Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lunching @ Izakaya Sakura - The Kaisen Dons..

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


Keizo said...

Wow! Those all look so good! I was drooling at the Uni and Ikura. Mmm...

Dennis K. said...

Good morning Keizo! Like slurping ramen, I feel the best way to eat donburi's is not the most proper of etiquettes here.. haha.

Mike said...

Very nice! Sakura has been on my radar for a while, now, but I haven't gotten there yet.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Mike, I frequent the place mostly for lunch. May sound funny but I highly recommend anything fried here as well. While I like the broth of the soba and udons they may not feel special to most. Maybe I'll see you there! ;)

KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - I guess this is what they call a Don-a-palooza?? Wonderful post as always!

Dennis K. said...

Thanks Kirk! We both do like our puns don't we? haha. Maybe we can call those fast food mexican rice bowls a donburi-to! ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Keizo--they all look delicious! You know I'm a sucker for uni, so the uni-don and chirashi made me drool. :)

Makes me feel like driving all the way to Diego for lunch. MMmm!

Kirbie said...

What a great informative post! I was just at Sakura for lunch this past weekend and was contemplating whether to stick to my usual (Unidon) or try one of the other Kaisen dons. With this wonderful review, I know what to try next time!

Dennis K. said...

Hi BB, like Ed from Yuma from mmm-yoso had mentioned it's probably the most economical way to go!

Hi Kirbie, you're too nice. I just like photographing what I eat and sharing it. Glad you found it informative! :)

ed from yuma said...

Thanks for the shout out. I have been wandering from one of your posts about Sakura to another and another. You are a fanatic. All sorts of things I haven't tried. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Ed from Yuma! Funny, I'm just a lunch regular that happens to have a "side hobby".. I'm glad whatever I posted was somewhat helpful or entertaining. :) I always enjoy reading your content on mmm-yoso! Cheers