Finally made it here for lunch. I've only had one experience each at Kaito (dinner) and Ota (lunch), so it may not be a fair comparison, but on the margin, I probably prefer Kaito because of the variety and his preparation of certain things. But Ota was great and far better than anything i've had in the Bay Area.
I ate the whole Spanish mackeral, maguro zuke, seared yellow snapper, chu-toro, anago and unagi. Everything was incredibly fresh, the toro was silky unctuous deliciousness and I really enjoyed their take on the seared snapper with yuzu shavings and sea salt. What sets Kaito apart for me is his take on the maguro marinated in soy - somehow it's more subtle but I enjoyed the flavoring more. The Ota version is a bit more in your face and I didn't quite enjoy the quality of the maguro as much.
But again, overall, I have to say that San Diegans (?) are quite lucky to have such wonderful options in the area. I'm really jealous. Although the sushi chefs were telling me about hte dearth of Ramen here and are quite jealous of the Ramen scene in the Bay Area!
I like Ota for their chirashi sushi lunch set, and also ordering togo. My sister did that every time she came in from the airport. Kaito has an added experience and is more a sit down meal than a quick lunch. In any case, Ota is definitely better than the vast majority of sushi joints in SD. Dinner can be very crowded especially Fri/Sat. I'd say both places have their niche.
I've always wanted to go to Ota. It's just down the street from me, but I've been afraid I --wouldn't know what to do-- --wouldn't get in the door it'd be so crowded-- --would be treated badly since I'm not a regular-- Thanks, Fatty, cuz now I'll go at lunch! Any suggestions for an Ota novice?
Go at lunch time. It's much cheaper and not crowded, and you can get a lunch set. Chirashi sushi is mixed sashimi on sushi rice, and easy way to try a variety. Their rolls are also a good way if you're on a budget. Ota's a fairly big sushi place and it really doesn't matter if you're a regular or not.
For anyone just starting to get into sushi and on a budget, I'd suggest Ota. It's at a fine balance in price and quality..Kaito is more a place that has lots of more exotic offerings (at least for the states) that someone who's used to regular sushi would love to try. It also has great personal service where you can talk with the chef and learn about what you're having.
Royaljester took the words right out of my mouth. At lunch, I found it to be quite friendly and easy to eat there. Definitely sit at the bar and listen and what what others are being offered or ordering. The seared snapper sushi was something I overheard the sushi chef offer the customer next to me - it sounded amazing so I piped up and said "I want an order of that!". I think that simple act showed I was interested in what they had to say, and they started throwing other ideas out after that. It also is a lot more down the fairway than Kaito, so I don't think you'll look at the menu and be befuddled by what's on there.
So, it shouldn't be crowded (but you can always make a resy for 1 like I did), they are very friendly and just go with the flow. You could try a lunch set and that's what most do.
I really enjoyed what I had and nothing was too crazy. Maguro zuke is marinated tuna with a touch of wasabi. Chu-toro is medium fatty duna. Unagi / Anago are two types of eel, which are very common in sushi.
Thanks for weighing in. I still need to visit Ota for something other than takeout (yeah I really did that)
How was the ambiance during lunch? Did you set in front of Ota himself?
One of the highlights of Kaito for me was the interaction with Chef Kaz. That coupled with the amazing quality has me thinking Kaito will always come out on top as an overall experience.
Ambience was not bad. At dinner, when I've tried to walk in, it's been packed. At lunch, it felt a little less so and was actually very comfortable. The service there is very cordial. I did not sit in front of Ota. You're right though, I sat with Kaz and he was a real trip and made great recs.
Thanks for the review; interesting...
BTW have you ever checked out K.I.S.S. Japanese Seafood? Been dying to check it out, but never seem to have the time. I've got this feeling that quality-wise it's the Kaito equivalent for the Bay Area, though with perhaps a slightly different focus.