I realized I haven't posted on my lunches at Izakaya Sakura for some time. While there were definitely a few updates of my home style Japanese lunch eatery since, I wanted to keep the promise on my last post of presenting next the various Kaisen (fresh seafood) Dons..
I only had a couple left to complete but my usual early arrival at lunch meant that the sushi chef would most likely not be present. Although Sakura opens for lunch at 11:30AM (noon on Sundays), if in the mood for Sushi I would suggest not coming earlier than 12:30PM and also not on a Monday (since that is Kazu-san's day off). If there is a change in this trend I will be sure to report. :)
Though I may have often described Sakura's lunch offerings as humble, the sushi here does not quite fit this description as you will see. Definitely a good bargain for the quality you get as always, but humble.. maybe not. Aside from the bowls, there is a Mix Sushi platter and several rolls. Lunch menu here.
I debated which to start first but I will with the Uni-don ($16).
A nice portion of large and fresh plump Uni on top of steamed rice with shredded kinshi tamago, nori, shiso and some Ikura.
As much as I love Uni I also love Ikura and I thought they complemented greatly. This price reflects a complete teishoku lunch set btw with Sakura's miso soup, salad, light pickled tsukemono and a sweet/tart vinegar sunomono..
Next is the Chirashi where my first experience with Sakura's was a great one. A cornucopia of very fresh sashimi samplings over a bowl of lightly flavored sushi rice.
Chirashi sort of means "to randomly sprinkle" (the various toppings), but Kazu-san's careful presentation is anything but. Meticulously placed, it is artful and almost too pretty to eat.
The photo above is of the original $18.50 price and the one below from the recently raised $20 version.
The upgraded version was an even larger and just as delicious sampling.
I always forget to mention that the rice bed on Sakura's donburi consists of a topping of Kizami shredded Nori, Kaiware Daikon sprouts and depending on the dish, some additional Aonori Laver, sesame seeds and bits of Ooba Shiso.
I drizzle some wasabi mixed in soy sauce over the entire bowl.. Mmm.
In addition to all the very fresh sashimi, also included this day was pickled eggplant and a piece of cooked Nitsuke Sanma (saury) with ginger that was tucked away in the back. Was a very filling and satisfying lunch.
Also definitely check out the dinner version that Ed from Yuma of MMM-YOSO had here. Even more luxurious and priced accordingly at $22.
Although not on the menu I've had the Ikura-don by request on a few occasions. It will cost the same as the earlier Uni-don.
As much as I enjoy Ikura I can have this dish only because of its freshness. Salmon Roe is already salty so I use very little soy sauce. I found the extra Kinshi Tamago very helpful here.
Also speckling some wasabi throughout can be nice as well.
The Negi-Maguro-Natto-don ($12.50).
That's chopped Scallions, Tuna, and fermented Natto beans. I happen to also Love Natto and if you do too, you may want to try it.
A little high on the slimey factor, this somewhat old school but lovely dish makes me smile where I can't really think of anywhere in SD that would offer such. A few sips of the made from scratch miso soup is always great with.
Although listed simply as the Spicy Tuna-don on the English side of the menu, it is called out on the Japanese side as the Piri-kara Nakaochi-don (Spicy Nakaochi-don, $12.50).
Nakaochi is the medium-fatty tuna that lies along the ribcage of the fish, and while the spoon-harvested parts are not very particularly attractive for a sashimi style presentation, here chopped with some light ingredients makes for a very tasty and affordable meal.
The spiciness was on the mild side but with such fresh tuna anything more would've been a sin. Again a bit of wasabi here and there on a few bites was great.
The fatty vs. spicy flavor was just right imo and I didn't need any soy sauce despite my usual sodium temptation. The Kimono dressed group of older ladies this day may have agreed? :) Not at all an unusual site at Sakura.
Finally the Tekka-don (Tuna-don, $12.50).
The Tuna here is lightly marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil. Very nice. I've had this once with grated Yama-Imo on top as well..
Like snow capped mountains.. was a "grate" match. I think it was a dollar extra..
While the cuts may not be visually superb like with the Spicy Nakaochi, the flavor is great and I feel this is the chef's clever way of utilizing frugal tuna cuts into tasty affordable lunch creations. This makes me happy.
Too bad I was too self-conscious to eat them like I would if at home.. Otherwise I would've held the donburi in one hand and with chopsticks in the other, scarfed it down. Kaisen or not that is what Donburi meals are for me, not too different from a Burger or Burrito, an all-in-one convenience food. GET IN MY BELLAY! :)
Links to past Luching @ Sakura posts here, here, here, and here.
Izakaya Sakura, 3904 Convoy St #121, San Diego, CA 92111