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May 29, 2010 12:23 PM

Cucina Urbana Question

Taking my little sister out to celebrate her graduating College with Honors. She chose Cucina Urbana out of the list of places I suggested. I already know what Im ordering for a main (roasted rabbit + hand rolled cavatelli) what would you suggest as appetizers? we will probably do 3 and share.


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  1. Polenta board for sure, I think this is the best thing on the menu. The fried squash blossoms are very good (and pretty rare to find on restaurant menus), and I'd recommend you try one of the vasi as well -- I had the chicken liver pate which was tasty.

    1. Agree about the squash blossoms. The polenta is also great, but be careful not to stuff yourself. The vasi are fun too. I adore the burrata prosciutto caprese there (as well as the version at the Farm House Cafe).

      The ricotta gnocchi are very good, but if memory serves the portion was a little underwhelming and not really worth getting as an app since I'd rather have a full plate of it. The crudo there was not very good at all when we had it a year or so ago. The bruschetta were fine, but I think that the vasi are a better way to go.

      11 Replies
      1. re: cookieshoes

        They got rid of the crudo for the octopus. The octopus is my favorite dish on the menu had it 3 times and each time it was cooked to perfection! CU is the best restaurant in SD right now IMHO.

        1. re: SDGourmand

          i just downloaded the menu from the CU website, and there's no octopus, but there is a yellowtail crudo among the starters - can i assume that's the dish they replaced, and that the online menu is just outdated? i'm on a never-ending quest for *really well prepared* octopus...

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Don't know if Sushi's in your rotation, but Kaito Sushi does octopus (Tako) spot on, every single time. Every time it's been tender, tender, tender, and every time it has delivered waves of juicy sweetness with every single bite. It's an easy item to overlook even at Kaito, especially when given the disastrous state of Tako at most Sushi bars.

            And given its simple Japanese preparation one would be hard-pressed to make it any simpler. It's one of the rare protein items that simply tastes its best just by simply being boiled. (There's a little bit more to it than that, but not much...) Forgoing the soy sauce but rather giving it just the tiniest dusting of Himalayan Pink salt makes its naturally sweet flavor and Umami all the more evident.

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

            1. re: cgfan

              The Himalayan Salt sounds like a great twist, but most Japanese households serve octopus in very abbreviated cucumber salads with citrus-based or vinegar-based light dressings. Octopus and "ponzu" (a soy/citrus sauce) is a classic.

              1. re: Tripeler

                Octopus is almost never brought into the household raw, but is typically pre-boiled by specialists and then sold to market. The common octopus eaten at Sushi bars can be eaten raw, but only the very small ones and even for those they'll taste much better when boiled in the traditional manner.

                They're typically prepared by repeatedly being vigorously scrubbed and washed with plenty of salt, some might say massaged, then very carefully boiled with Azuki (adzuki beans) or tea in the cooking pot. The latter is to both impart color and taste to the octopus.

                So long as it's never frozen, almost any preparation will be successful, though I prefer the less is more approach of having it as is as Sashimi or as a Nigiri.

                The Himalayan Pink Salt was just a serving suggestion which I feel is far more appropriate for appreciating Tako's natural sweetness, provided your Sushi bar does not freeze their Tako. (Most unfortunately do, which would immediately cause me to take it off of my recommendation list...)

                BTW Himalayam Pink Salt is prized in Japan as are the various regional sea salts both domestic and imported. Japan produces a wide variety of interesting sea salts, for which I've found Nijiya Market to be our best source in San Diego.

                Nijiya Market
                3860 Convoy St # 109, San Diego, CA

                1. re: cgfan

                  Specialty Produce also has the blocks of himalayan salt to grate over like they do at Kaito.

                  Specialty Produce
                  1929 Hancock St, San Diego, CA

                  1. re: SDGourmand

                    Great to know! I must have missed it when I last looked at their pantry section...

                    Always looking for more sources ever since Nijiya stopped carrying it in rock (vs. "pebble") form... Fixtures for Living also sells large pieces of it by weight, pre-carved into slabs, pucks, and even spheres, as well as Sur la Table (the latter in rough form)...

                    BTW I've found that the Himalayan Pink Salt varies wildly from piece to piece...

              2. re: cgfan

                sushi is *always* in the fact, it's really one of the only things i ever really bother paying someone else to prepare for me! i typically don't even look at the cooked items on the menu when i go for it, but i'll have to remember this one. thanks!

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Just beware of my caveat that at most Sushi bars it's not worth having...really...

                  You can readily infer from my posts where I believe one should go, where the Tako is always spot on...

                  1. re: cgfan

                    First off your my hero because you can bring up Kaito in a post about Cucina Urbana (I'm serious love you for that) best grilled Octopus I have had has been at Babbo in NYC "Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette "

                    1. re: chris2269

                      had that at Mozza in LA. Definitely a great dish.

        2. Here are pictures from most of the menu

          I would suggest the octopus, chicken liver pate, and polenta board for apps.

          1. The "Chicken Fried" Sweetbreads with caper berries, garlic spinach, and lemon butter are excellent. I reviewed them and took photos if you are interested.


            5 Replies
            1. re: Captain Jack

              I'm trying to invite 2 more friends just so we cans cover all the exellent recomendations for the apps :)

              1. re: chris2269

                I am going here for the first time Sat. night. My husband is pizza crazy and it will be hard to pass up, but from what I understand, it's worth skipping here and sticking with other things, correct? If I'm wrong, which pizza is worth getting?

                1. re: lsla

                  We found the pizza to be pretty bad. The dough is more like bread and the toppings weren't good. I would skip the pizza

                  1. re: lsla

                    Definitely skip the pizzas. There are so many better options on the menu. The pastas are top notch. Link below has pictures from a lot of the menu.


                    1. re: SDGourmand

                      I know you really like CU but after a few visits I think the pasta is good but not outstanding. We liked for exmaple the lasagna and the shortrib pappadelle but not so much duck conserva. It would be also be great if they would make more pasta in-house then just one. Assanti pasta is good but not great especially compared to daily-made fresh pasta in a good restaurant. I also think the pasta to sauce ratio could be better, e.g. much less sauce.