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Aug 20, 2013 08:26 PM

Sushi - Kaito vs. Ota vs. Tadokoro vs. Hane

I'm visiting San Diego and am planning on one sushi splurge while I'm in town. I can afford roughly 80$ pp w/ a drink or two. From my research, I've narrowed my options to Kaito, Ota, Tadokoro and Hane.

I'm interested in hearing which of those 4 are the favorites of fellow chowhounds at the moment, and why. From what I've gathered, Kaito and Tadokoro seem to be the most traditional japanese, and Hane and Ota seem to have more fusion options (rolls with avocado, spicy mayo etc.)

I'd like to try a traditional place, but also enjoy some Americanized maki and don't want to be over my head in a super traditional restaurant. Another concern is leaving hungry. Is that likely at any of these places, given my budget?

Also, which offers the nicest atmosphere for a date?

Thanks in advance for the advice!

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  1. Kaito, in my most recent experiences, has been a hit on the food and miss on the atmosphere. I love the no-nonsense attitude of Kazu, but some of my dining partners found him off-putting to downright rude. The fish, knife-skills and presentation are always spectacular though.
    However, were I looking to impress a date without taking any chances, my vote would be the corner counter spot at Ota.

    2 Replies
    1. re: CampySD

      Thanks for the replay, Campy.

      Not too concerned with impressing anyone. This is not a first date, just a nice dinner with my girlfriend for a special occasion. My metrics are: quality of food, portions (value) service and atmosphere in that order. With that said, if the food and value is comparable, atmosphere is important.

      Here's a more specific question: can Hane and Ota produce a similar quality of unique and traditional Japanese that kaito and tadokoro do?

      Also, which is the most expensive?

      1. re: dmass1

        You've already made your reservation at this point, so this is only for reference value.
        I've only been to Kaito and Ota - Tadokoro is new to me and Hane has never held any interest to me (descriptions always sound like "supper club" vs sushi bar).
        I have never known what I was going to pay at Kaito. There is no menu with prices, for sushi, and what you are being served (maybe the experts know) has no distinct price point. Point in fact, my last visit, with a Japanese colleague; we negotiated a price point and, halfway between being served the next portion, we were told we were "at the limit", and then were served several shots of sake (without being charged extra) - such is the essence of Kaito.
        In contrast, at Sushi Ota, I always know what is coming. I'd say SaltyRaisins' comment about "cold"-ness is somewhat accurate. The service has always been precise, well-timed and professional. However, I have been able to order from the bar and table-side, price point omakase and individual (a-la-carte) selections - the a-la-carte option is not do-able at Kaito.
        As I said above, I really like the anti-pretension atmosphere at Kaito! One of my top 10 meals ever was there, celebrating my mom's birthday. However, one time too many, I have recommended Kaito for outstanding sushi to have people come back to me, put out by the atmosphere, to recommend it for a special occasion.

    2. Kaito, Tadokoro, Ota and Hane. In that order. The first three are in an upper group, with Hane coming in a bit lower than the three based on quality of food, service and atmosphere. That said, they are all pretty good, but as is often the case with good sushi places, the snob/poseur factor increases as quality decreases. So: Hane has seemed downright chilly to me, and I don't find much of a difference sitting at the bar than the tables. Kaito is superb foodwise, but a bit of a show (worth it) since the itamae are really curating your meal. Ota has better food than Hane but it feels like a mill to me, and is not the best place for conversation.

      These days I prefer Tadokoro- very cool atmosphere, and you can easily come a little under $80pp omakase there, as I have done three times now without the need for a burger run afterward.

      I can't offer a piece-by-piece price comparison, I'm pretty sure that rankings in price/value if you stick to nigiri sushi would be Ota, Hane, Kaito, Tadokoro (correct me if you think I'm wrong, hounds) with Ota at the high end.

      Keep in mind that both Kaito and Tadokoro will happily make you any kind of roll you like, and may offer you something more interesting than the stuff they're cranking out at Harney Sushi.

      If you have your heart set on Japanese, not just sushi, I'd also recommend Oton.


      4 Replies
      1. re: SaltyRaisins

        Thanks for the detailed response. I've made a reservation for Tadokoro and requested chef Take. Sounds like I made the right call...

        Are there any "must orders"? I've read glowing reviews of the ankimo (which I've never tried) and people seem to love the amaebi as well. I love uni, ikura and plan to also try the toro.

        1. re: dmass1

          I've never had anything I didn't really like there, so order anything you're into. The tuna offerings are great, and if you like salmon roe, they do a small chirashi-don that is effing spectacular.

          1. re: SaltyRaisins

            Great choice! Tadokoro is our go to sushi place. It's small with a lovely atmosphere w jazz quietly playing and you can have a conversation. Sushi is excellent. Ankimo is wonderful. Try zuke tuna and grilled Chilean sea bass. Let Take guide you. He is a master and just a truly nice person. I'd never known barracuda could be delicious until he served us some. Rolls are not their focus but their rolls are excellent if you want one.

            Ota is fantastic too but it's impossible to get sushi bar reservation without way advance planning. Service is so efficient as you may feel rushed but the sushi is wonderful.

            Kaito is the wild artist of sushi to me. Loved my omakase Bday there. It is pretty loose though and the atmosphere isn't like the others. And beware if you or your friends are attractive women because Kaz will be boldly flirting and talking only to them all night. Funny at first then just unnerving.

          2. re: dmass1

            One night Take had 4 grades of toro and we had that in our omakase. What an experience!!