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Any old-school Japanese/Japanese-American places?

  • b

I'm looking for a Japanese restaurant to take my parents that has dependable "old school" fare, like tempura and chicken teriyaki combination dinners, sukiyaki, etc. Not sushi-centric. I was thinking of something akin to the Japanese and Japanese-American family places you'd see in Little Tokyo or West LA in the 70's and early 80's. On the quieter side--I thought of Tajima, but it's a bit loud and young for them. Geographically,anywhere from Encinitas to central San Diego would be good.

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  1. What you describe to me sounds much more as "Japanese-American" than the "Japanese"

    I guess I'll give a few recommendations on both though:

    Japanese: (these are the ones I'd say are chow-worthy)
    - Izakaya Sakura
    - Oton (I'd probably recommend this the most based on your "quiet" criteria since you get a private booth)
    - Okan
    - Yu Me Ya (in Encinitas) (probably too loud for you)

    Japanese-American (these generally are not "chow-worthy")
    - Ichiro (I'm only saying this cause the chef from Ume-No-Ya allegedly moved there, but a year later I still haven't heard about any visits to Ichiro)
    - Sushi Ota (sit at the table)

    7 Replies
    1. re: karaethon

      Sushi Ota isn't Chow worthy?

      Sushi Ota
      4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

      1. re: scottca075

        I meant it more of Ichiro, but more because of a lack of information.

        I thought of Ota right before I hit the post button, mainly because I thought only having one "Japanese-American" option was lonely. I was originally going to list places like Chopstix on it but decided against it

        4633 Convoy St Ste 101, San Diego, CA 92111

        1. re: karaethon

          Ichiro's is a great match for Bonko I would say. They do americanized japanese pretty well and it is on the quiet side. I've been there a number of times since they merged with Ume No Ya. The only real difference in the menu from before/after seems to be the addition of a specials board with some izakaya style fare (which I haven't tried). I like their sesame chicken in the combo bento box and the pre-cooked soup style Sukiyaki beef. Definitely not authentic Japanese fare but it's good for what it is and the price is very reasonable.

          1. re: karaethon

            good call on not listing Chopstix. They have gone terribly downhill in the last several years. The last time we went, the udon broth was lukewarm and watered down.

            Probably the best bests for bento boxes and sukiyaki would be Izakaya Sakura or Okan. Okan is true homestyle Japanese style cooking. Oton is technically more of a robata-yaki place, but it's still really, really good.

            4633 Convoy St Ste 101, San Diego, CA 92111

            1. re: daantaat

              In my experience the food at Chopstix hasn't changed that much in the past 10 years. But now there are better options for most of the food that they serve, so there's not a whole lot of reason to go back there other than for nostalgia.

              Seems like the OP is looking for americanized Japanese which is why I didn't mention any of those places. Sakura, Oton and Okan are pretty authentic and might be intimidating if Bonko's parents aren't adventurous eaters.

              4633 Convoy St Ste 101, San Diego, CA 92111

              1. re: mliew

                hmm, sounds like maybe my palate for Japanese food has then!

                1. re: daantaat

                  Mine as well :). I never cared too much for the Udon there in the first place. They used to be pretty much the only game in town for shoyu ramen when I first moved to San Diego but now it just pales in comparison to places like Yakudori (although I do like that you can order dumplings in the ramen, probably not very authentic though).

                  Pretty much the only thing I ever get there now is the mabo katsu don. Haven't seen that on the menu anywhere else around here.

      2. Are you looking for something closer to sushi deli? So basically cooked stuff? I'd recommend the food court at mitsuwa but that's probably a little loud and informal for you guys. Maybe Niban.

        1. You got me thinking about the old Palms Fried Shrimp down on Overland and Palms Blvd. and a tear of nostalgia creot up in me.

          1. Shizuoka.

            In La Mesa, same mall as the Souplantation on Fletcher Parkway.

            1. Yoshino's on Washington Street. I haven't been there in over a decade, but per my memory it would fit the bill perfectly.

              1. Trying to get a feel for what you're looking for... What are some of the West LA/Little Tokyo eateries that you'd like to find a match for in S.D.? That'll give me a pretty good idea of exactly what it is that you're looking for.

                And are you looking for something that no longer has an extant place even in LA? If not, than a current LA example would provide a nice hint...

                1. Hi Bonko,

                  Are you thinking of the kind of Japanese-American restaurants popular in the 60's/70's where the decor is red Naugahyde,rolling club chairs and waitresses in kimonos and getas cook sukiyaki table-side and the bar serves saketinis? With Sinatra playing softly in the background?

                  I know the place, but it was in Orange County, CA, and vanished many years ago.

                  You can get sukiyaki and other retro dishes at Utage in Chula Vista; the food and ambiance are great, including the separate dining room with the cut-down floor under the low table so you can sit without cramping up in the lotus position.

                  There is a small sushi bar area in the dining room, but the emphasis is on table service.

                  Unfortunately, Utage IS out of your desired driving area.

                  Utage reviews on Yahoo: http://tinyurl.com/3ondk6s

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Gypsy Jan

                    For some odd reason, after Gypsy Jan's post I just got a flash of Mark and Stacy's date in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".

                    [wondering if anybody in SD Chowhound was an inspiration for a character in that movie :) ]

                    1. re: Gypsy Jan

                      "Are you thinking of the kind of Japanese-American restaurants popular in the 60's/70's where the decor is red Naugahyde,rolling club chairs and waitresses in kimonos..?"

                      Yoshino, hands-down. No question. End of discussion. Any other posts are incorrect and uninformed. Ignore them, they know not of what they speak. Go only to Yoshino.

                      Yoshino. Foot of Washington. Doubtless.

                      1. re: Fake Name

                        Yoshino, huh? Don't they have a branch in Berlin?

                      2. re: Gypsy Jan

                        Sounds like Yamato that was at Fashion Island and Century City or Miyako that was in the Town & Country Center across the street from Santa Ana Fashion Square.

                        I miss those kinds of places.... Kyoto that used to be in Irvine too with its Japanese garden.

                        1. re: scottca075

                          Hi scottca075

                          Bingo! It was Miyako Restaurant in Town and Country Center in the City of Orange. :)