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Shimbashi-New Izakaya In Del Mar

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We tried out this recently-opened restaurant in the Del Mar Plaza this Sunday and thought it was really quite good. (It is in the same spot as the sushi restaurant used to be, but has been extensively remodelled). I am far from an expert on this type of Japanese food, but I thought it was really good. The menu was not as varied as Sakura and Okan, and was certainly much more pricey. Apparently all of the veggies are organic and come from Chino Farms and I believe they said the meat was "local" as well. We tried a sashimi salad (excellent), specialty sushi roll (very good), gyoza (best I've ever had), tempura (good, but not as good as Okan) and a few other dishes I can't remember. We at a lot, and it was close to $50/person.

All in all a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but because of the prices I cannot put it on my everyday rotation. I realize the rent can't be cheap there and they use high quality ingredients, but I will have to reserve the spot for special occasions. I am not sure if the Del Mar crowd will warm up to this type of restaurant, but I sure hope it works out.

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    1. re: stevewag23

      Not too busy. I would say 3/4 full. The place is pretty small...maybe 6 tables of 4 plus a sushi bar. There is also a u-shaped bar that seats around 12. I have not seen any advertising and the location in the plaza is not likely to get much pedestrian traffic. It did have a nice vibe and is very unique to that neighborhood. Because the food is so far off of the offerings in the usual japanese restaurants in North County (no teriyaki chicken to be found) I hope that it works out for them.

    2. hmm, will have to check it out. How does it compare to Yumeya? Are they open for lunch?

      3 Replies
      1. re: daantaat

        What a coincidence, I also want to know if they're open for lunch. Read about the place in the Japanese SD magazine and read some reviews on Yelp. Normally I'd go to Convoy but this place is 5 minutes from me so I've been thinking to check it out. I need a local Japanese place to send the wife while I watch the baby so it has to be close.

        Update: According to the latest Yuyu Japanese magazine, on Sat/Sun they are now starting to offer lunch. Here are the exclusive details according to my wife:
        Menu is fixed price with salad (chili shrimp sauce), Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), 3 kinds of sashimi, spicy tuna roll, miso soup.

        Will report back if she ends up going.

        1. re: daantaat

          Well obviously they aren't Yumeya (really unique home cooking, lots of winners), but I'd say it's worth trying for lunch. The lunch set is big and priced accordingly, but it's a good sampling of well made Japanese food.

          Yumeya is a pain to get into, waiting in line at 5:30pm? They're doing something right!

          1. re: royaljester

            Will have to check out Shimbashi sometime.

        2. Went last night. My take, Food was alright. Expensive, wasn't impressed.

          1 Reply
          1. Wife went a few weeks back and had a great time with friends. She brought the lunch set to go for me. It's a pretty big meal, but totally loved the jumbo Karaage (biggest any of us have seen). Sashimi was great, great meal overall.

            Can't say anything about dinner, but the lunch set is nice. Will post photos when I get around to it.

            1. I went about two weeks ago with a few friends for dinner, sort of. It was after work/after happy hour, but not quite full on dinner. Anyway, the food was very good. The bartender was very knowledgeable and pointed me toward a bottle of sake that was right up my alley (not too dry, unfiltered).

              The chicken karaage (5 pcs) was fried well, but lacking a bit on the salt. The takowasabi had a great balance of wasabi-to-octopus for me (I like a heavier wasabi flavor). I like their Shimbashi's version the most of any kind, including Yakitori Yakyudori's. My friend got some special that involved three small plates (a few bites small, like 2 pieces of sashimi) paired with three sake shots. The halibut sashimi was unimpressive, I forget what the second food item was, and the roasted gingko nuts were fantastic bar food. The ankimo's texture was pretty good, although I don't recall it being the most flavorful.

              The stunner of the night was the incredible chicken porridge my friend got. Even though I had already paid my bill and was getting ready to leave I damn near ordered one and would have stuffed it down with great delight. Even though there wasn't that much seaweed in it the broth had a beautiful "of the ocean" seafood flavor that was strong but not overpowering and still allowed you to taste the other ingredients. I was thoroughly impressed.

              Overall, on my visit, the food was pretty well executed. The flavors were mostly balanced and not too subtle. I'll have to go back for round 2... and the chicken porridge!

              1. Since their opening I've had a mild curiosity to check this place out. Mild because I'm so accustomed to expecting that only a scant few of the Japanese restaurants in San Diego are even worth considering. But since a good deal of my Japanese eats in this county take me away from North County, a potentially competent addition to our local scene is certainly worth checking out.

                So when a friend suggested the other day that we check out Shimbashi Izakaya (for a $40 prix fixe 4 course Restaurant Week offering), I scrapped my plans for getting some of Yakyudori Convoy''s Yakitori.

                Pictures here: http://tinyurl.com/2f6jm9l

                Well in short I thought the restaurant was terrible. Yes it's in a very nice (pricey) location. Yes they've spent a lot of money on the buildout. Yes they have a high staffing level for its size. Yes, their entire staff (sans owner) is Japanese. But when it comes to the food, it all ends horribly bad.

                The first entre was a mixed plate of Nigiri, Sashimi, and Americanized rolls. http://tinyurl.com/22nc8no

                Needless to say the Americanized rolls were a disaster; they're just not my thing. But really for the life of me I cannot imagine what even a roll fan would find tasty in what I had. As for the Sashimi and the Nigiri, none of it had any taste at all. It was almost as if it were a plate of colored and textured synthetic proteins, albeit with some chemist's idea of what the true flavors might be. Tasting their idea of Sushi and Sashimi made me feel sad for all of the other very similar offerings served in this county. Shimbashi's is much the same but just in a fancier locale and dress.

                Next came a quartet of broiled skewers and grilled Chino Farms corn. http://tinyurl.com/236vwd7

                The skewers were described as being chicken, pork, beef, and Shishito which was appropriate, as each of these tasted so generic and dry. None of the skewers showed the finesse and pride shown in Yakyudori's Yakitori. Their skewers tragically reminded me of the now defunct Yakitori K-1's product, (they're the operation that got replaced by Okan), where I got the feel that only in name only was it purporting to be a Yakitori specialist. However the Shishito was good, as was the corn.

                Next was a course of vegetable Tempura, including long bean, sweet potato, and Shiitake, http://tinyurl.com/242cau2

                Their Tempura was simply awful. The batter retained way too much oil, and therefore was heavier and more sodden in texture than it should have been, and left a greasy feeling on one's lips hinting at either a tired and/or a not very good grade of oil. A good Tempura should elevate the natural tastes of the underlying product. It adds texture and encases within its delicate coating a kind of steam saturated with the essence of what lies within. The coating manages to stay dry while holding in considerable moisture, as well as trapping much of its heat. All of that hot moisture is released as soon as one breaks through the crispy exterior, resulting in a rush of textural and temperature contrasts.

                Instead of that kind of experience the breading with Shimbashi's Tempura added nothing to the veg, other than to trap the cooled cooking oils like a sweat-soaked shirt an hour after a workout. Rather than paying respect to the vegetables the coating made a mockery of it, unnecessarily cloaking the veg that given their lack of skill would frankly have been better presented simply steamed.

                Was there anything good about our meal? Well the dessert was pleasant, though unnecessary in the context of a Japanese meal. Do the meal well and all I need to close is a hot and freshly drawn cup of green tea.

                For each of the items served there are far better options in San Diego. Either seek out the true specialists in S.D. for Sushi or Yakitori, or alternatively find a "real" Izakaya who specializes in a diverse array of traditional cooking methods. For the Sushi and even the Tempura I'd much rather have gone to Kaito Sushi to sit in front of Morita-san. (Hiromi, their chef in the back of the house, truly cooks Tempura much like a specialist would, bringing a fresh batch of Japanese rapeseed oil up to temperature per order in a small pot, and cooking each piece to order.) For Yakitori I'd much rather go to Yakyudori to sit in front of Nabe-san.

                While Kaito's and Yakyudori's food speaks for themselves, with Shimbashi it's only the decor that's doing all of the talking.

                6 Replies
                1. re: cgfan

                  thanks cgfan for taking the hit! I've seen this place many times and was too apprehensive to potentially waste $$, time and calories on a potentially bad Japanese dinner. You've confirmed my hunch about this place!

                  1. re: daantaat

                    It's really kinda sad, as we could certainly use more well-executed Japanese cuisine options up here in North County...

                    1. re: cgfan

                      I think North County could use more well-executed Asian in general. Then again, we're lucky to be within reasonable driving distance from Convoy.

                      1. re: daantaat

                        Indeed, and less disasters of the likes of East Village Asian Diner; all bark, no bite...

                        And agreed on Convoy... I practically move into the area every weekend!

                  2. re: cgfan

                    Ahh...for what it's worth, I came here with a friend for dinner on a weekday (with a coupon from restaurant.com) and we both thought the food was near the quality level of Okan (specific dishes we liked were the tonjiru, atka saba, pear pie, and paitan ramen). My friend later went back during restaurant week, and said the food was disappointing and uninspired compared to the first visit.

                    Given the spotty reviews and price, I'm hesistant to recommend the restaurant, but I think I'll give it another shot myself (at least for the ramen - since it's paitan, I think it's a nice change from my usual Masa tonkotsu/Yakyudori shio).

                    1. re: kotamago

                      A bit late, but I finally gave this place another chance and was disappointed. It almost seems like the restaurant quality took a nosedive in honor of restaurant week; at the very least I would have to say that they may be inconsistent.

                      I agree with RTee that the karaage is "fried well, but lacking in salt". As for the paitan ramen, the noodles were nice and QQ (sorry, can't think of the Japanese word), but the peppercorn flavor in the broth that I enjoyed last time was rather muted, and the soup was not hot, but warm! The pear pie no longer comes with a caramelized top, and was...also warm.

                      It's too bad, especially at those prices, that it seems to reflect a lack of care.

                  3. On weekends we sometimes get their weekend lunch bento with optional sushi rolls. It's $18 each but huge and lots of variety. Photo included!

                    I know this place is hit and miss for some people, but their weekend lunch bento has always been great in my experience. You get a choice of two entrees and sushi is included. You can also add a half sushi roll. The sashimi was very good, better than I'd expected.

                    My wife always demands the ebi chili (chili fried shrimp) which is a nice Japanese recipe if you've never tried it.

                    I don't know about dinner as the prices go up - it is smack in the middle of downtown Del Mar after all. So I'm not vouching for that. But lunch is quite good - reminds me of Sakura's giant bento for $12 only a step better. So it fills our niche of a "lazy Saturday" lunch, since we can't drive that far or many places to eat with the baby.

                    1. Oops, here's the photo!