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Harney Sushi in SD--your thoughts?

It's been a few years since I've been to Harney. I'm planning to take a girl friend there for her birthday dinner based on the fact that I remember it having a good selection of specialty rolls and fun atmosphere. Someone told me they've made changes in the past several months, but I don't know what those changes are. I'm an avid Ota and Kazumi patron, but I'd like to go to a sushi spot that has a lively atmosphere in addition to good fish.
Anyone out there have any feedback about this so that I can discern whether to make reservations at Harney or go elsewhere? Any recommendations on where that elsewhere could be? I'm willing to go downtown, No/So Park, Hillcrest, PB, or La Jolla.

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  1. I actually find Harney's sushi meh, although there are a few standouts and generally way too loud. Especially near the sushi bar. Recently, my favorite "sceney" sushi with better then average to great rolls/sashimi and atmosphere have been either Ono in Hillcrest (no reservations though) and Zenbu in LJ (they do take reservations.)

    1. Can't help you on Harney (I go speechless whenever I hear "sushi" along with "Harney"), but if you are a fan of Ota and you can manage to make it past La Jolla and into Encinitas, then you owe it to yourself to make a visit to Kaito Sushi.

      The sushi will be better, there's no attitude or presumption, and ample seating at the bar.

      In many ways it's a much needed antidote to the two styles of sushi bars that seems to prevail in S.D.: the clueless roll-factory sushi bars, and the over-subscribed and over-rated "must eat" sushi bar.

      Kaito Sushi has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where everyone knows everyone else, and newcommers are warmly received and quickly treated just like a regular.
      And you will find in head chef Kazuo Morita a dedicated practitioner and teacher of the sushi tradition. Having a meal and conversation at his bar is to simultaneously enjoy a combined culinary, cultural, and educational experience.

      And if you close the place out you might find yourself carrying home an on-the-house goodie to have for breakfast the next morning!

      1 Reply
      1. re: cgfan

        I agree with cgfan.

        Kaito is awesome.

      2. IF YOU LIKE LOUD MUSIC and so-so sushi, you'll love Harney. ITS A LOT LIKE GOING TO A NIGHTCLUB that also serves food.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Fake Name

          As is Ono, where the sushi is even worse. At least at Harney, you'll occasionally get a Japanese sushi chef!

          1. re: mimosa

            I used to think that the quality of fish was not great at Ono and it was just a place to get a few rolls and some drinks. Recently, the quality of fish has improved and I find myself only ordering sashimi and a few nigiri, especially the fatty sake, aji and fatty hamachi. Also, I am not sure what the ethnicity of the sushi chef brings to the discussion.

            1. re: mimosa

              Do you think it matters if the chef is Japanese?

              1. re: kare_raisu

                IMO, having the best cut of fish, knife skills and presentation matter, not the chefs ethnic background.

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  My husband inadvertently posted under my name so the views expressed in the earlier posting are his.

                  As for your question KR - while I don't think a chef's ethnicity is necessarily relevant, it has been my experience that the most authentic sushi and other Japanese food I've encountered has been at places where not just the chef, but all the staff too, is Japanese. We work across the street from Ono and are regularly asked about it - my response is, "It's not the most authentic Japanese food you'll find in San Diego, but they're always busy so the fish is always fresh, the selection of rolls is fun and they have a full bar."

                  1. re: mimosa

                    Honestly its not relevent if its your or your husbands preference for ethnically Japanese chefs. Thats your preference.

                    To me its just interesting because the last time I went to Fish Market - where there was a (Yokahama born) Japanese chef side by side a Mexican from Guerrero State - the Japanese chef knew more than me about Mexican music - Nortenos and cumbias and could not stop talking how much he loved Mexican cuisine. His respect for his coworkers from South of the border should also be mentioned.

                    Next time you go to Izakaya Sakura - you should take a look in the kitchen.

                    And I worked for Korean owned sushi restaurants - and they do know what they are doing.

                    1. re: kare_raisu

                      I agree, it's not relevant to the quality of the food which I why I posted the 'not me' disclaimer- and my comment was merely an observation. In the places where I have experienced the best food of any cuisine - French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai - it has been with a chef from that country. I fully understand kitchen diversity (or lack thereof) but I'm referring to actual head or executive chefs who create the menus.

                      1. re: kare_raisu

                        Obviously I'm only speaking of my experience. I'm sure there are wonderful sushi chefs who are not Japanese. However, having eaten in most of the top flight sushi bars/restaurants in LA, SF and SD, I've only found Ono and Zensei to have no Japanese chefs on the nights I visited them...and IMO, they are not in the top flight of sushi bars in SD. Coincidence? Possibly. But then again, I haven't seen any Japanese women cooking at Super Cocina, Mariscos German, etc. It's not a law that you only get good food when it is prepared by a person of the same nationality. But maybe it increases your odds of success??? ;^)

                        1. re: rotie77

                          Look no further than Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy or on the local level the chef at Cenote Grill in Escondido or Paco Perez whose parents are Spanish and learned the pre-columbian earth baking style of the state of Mexico.

                          Other nationalities Anthony Bourdain of Les Halles is American last check, Mario Batali is from Seatlle and was raised in Spain. Austrian born Wolfgang Puck and "Calif Cuisine..etc.....etc.

                          So that law doesnt always apply.

                          1. re: kare_raisu

                            Uhh, yeah, that's why I said it's not a law. But KR, tell me more about Cenote Grill...I'm not familiar.

                            1. re: rotie77

                              A lots been written here - American born chef who spent time in the Yucatan wanted to bring a closer idea of mexican cooking to bertos San Diego.

              2. I definitely do not love Harney, just remember having pretty good sushi, so maybe that was an aberration! I agree about the loud music, though. Have been to Zenbu, and was not impressed. Lousy service and overpriced sushi, albeit fresh fish. Thanks for the Kaito recommendation. Encinitas is a bit far for my Otay friend. I will look into Ono. Cheers!

                1. Harney is OK. The sushi is kind of like that at On Broadway, thoroughly Americanized and inauthentic (not that there's anything inherently wrong with that). It's loud and clubby, the only thing they have going for themselves, IMO, is that they serve Racer 5 IPA, which goes surprisingly well with sushi.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Josh

                    Yes, yes, agreed that Harney is loud and clubby. Time to find a quieter but somewhat-chic sushi place without sacrificing taste! I've had a few good experiences at Sushi on the Rock, it's just been a while. Any opinions about that place?

                    1. re: ginael

                      Used to go to Sushi on the Rock in La Jolla a lot until I had Sakura's sushi. SOTR has decent sushi, a huge roll list which had a lot of really good rolls and the lively atmosphere you're looking for. The last time I was there was in the Carlsbad branch about a year ago and tried their chirashi bowl, which crumpled in comparison to Sakura. I'd say if you get anything else other than the chirashi bowl, you'll be fine. Beware, they don't take reservations and it can get crowded during peak times.

                      1. re: daantaat

                        the Carlsbad Sushi on the Rock is no more

                        1. re: Enorah

                          thanks for the info. Did something else replace it?

                          1. re: daantaat

                            not yet

                  2. Not a bad place to pick up girls though.