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SD Magazine's Best Restaurants..Reader's Pick 2009

b
Beach Chick Jun 9, 2009 10:49 AM

Well it's better than previous years....No Olive Garden for Best Italian..
I gotta get to Crescent Heights Kitchen..

www.sandiegomagazine.com/media/San-Di...

  1. c
    cookieshoes Jun 9, 2009 11:15 AM

    Yeah, it's not a bad list overall. Not a ton of "insider picks", but still a decent list.

    I am, however, absolutely puzzled by the Marine Room being the "Most Romantic".

    That place is about as romantic as a country club full of retired people. It's like the setting of a Danielle Steel novel in there.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cookieshoes
      b
      Beach Chick Jun 9, 2009 01:46 PM

      cookieshoes..
      you obviously didn't sit in booth 62..
      ; )

      1. re: cookieshoes
        Josh Jun 9, 2009 03:33 PM

        My fiance and I went there to celebrate our engagement, and we're not retired. There were actually a fair number of younger people there. The view is incredible, and the service is attentive and courteous. Never understood the Marine Room hate, though it's pretty common.

        1. re: Josh
          g
          ginael Jun 9, 2009 04:03 PM

          Marine Room's atmosphere is dank, almost anachronistic. No hate, just find it overrated.

          1. re: Josh
            c
            cookieshoes Jun 9, 2009 04:41 PM

            Well, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. Just before I proposed, I took my fiance to a hole in the wall Mexican loncheria in the yucatan. The kind with sticky vinyl tablecloths. So, obviously we all have different ideas when it comes to romance.

            But, if I was the director of any number of daytime soap operas, the Marine Room would be the location I'd choose for the "fancy restaurant" scenes. Same goes for Le Fountainbleau at the Westgate.

            1. re: Josh
              b
              Beach Chick Jun 9, 2009 05:57 PM

              Congrat's Josh!

          2. c
            Cathy Jun 9, 2009 11:19 AM

            P.F. Chang for best Chinese...

            I stopped reading.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cathy
              g
              ginael Jun 9, 2009 04:05 PM

              For me, the ludicrous yet ubiquitous choice was "Cafe Sevilla" for best Spanish. Give me a break.

            2. d
              DougOLis Jun 9, 2009 11:38 AM

              /scratches ahead

              at least stevewag23 will be thrilled that Deborah Scott didn't win Best Chef. So he's got that goin' for him.

              11 Replies
              1. re: DougOLis
                s
                stevewag23 Jun 9, 2009 11:50 AM

                "at least stevewag23 will be thrilled that Deborah Scott didn't win Best Chef. So he's got that goin' for him."

                I guess all my posting on chowhound worked!

                And it is hard to derail the Brian Malarkey Hype Machine.

                Sure Oceanaire is great (I think its the best restaurant in the Gaslamp) but Brian Malarkey as best chef in all of San Diego? Am I the only one that thinks that is missing the mark?

                Oceanaire is good as a result of the quality of seafood, not any of Malarkey's genius.

                The best things there are the oysters and the crabcake. That being the case, Juan behind the oyster bar should win best chef.

                As far as the rest of the list,

                BEST AMERICAN - Croce's

                And

                BEST ASIAN FUSION

                Roppongi
                Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine
                Red Pearl Kitchen

                Are ridiculous.

                1. re: stevewag23
                  Fake Name Jun 9, 2009 11:56 AM

                  It burns my fingers to agree with Steve, but I really must. It's important to remember it's not a contest of actual ability or a true test of quality of chef/destination, but what's most popular- what name do people remember the most?

                  "Juan behind the oyster bar"- so accurate and true. Maybe everybody should just be thanking nonspecifichigherpower for inventing or creating oysters via evolution. Thank the stars, or the Big Bang, but not Brian Malarkey.

                  1. re: Fake Name
                    b
                    Beach Chick Jun 9, 2009 12:06 PM

                    LOL..

                    1. re: Fake Name
                      s
                      stevewag23 Jun 9, 2009 12:17 PM

                      "It burns my fingers to agree with Steve, but I really must."

                      Ha.

                      Brian Malarkey could win "Most Well known chef" as a result of being on TV.

                      And I really did mean to give props to Juan. He knows his stuff. Last time I was there I didn't see him though.

                    2. re: stevewag23
                      e
                      eatemup Jun 9, 2009 12:49 PM

                      I personally think that no one makes raw oysters and shrimp cocktails as good as BM. Anything else, ehh.

                      1. re: stevewag23
                        m
                        MrKrispy Jun 9, 2009 01:55 PM

                        if the best thing there is the crabcake, who made the crabcake?

                        1. re: MrKrispy
                          s
                          stevewag23 Jun 9, 2009 02:17 PM

                          Not sure, doubt it was Malarkey.

                          Either way, the crabcake is a result of quality seafood, not any type of culinary wizardry.

                        2. re: stevewag23
                          Josh Jun 9, 2009 03:34 PM

                          What do you mean, he was on Top Chef. What more do you need?

                          1. re: stevewag23
                            k
                            keena Jun 10, 2009 07:30 PM

                            I love Oceannaire too. Malarkey had a whole brigade on Facebook getting people to vote him as Best Chef. When he won, the head of his fan club emailed everyone and thanked them. I never bother to vote on that stuff. It always has the ridiculous routine favorites every year.

                          2. re: DougOLis
                            b
                            Beach Chick Jun 11, 2009 12:26 PM

                            Love that Doug!

                            1. re: DougOLis
                              s
                              stevewag23 Jun 16, 2009 05:28 PM

                              San Diego Hype Machine continues: http://www.sandiegometro.com/2009/jun...

                              It is almost staggering on how much local press Indi-dont-go Grille gets.

                              I think that is like the 3rd local article in the last month.

                              "A newer addition to the menu is the “Carne Asada Nachos” ($14.95)." That is news worthy?

                              Cresent Heights could have used that press.

                              A little spreading of the wealth if you will.

                            2. SDGourmand Jun 9, 2009 12:28 PM

                              what is everyones thoughts on Burger Lounge? I was there a few days ago tried the beef, turkey and veg.. The beef and turkey were equally as bad. Tasted like a frozen patty. I found them to be a bad imitation of In and Out. Veggie burger had no texture at all. Pile of mush. The fries were just as bad as everything else. Tasted like plastic. I spent 40 bucks and the only edible thing were the onion rings.

                              27 Replies
                              1. re: SDGourmand
                                Josh Jun 9, 2009 03:35 PM

                                Love Burger Lounge. Never had an experience like you describe at all.

                                1. re: SDGourmand
                                  w
                                  wanker Jun 9, 2009 04:14 PM

                                  I've tried the Burger Loung in LJ and thought it was terrific. Especially with a Virgil's Root Beer for a sublime A&W-retro-SoCal burger experience.

                                  FWIW, I find that when I venture off the beaten path of a restaurant's supposed expertise, you risk a greater chance to being disappointed. The Burger Lounge is all about its grass fed beef. The turkey and veggie burgers are at best an after thought, to appease the non-red meat eaters in the crowd who are forced to eat their with their boyfriends.

                                  It's not an excuse for the establishment, just an observation.

                                  1. re: wanker
                                    d
                                    DougOLis Jun 9, 2009 04:33 PM

                                    which is kind of ironic given that grass fed beef is probably just as healthy as turkey

                                    1. re: wanker
                                      c
                                      cstr Jun 12, 2009 04:24 AM

                                      The thing that bothers me about BL is, except for the burger patty, everything else on the plate is commodoty stuff. IMO, do it right, not half a..ed.

                                      1. re: cstr
                                        Josh Jun 12, 2009 07:31 AM

                                        They have their rolls custom made for them. Their rolls are really good.

                                        1. re: Josh
                                          c
                                          cstr Jun 12, 2009 09:03 AM

                                          They may be good but, what does custom made mean? organic? probably not. Wienerschnitzel has 'custom made' franks but, I'm not eating them. I wish they were more like Ritual or I wish Ritual would offer grass fed beef.

                                          1. re: cstr
                                            Josh Jun 12, 2009 09:46 AM

                                            Not sure if they're organic. That said, I don't know if there's any place in town that touts organic rolls. Do you know of one?

                                            1. re: Josh
                                              c
                                              Cathy Jun 12, 2009 10:28 AM

                                              Josh- Not a restaurant, but most stuff sold at Nijiya Market is organic. The prepared bowls and boxes are made with organic rice. I don't remember if that sticker is also on the rolls.

                                              1. re: Cathy
                                                Josh Jun 13, 2009 08:46 AM

                                                Organic hamburger rolls, not sushi.

                                                1. re: Josh
                                                  c
                                                  cstr Jun 13, 2009 09:53 AM

                                                  The only place I can think of, locally, is Stephanies on Voltaire St.

                                    2. re: SDGourmand
                                      foodiechick Jun 9, 2009 07:43 PM

                                      i don't get the Burger Lounge love either. To our tastes, the burger has NO flavor. Only item worth ordering is the onion rings. To each his own.

                                      1. re: SDGourmand
                                        s
                                        srk Jun 9, 2009 09:36 PM

                                        I've been to the La Jolla Burger Lounge only once, but I thought it was great! I'm glad to hear that some people don't like it though - it's a small space (more room for the rest of us)!

                                        1. re: SDGourmand
                                          j
                                          juantanamera Jun 9, 2009 09:48 PM

                                          I've only been to the one on Adams Ave., and it's been hit or miss for me. Twice, my burger cooked well, dry and with minimal flavor. Once, cooked medium rare and delicious. I believe their beef is a bit leaner to begin with, so cooking to the right temperature is especially important to an enjoyable burger. When cooked correctly, the beef is excellent. I don't especially care for the sauce, a bit too sweet for my taste, but overall it's a very good burger at it's best.

                                          1. re: SDGourmand
                                            s
                                            stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 09:34 AM

                                            I guess the new little italy location will settle it.

                                            1. re: SDGourmand
                                              geekyfoodie Jun 10, 2009 10:23 AM

                                              I'm with SDGourmand and Foodiechick on this one... we went to the Kensington location, paid $30 for two people (yes, yes, I get that it was grass-fed beef, etc.) and dealt with some pretty bad service. In the middle of the meal, Mr. Geeky looks at me and remarked that it was exactly like In-N-Out, except for the food sources. We like to eat sustainable and humanely raised, but $30 for a meal that didn't top In-N-Out really wasn't worth it to us. We'd rather buy grass-fed beef and make our own burgers.

                                              With that said, the onion rings are fabulous. The red velvet cupcake was disgusting, though. It was seriously days-old by the time I purchased it and was completely dried-out.

                                              1. re: geekyfoodie
                                                m
                                                mliew Jun 10, 2009 10:45 AM

                                                I hope the burgers are at least bigger than In-and-outs burgers, I couldn't imagine paying $7 for a burger that small.

                                                1. re: mliew
                                                  geekyfoodie Jun 10, 2009 03:37 PM

                                                  Bigger, they are, but they tasted the same as In-N-Out. Being grass-fed beef, we thought we'd notice some difference in taste, but the patty was really, really thin, so that could have been it. It wasn't a bad burger, but it wasn't great. Again, I know, it's the meat used, but for those prices, I'd rather go to Neighborhood. The sourcing isn't the same, but the execution is much better.

                                                2. re: geekyfoodie
                                                  d
                                                  dustchick Jun 10, 2009 04:18 PM

                                                  I'm surprised by the "bad service" comment. We've only been to the Kensington Burger Lounge, had a very tasty meal, and the one tiny slip-up with the order was dealt with by offering us a free cupcake. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cupcakes?

                                                  1. re: dustchick
                                                    geekyfoodie Jun 11, 2009 12:48 PM

                                                    I am also a sucker for cupcakes (imagine my rage when I bit into BL's and found it to be cardboard), but yeah, we were just there on an off night or something. The guy behind the counter was almost hostile... I felt like I had offended him by ordering. Then, bringing us our food, it was more of the same. It just had us shaking our heads and then considering our general "meh" response to the food, it just hasn't been worth adding BL to the restaurant rotation.

                                                    It was likely one of those situations where the guy had an bad night or we just arrived on the heels of a demanding party or something, but it's not something we want to deal with when we're looking forward to a night out.

                                                    1. re: geekyfoodie
                                                      d
                                                      dustchick Jun 11, 2009 01:12 PM

                                                      Maybe it was a time-of-day thing. We were there for lunch, and the pseudo-Hostess cupcake was really good. But I agree, nobody wants to deal with attitude when going out to have a good time.

                                                  2. re: geekyfoodie
                                                    Josh Jun 10, 2009 09:56 PM

                                                    Exactly like In-N-Out, except the food sources, is precisely what I think they're going for. As someone who liked In-N-Out, I think that's awesome. Sometimes you want a plain old American-style cheeseburger, but if you don't want to eat commodity beef then you're typically SOL. The pricing is higher, but the burger is substantially larger. If you get an In-N-Out sized burger there, it's cheaper - though still roughly 3x the price of In-N-Out.

                                                    Still, it depends on what sourcing is worth to you. If, like me, you've given up on eating feedlot meat then In-N-Out simply isn't an option. Sure, I can make burgers at home, but I think the price would wind up being pretty similar, and some stuff you wouldn't even be able to replicate. The buns, for example, are pretty distinctive.

                                                    I imagine that if you bought grass-fed ground beef, freshly baked rolls, organic produce, and composed a similar burger at home, it'd probably wind up being more than, or right around, $8.

                                                    1. re: Josh
                                                      geekyfoodie Jun 11, 2009 12:44 PM

                                                      Right, it completely depends on what it means to the customer. Mr. Geeky and I like In-N-Out as a "sometimes food" and we generally avoid red meat because it's difficult to find sustainably-raised beef (although we haven't given it up altogether). However, Burger Lounge's burgers were definitely not something we were willing to pay that much more for, even considering the food sources. If we were talking about steak frites or a boeuf bourgignon made with sustainably-raised red meat and it cost substantially more, I'd probably argue it's worth it, simply because I love those dishes. The In-N-Out burger? I could definitely live without it.

                                                      On the other hand, Mr. G and I have talked about attempting to do grass-fed burgers at home and figuring out overall cost. It'd be a fun Pollan-esque experiment.

                                                    2. re: geekyfoodie
                                                      m
                                                      MrKrispy Jun 16, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                      I have always had great service at the Kensington location. When my GF and I eat there it isn't over $20, so saying that is $30 to eat there is a bit misleading. I certainly don't mind paying a little more for better beef, and to get the same amount of burger you would have to get at LEAST a Double Double at In-n-Out. How much are those?

                                                      Further, I tend to get my meal much fast at Burger Lounge than In-n-Out too :)

                                                      1. re: MrKrispy
                                                        SDGourmand Jun 16, 2009 11:10 PM

                                                        double double at in n out is 3 bucks. Hardly the same as BL.

                                                        1. re: SDGourmand
                                                          m
                                                          MrKrispy Jun 17, 2009 12:41 AM

                                                          Is a Double the same amount of patty as Burger Lounge? The In-n-Out patties are so small now I doubt it, probably the size of the mini burger at Burger Lounge. I thought a Double Double was more, haven't paid attention to the price the last few times I was there.

                                                          1. re: MrKrispy
                                                            SDGourmand Jun 17, 2009 05:59 AM

                                                            I would say the size of two pattys from in n out would be about the same as one patty at burger lounge.

                                                        2. re: MrKrispy
                                                          geekyfoodie Jun 17, 2009 09:45 AM

                                                          I said it was $30 for MY meal. What, exactly, did I mislead you or anyone about? My post was entirely based on my own experience, so to basically accuse me of lying is a little harsh, don't you think? I did clarify that my experience wasn't one that urged me to go back and that it could have been an off-night... if you love it, great, and if you pay $20, great, but do not accuse me of misleading others when all I did was post about my meal there.

                                                          Everyone places different orders and if you want to know where I'm getting my number from, here's what we ordered:

                                                          2 Grilled Lounge Burgers
                                                          2 soft drinks
                                                          1/2 and 1/2 (onion rings plus fries)
                                                          red velvet cupcake

                                                          The base price for the food alone (not counting the soft drinks), was $24.80. The menu online doesn't list drink price, but two diet Cokes were about $3-4. That makes it roughly $28-29. Tax? Tip? Yeah, pushed us over $30.

                                                          If you read my reply to Milew above, I did acknowledge that the burgers are bigger than In-N-Out's.

                                                          In comparison, we order approximately the same meal at In-N-Out. #1 (double-double, fries, drink) for him and #2 (cheeseburger, fries, drink) for me and it tops out at $11 or so. The cupcake is the difference between the two meals, but I like cupcakes and wanted to try it.

                                                          Oh, and on that night? We waited a long time for our meal and only to have that rather surly server practically slam it down in front of us. It wasn't any shorter than a wait at In-N-Out. Like I said, probably an off-night... but am I going to rush back there? No. It's my right to say that and I certainly do not express this opinion with the intent of dissuading anyone from trying the place.

                                                    3. f
                                                      FireFlyFiftyFive Jun 9, 2009 01:36 PM

                                                      I wouldn't turn down a free meal at any of 'em! ; )

                                                      1. m
                                                        mcgrath Jun 9, 2009 03:00 PM

                                                        The annual SD Magazine restaurant lists seem as though they should be irrelevant to anyone who reads and posts here regularly. I can't imagine any Chowhounders finding some new, undiscovered spot, or changing one's opinions about any of the places listed by virtue of their ranking. Do any of us really care about opinions that are formed more from popularity, visibility and promotion of restaurants than what they deliver?

                                                        This issue is designed to sell magazines, not to provide serious input on the region's restaurants. Apart from providing fodder for posters at sites such as Chowhound, I really don't see any value in these rankings.

                                                        12 Replies
                                                        1. re: mcgrath
                                                          d
                                                          daantaat Jun 9, 2009 09:10 PM

                                                          I've relegated SD Magazine's "best" list as the "ha ha, you've got to be kidding list and maybe the rest of SD will wake up someday and become more like a Chowhound" list.

                                                          1. re: daantaat
                                                            m
                                                            mliew Jun 10, 2009 10:23 AM

                                                            Personally I'm glad that the majority of people have bad taste, otherwise there'd be a 2-hour wait at every restaurant that I want to eat at.

                                                            1. re: mliew
                                                              s
                                                              stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 11:15 AM

                                                              Good positive spin.

                                                              Either way I doubt you will have to wait in this economy.

                                                              I can't remember the last time there was a "wait" at a restaurant in this town.

                                                              1. re: stevewag23
                                                                s
                                                                sdnosh Jun 10, 2009 03:59 PM

                                                                There may not be a wait at most fine dining restaurants, but I still have seen waits or at least a full house at mid to low end restaurants. A couple of weeks ago at Blind Lady, it was packed and we only got seats because we scoped out a table that it seemed like the guys were getting ready to leave and we sat down with them. Another recent drive on Washington Avenue in Mission Hills and there was a line out the door at sushi Deli. Also, a recent lunch at Con Pane Bakery in Point Loma showed no signs of a recession as customers wind outside the bakery waiting for to order their Turkey Cobbs. This economy has not completely destroyed the restaurant industry, it's just made it much more difficult. And people still will go out an each, they will just be more choosy and look for the bang for their buck. Just MHO.

                                                                1. re: sdnosh
                                                                  s
                                                                  stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 04:52 PM

                                                                  Yeah, Phil's still has long lines.

                                                                  I was really referring to the higher end.

                                                                  I went to Oceanaire 2 fridays ago at like 8pm and there were tons of seats at the bar.

                                                                  Slid right up to the oyster bar no problemo.

                                                                  1. re: stevewag23
                                                                    d
                                                                    daantaat Jun 10, 2009 09:34 PM

                                                                    how busy is the oyster bar during their happy hour 1/2 off oyster time?

                                                                    1. re: daantaat
                                                                      s
                                                                      stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 11:08 PM

                                                                      Never been.

                                                                      I believe it is from 5 to 6. (During that time I am either working, sleeping or working out).

                                                                      I would like to know as well.

                                                                      1. re: stevewag23
                                                                        j
                                                                        JRSD Jun 11, 2009 07:37 AM

                                                                        I went to the happy hr about 2 years ago and it was empty at 4:45 but totally full by 5:30.

                                                                        1. re: JRSD
                                                                          s
                                                                          stevewag23 Jun 11, 2009 09:25 AM

                                                                          Thanks for the report.

                                                                          Anyone know how it is recently?

                                                                          2007 and 2009 are like mangoes and papayas.

                                                                      2. re: daantaat
                                                                        cgfan Jun 11, 2009 09:58 AM

                                                                        Wow 1/2 off? Does it include other items as well?

                                                                        (...crossing my fingers it also includes the crabcakes, though I think that's just wishful thinking on my part!)

                                                                        1. re: cgfan
                                                                          d
                                                                          daantaat Jun 11, 2009 08:16 PM

                                                                          I think it's just the oyster bar. :-(

                                                                  2. re: stevewag23
                                                                    honkman Jun 11, 2009 11:44 PM

                                                                    Try Urban Solace on Saturday for a 45 minute wait without reservation.

                                                            2. c
                                                              cstr Jun 9, 2009 03:23 PM

                                                              Another best list I ignore.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: cstr
                                                                Fake Name Jun 9, 2009 04:15 PM

                                                                I don't. I'm interested in the business as well as the food itself. I like to know what people are liking, how cuisine is trending, and what's starting to show up on these lists. I like to know how marketing efforts are working (or not). I'm the first to agree this is not CH style choices, but it still interests me.

                                                              2. cgfan Jun 9, 2009 06:39 PM

                                                                When will San Diego give an honest enough rating of the traditional Sushi bars to let go of a top place billing for Sushi Ota? In my mind it doesn't even make it into the top 2 of traditional Sushi bars. As to the rest I frankly don't bother thinking about how they chalk up other than to separate out the ones who do a passable job trying to do traditional Sushi as they vie against each other for 3rd place.

                                                                But the difference in quality between my personal top two, Kaito Sushi followed by Sushi Dokoro Shirahama, versus the rest to me is so vast that it reflects still how undeveloped San Diego is on the traditional Sushi bar scene.

                                                                (Note: I think Americanized sushi, which is not my cup of tea, is a different cuisine altogether and should be rated separately, if at all...)

                                                                "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink."

                                                                "Sushi bars everywhere, but ..."

                                                                15 Replies
                                                                1. re: cgfan
                                                                  g
                                                                  ginael Jun 10, 2009 12:30 PM

                                                                  "When will San Diego give an honest enough rating of the traditional Sushi bars to let go of a top place billing for Sushi Ota? "

                                                                  By "honest", you must mean a rating based on your opinion! Obviously Sushi Ota is beloved by many sushi fans, including Japanese business women and men who make it a point to frequent the place.

                                                                  I find their sushi to be fresh and delicious. That's an honest enough rating for me.

                                                                  1. re: ginael
                                                                    cgfan Jun 10, 2009 03:51 PM

                                                                    No, I just mean an honest palate. Try both and I'm sure any honest palate will immediately taste the difference.

                                                                    1. re: cgfan
                                                                      c
                                                                      cookieshoes Jun 10, 2009 04:35 PM

                                                                      I see what you mean, but I think when it comes to palates, that's where the makeup of the population comes in. Which is why this Reader's Pick list looks the way it does.

                                                                      I mean, Sushi Deli is on there. Nuff said, right? The people who vote for that place are voting for it because it's cheap, and they can have fun trying out all of those rolls with their friends and get drunk off the drink specials. The fish and overall quality of the food may be massively sub-par in comparison to most any other noteable sushi place in town, but that's not entirely what people are going there for.

                                                                      Believe me, I'm with you. But, on the flipside, isn't it more the reality that a place like Dokoro Shirahama could never sustain the business that a label like "Best Sushi in San Diego" would force it to take on? And isn't part of what makes them so great the fact that they cater to a very small "in the know" crowd? Because, if they were to ever become so popular so as to make it that college kids were able to find the place, wouldn't that pretty much make it impossible for anyone to have that "one on one" Itamae experience?

                                                                      Because I think a lot of the food-related obsessions that we tend to have are unrealistic to apply to the masses. "Farm to table" places in town could never handle the amount of business that the concept is based around. If every place in town was capable of using an abundance of local/sustainable ingredients, there wouldn't be enough supply to ever fill the demand. And so, quality would suffer. As it is, go in to Sea Rocket bistro and you'll find that more often than not you'll be one of only 5 people in the place that can order the daily fish special because they've run out for the day. I mean, what the hell is that about? We live next to the ocean, and that place runs out of fish?!

                                                                      So, ultimately, I think it does sort of come down to the same thing that mliew pointed out a few posts above: it is a good thing that the majority of people have "bad taste" (or, at least, aren't as picky as we are). That makes it easier to enjoy those spots that are still under-the-radar, or that are best experienced when there isn't a line out the door. Because quality is almost always the trade-off when it comes to feeding the masses, isn't it?

                                                                      So long as the business doesn't appear to be suffering from the lack of the kind of notoriety a list like that provides, I don't particularly mind things staying on the down low.

                                                                      1. re: cookieshoes
                                                                        s
                                                                        stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 04:56 PM

                                                                        I like your points.

                                                                        As a side note:

                                                                        "Farm to table" places in town could never handle the amount of business that the concept is based around."

                                                                        I think they could. Especially a later seating. Closing at 9pm is ridiculous.

                                                                        "We live next to the ocean, and that place runs out of fish?!"

                                                                        I think that has to do more with how much they order and less to do with our close proximity to the ocean.

                                                                        1. re: cookieshoes
                                                                          cgfan Jun 10, 2009 04:59 PM

                                                                          cookieshoes: Very well said! Very wise words indeed...

                                                                          But if not on Chowhound, then where can such discussions take place?

                                                                          I sometimes wonder why I care so much about the results of polls such as this one, and the only thing that I can think of is that it has a tendency to self-perpetuate "de-facto" winners.

                                                                        2. re: cgfan
                                                                          s
                                                                          stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 04:54 PM

                                                                          Never been to Kaito Sushi.

                                                                          Is it really that much better than Ota?

                                                                          1. re: stevewag23
                                                                            Pablo Jun 10, 2009 05:07 PM

                                                                            If you go to Kaito, you will never go back to Ota.

                                                                            1. re: stevewag23
                                                                              cgfan Jun 10, 2009 05:17 PM

                                                                              It's not only with Sushi Ota customers, but really customers of any of the other sushi bars in San Diego. I have witnessed so many diners at Kaito Sushi experience that true moment of "Aha!", a kind of "so that's what sushi's supposed to taste like" moment.

                                                                              How many sushi diners feel that the common Tako (octopus) is boring? How many feel that the common Ebi (shrimp) is boring? Have these at Kaito and it's like tasting either for the very first time - an "Aha!" moment...

                                                                              These moments of pure insight are precious. As Morita-san (Kaito's head itamae) always says, "Sushi chefs can lie, but fish cannot lie. Sushi is naked and cannot lie."

                                                                              In other words ignore what any itamae-san might say about their own restaurant or others. As I said in my opening post, just bring "an honest palate" and see if you experience that "Aha!" moment.

                                                                              One of the most replayed scripts at Kaito Sushi is the customer who says, "but I don't like xxx". Morita-san would often say, "trust me, just try xxx and if you don't like it it's on the house". I know where that confidence comes from as the items he carries do not need to be gussied up or talked about to be understood. It just simply needs to be experienced. So simply put, just go to Kaito and simply taste... No pressure, no expectations... Just taste...

                                                                              (...then post your findings here!)

                                                                              1. re: cgfan
                                                                                s
                                                                                stevewag23 Jun 10, 2009 05:25 PM

                                                                                Pablo and cgfan,

                                                                                You make a very strong case. I will check it for sure this summer (when I am up that way for the racetrack).

                                                                                Have either of you been to Hane? (I live super close) If you have, does the same comparison hold true?

                                                                                For me that place is tops.

                                                                                1. re: cgfan
                                                                                  Josh Jun 10, 2009 10:02 PM

                                                                                  Great example of that for me was the salmon roe. I'm normally pretty indifferent about it, but it was deep ruby red, fresh, and indescribably delicious. What's interesting is I told a friend about it, he went a few days later and asked about it, and they wouldn't serve it, because it was no longer at its prime.

                                                                                  1. re: Josh
                                                                                    d
                                                                                    DougOLis Jun 11, 2009 10:25 AM

                                                                                    Same thing happened to me awhile back with Ebi at Kaito. cgfan was raving about it so I went a few days later and Morita-san wouldn't give me any because the season was supposedly over.

                                                                                2. re: stevewag23
                                                                                  d
                                                                                  daantaat Jun 10, 2009 09:38 PM

                                                                                  stevewag23--Kaito spoiled me for sushi virtually everywhere else! My sushi palate has been elevated several levels and now I cannot eat bad or average sushi! He even got me to like natto, something I swore I would never touch again after trying it 15 years ago. Now I make sure he makes natto for me! When you go, make sure you sit w/ Morita-san and do omakase. That's the only way to go at Kaito.

                                                                                  1. re: daantaat
                                                                                    j
                                                                                    JRSD Jun 11, 2009 07:42 AM

                                                                                    I had that "a ha" feeling about almost everything we had at Kaito - particularly 2 items:
                                                                                    the Uni - for the first time, the taste was good enough that the texture was not off-putting; and
                                                                                    Eel - 2 pieces, one served with eel sauce and the other with just salt and the best wasabi I had ever tasted. You would not recognize it for the eel that is served in a typical Sushi restaurant here.

                                                                                    And, the friendliest restaurant I have ever been to.

                                                                                    1. re: JRSD
                                                                                      d
                                                                                      DougOLis Jun 11, 2009 10:26 AM

                                                                                      Interestingly enough, I was able to get my sisters to finally enjoy those same 2 items when I took them to Kaito.

                                                                                3. re: cgfan
                                                                                  Josh Jun 10, 2009 09:59 PM

                                                                                  I totally agree with you about the difference between Kaito and Ota. When it comes to the nigiri, there's really no comparison at all.

                                                                                  That said, the *cooked* food we had at Ota when we ate omakase was really good, unusual, and surprising. The crabmeat suspended in crab aspic was ridiculously good, and completely unlike anything I've had.

                                                                                  Of course, the memories of Kaito have lingered much longer. That place is amazing.

                                                                            2. deckape Jun 10, 2009 12:14 PM

                                                                              Personally, I'm waiting for PB's Best Restaurants written by Stevewag...

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: deckape
                                                                                geekyfoodie Jun 17, 2009 10:07 AM

                                                                                Hehe, me too! In fact, I think Stevewag should host a restaurant-crawl of PB, because I'd pay just for the commentary.

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