Friday, October 31, 2008

Lunching @ Izakaya Sakura - The Nikomi & Wa-fu Hamburgs, Menchi Katsu & Two New Items!

I think it's time to put up a few more pics of lunches I've had at my regular lunch spot Izakaya Sakura. This post took a few evenings to prepare but I finally got around ordering the second Hamburg on the menu, Tomato Sauce Nikomi, and I also found two new menu items which I believe are on a trial basis that I wanted to share.

The giant oblong meatloaf like Hamburg Steak at Sakura is more reminiscent of how my mother used to make them than say, a chef with a fancy tall white hat at a classy Yoshoku restaurant. But to me this is all part of Sakura's charm.

Japanese Meatloaf w/ Tomato Sauce ($8.50).

"Nikomi" means stewed so this will not be coming on a sizzling cast iron platter. Also fillers seem to be at a minimum so it is a more firm, beefy flavored Hamburg.

A little hard to see but it was topped with a well-done fried egg. Next time I will ask for this medium or over-easy because I think the flavors with the rich tomato meat sauce would be great.

The Nikomi Hamburg was definitely one of the more hearty lunch dishes I've had at Sakura. The cold Hiyayakko appetizer was nice to offset.

Hiyayakko ($2.50).

The Hiyayakko here comes with sliced raw Okra in addition to the usual chopped scallions and bonito flake toppings.

The Wa-Fu Oroshi Hamburg I had twice before. It has sauteed mushrooms, fresh minced Shiso, scallions and grated Daikon with Ponzu dressing.

Japanese Meatloaf with Ponzu Sauce ($8.50).

This more Japanese flared Hamburg with fresh grated Daikon radish and the mild acidity of Ponzu will leave you with much less guilt. Still I would guess the actual calories are probably only nominally lower than the tomato sauced cousin. ;)

Lunch hour this day was slow and so I had asked if they could make the Yasai Kakiage (a type of mixed vegetable tempura) that I saw on the dinner menu board.

I should've taken better mental notes because I can't remember all that was in this Kakiage but I do remember it being excellent. And although it easily put me over my lunch budget because it was from their dinner menu, I was still glad that I got to try it. It was explained to me in the past that if the kitchen is not busy and the right people are staffed, most special request are possible.

The breaded and deep fried version of the Japanese Meatloaf is called the Menchi Katsu ($8) and is an all time favorite of mine.

I've honestly had more attractive looking Menchi Katsu here in the past but this day's tasted just as good. I would imagine the ground meat recipe is different from the Hamburgs' because it is much more tender (more filler?) but I may be wrong. Whatever they do, it makes for one moist patty.

Sakura's sweet Demi-Glace sauce is always great and I feel most perfect for this deep fried ground beef patty. You can read about the Menchi Katsu Sando, Sakura's sandwich version that is unfortunately no longer served here.

Checking out new dishes is always exciting for a regular. Recently there were two.

Sweet Sour Pork and Mabo Dofu. I was curious to see Sakura's take on these two very popular Chinese classics.

Sweet Sour Pork Meatball Lunch Set ($8.50).

I liked how it wasn't overly sweet like some and the ground pork meatballs were a nice change to the deep fried mystery pork pieces that I often encounter elsewhere.

The addition of Bamboo Shoots and Shiitake Mushrooms were great along with the SSP usual trio of Carrots, Onions and Bell Peppers (and a few small pineapple slices).

I had the Agedashi Dofu ($3.50) as a side.

As the large spoon may hint, the great hot Tsuyu Dashi broth is the star here where it seeps into the fried Tofu. Mmm.

The very next day I came back to try the Mabo-Don Lunch Set ($8).

While there are many different interpretations of this dish, I prefer the ones that are on the savory/spicy side. In fact, I only ask of two things in a Mabo that would otherwise ruin it for me.. That it is not to be watery and/or sweet.
My favorite Mabo Dofu to be had in San Diego so far is the one at Dumpling Inn (future post).

Sakura's take fared pretty well for my personal taste. I could've wanted the flavors a tad stronger, especially for the amount of rice given, but it had a reasonable amount of spiciness and by now the characteristic more subtle flavors of Sakura that rely on Umami rather than sodium is something that I've grown to like and expect.

And of course as soon as I say that, I completely contradict myself by doing this to my Karaage!

That is the complementary Mayo with Shichimi Pepper dip.
If you're having trouble deciding on one side here, I highly recommend Sakura's Chicken Karaage ($3.50).

The tender thigh pieces are perfectly fried with a nice amount of skin still intact. They also now give you a choice of two ways to enjoy them, Mayo and Tentsuyu, although a few bites simply with a drizzle of lemon is a perfectly fine third option as well.

Hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I did taking them (oh, and eating the food too!).
Until next time.. And there are a lot more where these came from.. :)

Izakaya Sakura, 3904 Convoy St #121, San Diego, CA 92111


Keizo said...

Hamba~gu sounds good right now. My mom used to make a pretty good one too. All that food looks so delicious! Great review!!

Dennis K. said...

Thanks Keizo! It's all basic stuff, just done with care. Stuff I taken for granted when I used to live in Japan (or in L.A. even). Congrats on your 31 Day Ramen Marathon! I enjoyed reading it a lot!