfan (or anyone else who is a Japanese food expert), what is the name of these noodles? And does the whole dish actually have a "name?"

                                  22 Replies
                                  1. re: daantaat
                                    cgfan RE: daantaat May 23, 2010 12:17 AM

                                    Most likely it was a Kishimen, but as a longshot it could have also been an Okinawa Soba. They're both made of wheat flour and are wide, cut noodles. I don't remember having either of these before but remember coming across them once at Mitsuwa during one of their food fairs. I even bought several packages after asking the ladies there how they're served, but they somehow got lost in the depths of my pantry and I never ended up having them!

                                    Perhaps someone from Nagoya can chime in here...

                                    1. re: cgfan
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                                      daantaat RE: cgfan May 23, 2010 05:51 PM

                                      the texture and width reminded me of the udon I had at Matsugen in Honolulu, if that helps. about 1/8th inch wide. Matsugen's udon were not the big, round, fat noodles I usually see.

                                    2. re: daantaat
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                                      royaljester RE: daantaat May 29, 2010 10:43 PM

                                      According to my wife, flat noodles are kishimen but the sides you got and the dish being cold are more like hiyashi chuka. But chuka has a different sauce rather than wasabi. So maybe it has no name, other than something like "Nagoya style" hiyashi chuka.

                                      She also said sometime in June 13-14 (Sun/Mon) will be their 2 year anniversary where all the tapas will be $2 each and discounted drinks.

                                      I've been getting their lunch bentos, and if you like traditional homestyle Japanese meals it's great. $6.50 for base, plus an optional dish at +$3-$4. Cash only for lunch.

                                      1. re: royaljester
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                                        daantaat RE: royaljester May 30, 2010 09:04 PM

                                        is hiyashi a generic name for a cold noodle dish or a specific type of cold noodle dish? Chopstix has "hayashi," which was cold ramen noodles with corn, pickled ginger, julienned scrambled egg, marinated bean sprouts, green onions and maybe a few other things I'm forgetting in a light rice wine vinegar/oil dressing. Wasn't a bowl of cold noodle soup.

                                        I've done their lunch and left extremely full and extremely happy!

                                        Thanks for the tip about their $2 tapas!

                                        -----
                                        Chopstix
                                        4633 Convoy St Ste 101, San Diego, CA 92111

                                        1. re: daantaat
                                          cgfan RE: daantaat May 30, 2010 09:34 PM

                                          Hiyashi Chuuka or HIyashi Chuuka Ramen or simply just Hiyashi Ramen all refer to the same dish, which is best described as a cold noodle salad featuring Ramen noodles. To add to the potential confusion It's just as often named with "Soba" instead of "Ramen" in its name, though it's always made using Ramen noodles.

                                          It's a seasonal dish that appears on menus during the summer months, and is what you describe eating at Chopstix.

                                          Hayashi, BTW, is the Youshoku dish (Japanese-styled Western dish) known as Hayashi Raisu (Hayashi Rice), which is a simple serving of beef and veg in a demiglace over rice.

                                          -----
                                          Chopstix
                                          4633 Convoy St Ste 101, San Diego, CA 92111

                                        2. re: royaljester
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                                          daantaat RE: royaljester Jun 6, 2010 04:02 PM

                                          cgfan and royaljester, I had the noodles again (sublime, AGAIN!!) and asked the waitress what the name was. She said she didn't know and this was the first time she'd ever heard of them. She read off the ingredients--wheat, the sticky/mucus-y part that comes from natto, egg, water and I think one other ingredient. Does this help?

                                          On a related note, their finely minced marinated ahi w/ quail egg is divine!

                                          1. re: daantaat
                                            cgfan RE: daantaat Jun 6, 2010 07:15 PM

                                            I take it that she was reading the ingredients off of the package of noodles?

                                            Two parts surprise me here. The part about the Natto, I'm quite certain that you'd never find that as an ingredient for noodles, though it is used somewhat often as a topping in noodle dishes. However it is quite common to use Yamaimo as an ingredient to making noodles, which gives it both elasticity and a smooth texture. As you know Yamaimo, when grated, turns very mucusy like Natto. Could it be that the waitress said Yamaimo but described it in terms of its Natto-like texture?

                                            BTW the mucus formed when stirring Natto are actually the thread-forming colonies of Bacillus Natto, the aerobic bacteria naturally present on rice stalks which are responsible for the fermentation of soy beans to make Natto. (The traditional package for Natto is a bundle of rice straw tied at both ends and filled with Natto in the center...) It really is not a separate "ingredient" so would not show up on any package label. (However the bacillus is sold in a dry form called Nattokin, which is mixed with rice flour and sold for culturing Natto...)

                                            The other surprise is the egg, which is never used as an ingredient for Japanese noodles. (Of course it can be used in the making of Chinese style noodles such as in the Chinese-inspired Ramen noodle, or as an ingredient in noodle-based dishes...)

                                            Still guessing that you had a Kishimen and that your waitress was not familiar with this regional noodle...

                                            1. re: cgfan
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                                              daantaat RE: cgfan Jun 7, 2010 08:35 PM

                                              She was reading the Japanese on the menu that was below the English translation of "Wheat Noodles, Nagoya style." I know she said Natto, b/c she was very surprised that I knew what Natto is and repeated "Natto" several times. She also lifted her hand up several times to indicate the mucus-y part of Natto. Maybe I missed the Yamaimo, which would make sense b/c it is diced up in the bowl itself, but I'm pretty sure she said Natto when I said, "fermented soy beans?"

                                              Maybe what she was trying to explain was that they used Nattokin in the noodle flour itself??

                                              They're serving the noodles all month, if you have a chance to go and read the Japanese. :-)

                                              1. re: daantaat
                                                cgfan RE: daantaat Jun 7, 2010 08:58 PM

                                                Oh, I thought she was reading the label on the package of noodles. If it's off of the menu description, then the Natto makes sense as a noodle topping. ...and Natto and sliced Yamaimo is a match made in heaven!

                                                1. re: daantaat
                                                  Tripeler RE: daantaat Jun 7, 2010 09:29 PM

                                                  They couldn't have used nattokin in the noodle itself since heat destroys it. Likely she could have been trying to explain the yamaimo, which in texture is sort of like snot on steroids.

                                                  1. re: Tripeler
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                                                    daantaat RE: Tripeler Jun 8, 2010 09:25 PM

                                                    cgfan, I think we're having a communication mishap. There isn't natto on the noodles. I'm wondering if what the waitress was trying to explain, perhaps not very well, was the yamaimo that Tripeler thinks she was talking about.

                                                    1. re: daantaat
                                                      cgfan RE: daantaat Jun 8, 2010 10:00 PM

                                                      As to the waitress describing Yamaimo, that was my theory too, though at the time I imagined that she was reading an ingredient label off of the package of noodles. But Yamaimo is used both ways, both as an ingredient in noodles (particularly Soba), but also as a topping for noodles either grated into a slurry or julienned to keep its crunch.

                                                      1. re: cgfan
                                                        Tripeler RE: cgfan Jun 9, 2010 01:52 AM

                                                        Totally correct. In fact, I think that yamaimo is ONLY used in the buckwheat soba noodles, and no other types. However, the natto COULD have been in a separate flavoring packet (thus listed in the ingredients) but that is not really likely.

                                                        1. re: Tripeler
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                                                          hye RE: Tripeler Jun 9, 2010 09:47 PM

                                                          The noodle dish is called Ozanza, and the ingredient list includes "natto no ito" (natto thread?). This makes me think the noodles have natto as an ingredient. (and is somewhat backed up by google) The egg comes in a deep-fried tofu-bag (like they have in oden).

                                                          1. re: hye
                                                            cgfan RE: hye Jun 9, 2010 10:43 PM

                                                            Thanks hye for the info... Wow this sounds really unique. Never heard of such a noodle, but it makes me want to try it all the more!

                                                            Apparently this noodle is made with Nattokinase, an enzyme which is a product of the fermentation of soy beans by the Natto bacillus. Since I occasionally culture my own Natto at home I've heard of Nattokinase, but never thought that it'd be isolated and used as an ingredient by itself.

                                                            I recall hearing of it in regards to research being conducted of its purported anti-coagulation and clot-breaking properties, and has received a lot of attention amongst Japanese health circles. I remember more specifically reading several years ago that it was being studied as an agent for stroke victims, and that it was purported to be orders of magnitude more effective than existing therapies.

                                                            BTW my favorite make of Natto was one called "Ito no Chikara", which means "Strength of the Thread", referring to the thread-forming colonies of the Natto bacillus. I personally liked it as indeed, it did produce a noticeably stronger thread than other makes. Unfortunately it went out of distribution about a year ago...

                                                            1. re: cgfan
                                                              kare_raisu RE: cgfan Jun 9, 2010 10:51 PM

                                                              Have you tried the natto made in Sebastapol, Ca? Its really good - never frozen and available at both Nijiya and Mitsuwa.

                                                              1. re: kare_raisu
                                                                cgfan RE: kare_raisu Jun 9, 2010 10:58 PM

                                                                I've seen it; if I recall it's called "Tezukuri Natto", which means hand-made Natto.

                                                                Since showing up on Nijiya's shelves I've been tempted to try it, but so far I've passed up on it every time. Now that you mention it I'll be sure to pick it up this time on my weekly Nijiya run...

                                                            2. re: hye
                                                              d
                                                              daantaat RE: hye Jun 10, 2010 08:57 PM

                                                              thank you hye!! This makes the most sense, given what I understood was being told to me!

                                                              1. re: hye
                                                                cgfan RE: hye Jun 12, 2010 04:23 PM

                                                                Dropped in today for my first lunch at Okan, so I asked about the Ozanza. The first waitress I asked didn't know of it and seemed to have never heard of it, but the second waitress did. (I recognized the second waitress from previous visits so perhaps the first waitress only worked the lunch hours and was simply not exposed to the dish.)

                                                                Well being over-eager to try out my first Ozanza after reading about it here, I must have missed the part that it was a dinner-time only dish. However I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch and left, much like prior visits, quite impressed.

                                                                What I can say about it, all of you who've eaten here already know. The food is so lovingly prepared with such skillful restraint that it shows. What they're doing in the kitchen goes beyond cooking; they're putting their heart into each dish. This isn't "fancy" food but rather simple homestyle dishes done extremely well. The taste and texture of each ingredient is kept true and distinct, begging to be considered one tiny bite at a time.

                                                                The trio of small plates that is the core of their lunch set were of the same vein that occupies their Oozara during normal service, which is the part of their cooking that I'm in love with and has me thinking about Okan between my infrequent returns.

                                                                It all results in an incredibly "Yasashii Aji", which is difficult to translate well but perhaps can best be described as not only limited to a gentle and delicate taste, but more often also implying the conveyance of a nostalgic, almost melancholic mood. No doubt their entrees are very good, but for me I'd rather make the bulk of my meal off of the Oozara items and supplement it with perhaps one of their less flashy, but strictly traditional, entrees...

                                                                As to my first Ozanza, well, perhaps next time...

                                                        2. re: Tripeler
                                                          cgfan RE: Tripeler Jun 9, 2010 10:54 PM

                                                          Yeah Nattokin thrives in a relatively narrow range of temperatures, and only in aerobic conditions with sufficient humidity. When I culture Natto at home I use a heat lamp attached to a poultry incubator thermostat, (I picked up the latter at a tack and feed store!), which is then placed in my oven with the door cracked open about an inch. The oven itself is not turned on but is heated solely by the heat lamp. Foil punctured for air covers the fermenting soy beans, which keeps a moist enough environment for the bacillus to thrive.

                                                          However when kept dry Nattokin is a lot more resilient and stays viable for long periods of time. I suspect it just goes dormant, very much like a spore. I've had my vial of Nattokin for years, and it seems to do just fine...

                                                2. re: daantaat
                                                  SaltyRaisins RE: daantaat Jun 6, 2010 08:21 PM

                                                  Wow...I have yet to be failed by Okan, and I can't wait have some of these noodles. Hayashi chukka is one of my favorites, but am at times put off by lesser preparations- the occasional Spam surprise at restaurants where that particular ingredient is otherwise unexpected. Thanks for the heads-up on the Nagoya...

                                                  Cheers!

                                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                                    h
                                                    hye RE: SaltyRaisins Oct 20, 2010 09:47 PM

                                                    I'm not sure what was going on today, but 2 of the dishes I ordered were both off and one was quite bad. Both the simmered kabocha and the duck soba had a strange sour tinge, as if someone had used bad mirin/cooking sake or had put vinegar in by mistake. They were happy to replace my kabocha with a different oozara, but I was in a rush and didn't bother with the duck soba.

                                                    I actually really enjoyed the duck soba in the past, because you got the nice flavors of grilled duck in the broth. It was as close as I could get to the excellent duck broth I had at Cavaillon during their foie gras tasting menu. Today, it was just bad, with the sour-ish broth and poor quality duck meat (dry, thin, flavorless -- not much better than the beef in mediocre/crappy pho). It really felt like they were trying to gip me by serving inferior ingredients -- I can understand the sourness if the cooks are too lazy to taste what they prepare before sending it out, but it should have been very obvious that the duck was not up to par, and they should have either thrown it out or had the guts to tell me it wasn't available.

                                                    Not sure if I'll be going back anytime soon...

                                                    -----
                                                    Cavaillon Restaurant
                                                    14701 Via Bettona, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127

                                                3. Fake Name RE: Captain Jack Jun 6, 2010 04:36 PM

                                                  Went with a large group Friday- excellent meal.

                                                  1. kare_raisu RE: Captain Jack Jun 8, 2010 04:28 PM

                                                    Not only has this place become my favorite restaurant in San Diego, between the healthy lunches and creative, organic, fresh, local vegetable and also meat small plates -- they also play Beautiful music.

                                                    1. d
                                                      daantaat RE: Captain Jack Mar 8, 2011 08:46 PM

                                                      was at Okan over the weekend and noticed it was unusually not crowded for a Saturday night. Got there at 6:30 pm and the bar was empty, although it filled up by 7:15 or so. By the time we left around 9:30 pm, there were several empty seats. And no large crowds outside, waiting to get in.

                                                      Food was excellent, as usual.

                                                      Was this an exception or have the crowds migrated over to Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: daantaat
                                                        r
                                                        royaljester RE: daantaat Mar 11, 2011 12:22 AM

                                                        Well their direct competitor is really themselves, at Oton. But yes there are too many other places these days in Convoy, and in any case Okan literally has only 3 tables which probably turns some people off from even checking.

                                                        What fills a place like Okan is Japanese customers, and there is a surplus in places like Okan right now. Yakyudori otoh has a much more balanced clientelle so it's easier to fill the slack.

                                                        1. re: daantaat
                                                          m
                                                          MrKrispy RE: daantaat Mar 11, 2011 09:35 AM

                                                          went last night...the bar wasn't full but the place was fairly busy. Food seemed fine.

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