I already know I'm not going to do the meal the descriptive justice it deserves but wanted to at least share some of the photos I took. The context of this dinner was catching up with old friends so I'll apologize in advance for perhaps the lack of detail given to each plate (despite how they were each carefully explained by the super friendly Ota-san).
Started with a beautiful cold crab dish. I think it was snow crab but was done three ways. Had a delicate sweet citrus dressing.
The second was a sashimi plate that was a confident heavy Straight Right aimed directly at my chin. Included Toro and Hirame Flounder to name a few. They were all glowing like precious metals and since we're in San Diego I knew the Uni was going to be superb.. and it was and then some.
I've learned in the past there are "Premium" and "Gold", but to me this was, you guessed it, Platinum. The size was also about that of a Bosch spark plug(!) so I felt my naming was particularly appropriate. It was seriously the largest lobe of Uni I've seen!
Next up was this wonderful assortment. The main to the right is an Ika somen (raw squid sliced to resemble noodles). The exquisitely fresh squid dipped into a crucible of tsuyu (not shown) with fine julienned Myoga and a touch of grated ginger was quite delicious and soothing especially during the month of August when this dinner had taken place.
Just to the left was a great grilled skewer of tender pork with long onions and sweet glaze. There were two eggplant tasters that were simmered and flavored perfectly and the rectangular wafer is a Tatami Iwashi (sometimes called tatami shirasu) mounted by a pinch of broiled Yaki Uni.
Third up was a Koban Aji (pompano) fried three ways with the fourth being the bones that were incredibly edible from head to tail like a fish senbei.
I consumed the delicately fried fillets pretty quickly but the bones including the head were so good! Nutty and buttery.
Then came the nigiris.. The first was Sardine that was in season. The texture was ultra fine and flavor most wonderful. I honestly would've been happy if I were served a dozen of these tonight, ha. :)
I'm going to end the "Ooh la laa" descriptions here for the remainder of the nigiris cause quite honestly my vocabulary simply isn't large enough. Yes the shari rice's preparation and technique (of the firm walls, pocketed air, at the right temperature..) didn't go without notice but with an itamae of this caliber something surely taken granted for. I did try to put these in proper order but I also know that I missed documenting at least two so it's my best attempt..
A Zuke marinated Akami then a lightly torched aburi Kinmedai (that I always thought was a type of Sea Bream, but Wiki says it is Alfonsino). The latter sprinkled with some yuzu citrus zest.
I was surprised to see uni as a nigiri and not gunkan style. But when it's this fresh and firm I now know you can do this. To even top that though, an especially particular highlight was a crazy webbed Otoro that was explained was from a cut closest to the collar bone of the tuna. Followed then was a wonderfully flavored aji tataki, another aburi that I forgot the details of (maybe my friends remember, sorry), a delightful maki roll with yamaimo and ume plums and a floral flavor exploding Myoga Zuke (that I got a recipe from a friend that I would like to share one of these days). Again there were at least two other nigiri's I missed as well as an asari miso soup that was too blurry for me to want to post. When the omakase was complete it was then by request where my friends ordered amaebi and I think also an ikura..
I was really impressed with the sweetness of the cantaloupe that was for dessert. It was accompanied by a funny story where we were told one of the itamae's jobs is to select these from an unnamed market not so different from where you and I would shop at. But the person would get all the stares by the produce workers with the way he would meticulously inspect each melon - tapping, sniffing, weighing, observing.. haha.
Amazing what you can get when you know what you're looking for!?
The omakase we had was $100 per person. With all the drinks and a few extra requests it came up to around $120. I felt a total bargain for the experience especially when I imagine what such would've cost in Japan. Ota-san was joking about retirement soon but my friends that took the reservations did mention how he was not working as many days in the week as before. The waiting list for a seat at the counter with Ota-san is about one to two months. So another sincere thanks to my friends. Let's do this again guys! :)
My somewhat whimsical "something for everyone" Sushi Ota lunch post can be found here.
Sushi Ota, 4529 Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109