Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lunching @ Izakaya Sakura - The Legacy Post

Haha, I'm totally kidding about the title. Sort of an inside joke if you know my blog. I've been sharing my completely personal and probably not very interesting to most small journey of completing the entire lunch menu of my humble Japanese eatery in town. A project if you can call it that that had started back in August of 2008.

While I can't blame anyone referring it to as a dedication or even an obsession.. ;) At the end of the day I do it for the fun, and I'll also add food aside, it's something you can only do if you really like the people. Giving due respect to your favorite eatery whether it be by patronizing it regularly, blogging about it, or both can never be a bad thing and if I did learn anything it's that rarely can one judge a place with a single meal or visit. I'll be first to say that Sakura has its quirks, but despite I really enjoy lunching there. The place has character. :) (My links to meals I've had in the past can be found at the end of this post.)

Anyhow, check out the Shiba Inu puppy of one of the regulars.. So cute!

Most stalls were of documenting the fresh seafood portion of the menu since my lunch hour starts a little early and the itamae of the place usually doesn't stroll in until around 12:30PM. (He's also off on Mondays FYI.)

There were a few newer items on the menu, one of which the Gyokai Natto-don ($12.50) that I've been curious to try. This also satisfyingly completes my Sakura Kaisen-don series... :)

The Seafood and Natto Donburi was very good with a variety of fresh diced raw fish, from what I remember maguro, albacore tuna, and squid. And of course the gooey natto. I think I still prefer the simplicity and classic combo of the Maguro Natto-don but it was a nice meal.

The Albacore Tuna Tataki ($8) was brought over from the dinner menu not so long ago.

This is a larger single side dish that's best to share. The day the refrigerated flash seared tuna hadn't quite acclimated to room temperature but wasn't bad and all those very fine slices of white onion, julienned fresh ginger with the ponzu dressing was a great healthy eat.

Also tried to knock down a few rolls in the last months.. The Ebiten Roll or Shrimp Tempura Roll ($10).

The shrimp tempura is fried to order which sadly isn't the case in a lot of places. The fresh lettuce was a nice touch, something I haven't seen before and it even had some sliced tomatoes. Some Kazu-san charisma here if you will. ;) Was all nice to balance out the additional krab and rich unagi sauce and mayo dressing.

The California Roll was the least expensive of the bunch at $6. A nice standard inverted roll where the freshness would be its biggest virtue.

Spicy Tuna Roll ($8). This was surprisingly pretty hot and as you can see not skimpy on the filling.

The Spicy Fish Salad ($8.50) may not look that large in the photo below but the portion was actually quite big. Definitely something you'd want to share.

I'd describe this as a very rustic dish that I could see one of my uncles (an avid hobby fisherman) back home creating and serving. Included rather large slices of maguro, albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel and squid. Mixed with a ponzu based spicy sauce with coarse ground sesame. Veggies were sliced onions, cucumbers, wakame seaweed, kaiware daikon sprouts and tomato.

On the contrary this crucible sized Ika Somen is much smaller than it looks. Not on the lunch menu but Kazu-san will make it for you if you ask nicely. ;)

The raw squid is sliced thin to resemble noodles and is a perfect summer dish. The cold tsuyu was impressively concentrated and packed a pretty delicious punch. Was a bit high for ~$5+ (forgot to look at the receipt) but something I'm gonna have to order again one of these days.

Next to the fresh seafood kaisen-donburi's, I think Sakura is fairly known for their daily changing special bento box lunches. They're $12 and limited to ten per day. The items will range from warm to lukewarm (but usually never cold) which is why I personally opt for things off the standard lunch menu, but if the list of items intrigue me I wouldn't hesitate to try.

The Kurobuta Berkshire Pork sausage gave the potato simmer a lot of good rich porky flavor. The single serving of Cod Roe Spaghetti had a very light buttery flavor. The Grilled Salmon is one of my favorite dishes here and a piece was also included. Comes with a grated daikon and ponzu dipping sauce but in my opinion doesn't really need it and best eaten by itself since it is already well marinated with miso.

The tamago had minced vegetables in it and was really good. Lobster in chili sauce, a mini Crab Croquette and a cabbage roll was also neatly tucked into one of the many radiused corners of the bento container.. ;)

Sorry both these were from last summer so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

The stuffed squid piqued my interest this particular day. While the stuffed squid I've had once (on a train?) was the rice Ikameshi variety, this was with a pork meat mixture filling.

The squid was far from those uber-tender calamari fritters one might get but instead with a good chew. The skin was also left intact to enjoy its dark mineral-ey flavors, Geso tentacles and all.

The flavors of the simmered vegetables were well penetrated and delicious. BTW, I ♥ Daikon!! The Umaki (grilled eel wrapped in a tamago omelet) was fun to eat but unfortunately a bit dry.

Something I had more recently was the Chicken Tempura Teriyaki ($8.50).

Was very close to my all time favorite Japanese Chicken Nanban. Chicken Nanban is a batter fried chicken with usually a sweet/sour sauce but in recent years popularly served (believe it or not) with tartar sauce. While that sounds like a heart attack on a plate Japanese tartar sauce tends to be lighter than the thick mayo-ey western variety, especially ones made for this dish.

Anyhow, the batter fried chicken (thigh portion with skin on) was mouth watering great. What it has also going for it is Sakura's scratch made teriyaki glaze, but while I enjoyed the first few pieces, as I might've guessed it became quite sweet/heavy near the end. I just might ask this with their tartar sauce next time (or sweet/sour) and see what they say..

Two consecutive fried meals may be a bit much so I'm slipping in the Nabeyaki Udon here ($9).. :P

Comes with two smaller shrimp tempuras and sealed with an egg that was a nice wobbly underdone.

The broth was on the light side but had a stronger shiitake component that I don't see often.

It's bubbling hot when it arrives. Truth be told I'm a much bigger soba fan than udon in general (unless it's the Curry variety) so this was one I had for the sake of checking off my list. Or it could be just the weather talking...

Skimming through my previous posts I'm surprised I haven't covered the Tonkatsu Teishoku but here it is. I had this particular specimen a while back.

The breading was off this day and was kinda flat and not the usual pierce the roof of your mouth crunchy. The pork was on the dry side but overall a nice size with a decent band of fat running down one side. Sakura's special sweet demi glace sauce is always nice with.

These remind me I haven't done one of my What's On My Rice posts lately.. Must remedy that soon. ;)

The Salmon and Scallop Pasta ($13).

Wish I could say it tasted as good as it looked beautiful but the sauce portion was much too 'young' where the whole cream had a quite of ways of simmering to go to incorporate into it any other flavor. Also I'm not a big fan of the texture of poached meats and was the case with the salmon and scallop. I think I'd prefer them with a nice sear before incorporating, or simply placed on top.

I do enjoy a lot the simple light butter execution of their Uni Spaghetti, but I felt this Salmon Scallop still needed some work.
Meanwhile I always felt they should bring back the Spaghetti Meat Sauce and one day... Voila! :) ($9)

The pasta is done quite nicely al dente and the sauce was very close to the sweeter style that I'd find in a lot of Japanese kissaten cafes with finely minced carrots and no shortage of ground beef. I'll be using the Parmesan sparingly next time since it cancels out the subtle sweetness.

On a totally random side note, isn't Yamato Transport's logo just the coolest!?

In Japan called Kuroneko (black cat) Yamato but I guess they're blue here to not associate with the black cat taboo?

I covered the Koebi no Kakiage Chazuke (Kakiage Tempura with Small Shrimp Chazuke, $8.50) on one of my Two Meals post but placing here just to consolidate.

Will be repeating but basically Chazuke or Ochazuke is a rice dish where you pour tea or dashi over steamed rice with various savory toppings. At home it's an easily prepared quick dish often made with leftovers and hot water or tea. I also briefly mentioned about it on my Hitsumabushi post a couple of weeks ago.

At Sakura was served with a hot dashi. The contrast in texture of the crispy kakiage tempura with the hot rice and broth was really great. In the kakiage from what I can remember were onions, carrots, shimeji mushrooms, small shrimp.. On the rice were kizami nori, kaiware daikon sprouts and shredded kombu tsukemono to name a few.

And that's it for the newer stuff. Hope you enjoyed them.
Of course I've had repeats of my usual..

Well the way I'm going my next post of the series may very well be the completion. Hope you all been having some yummy eats. Until next time! :)

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

Sakuramen Ver. 3
Koebi no Kakiage Chazuke, Hiyayakko side
New Years Osechi Bento
Saku-Ramen (Ver. 1 and 2), Karaage Teishoku, Curry Rice, Mix Tempura Lunch Set, Chicken Katsu-don, Curry with Nasu Eggplant, Steamed Chicken Mushidori no Teishoku, & Karaage, Hiyayakko, Crab Kani Cream Korokke sides
Uni to Ikura no Zousui, Kimchi Nabe, Saba Misoni (side), Una-don, Unatororo-don, Oyako-don, Sukiyaki-don, Ten-don, Ebi Shrimp Fry, Ten Zaru Soba, Ten Soba (cold), Natto, Ebi Fry Curry
Ginger Pork
Unagi-don (+tororo)
Buri Daikon, Saba no Shioyaki (teishoku), Yasai Itame, Jyaga Tamago, Tensoba, & Sanma no Shioyaki, Mekabu Natto Yamaimo Iri, Saba Misoni, Tonjiru sides
Nagasaki Sara Udon, Nagasaki Champon, Chicken Teriyaki, Yakisoba (w/ egg), & Roll-Kyabetsu, Sanma Nitsuke, Guratan Korokke, Potato Salad sides
Kaki (Oyster) Fry, Chicken Katsu Curry, Chicken Katsu, Plain Omurice, Hayashi Omurice
Uni-don, Chirashi (1 and 2), Ikura-don, Negi Maguro Natto-don, Spicy Nakaochi-don, Tekka-don (+w/tororo)
Liver Nira, Ginger Pork, Garlic Chicken, Saba Amazu Ankake, Hata no Kinoko Ankake, Buri Teri, Steamed Chicken w/ Ponzu, and Tofu Dango, Aji Fry, Saba Shioyaki, Buta Kakuni sides
Curry Udon
Hiyashi Chuka, Hiyashi Somen
Nikomi and Wafu Hamburg, Menchi Katsu, Subuta Dango, Mabo-don, & Hiyayakko, Agedashi Dofu, Yasai Kakiage, Karaage sides
Uni Spaghetti, Miso Marinated Broiled Salmon
Wafu Steak, Special Bento Box - 1
Menchi Katsu Sando


K and S said...

interesting how kuroneko yamato is blue here!

Sawyer said...

lol legacy is the perfect word for this post, but my goodness dennis, with all these writeups and love you give sakura, i'm surprised you're not being sponsored by them right now....i've been here once or twice back in the day, and it was so hard to control myself because i wanted to try everything!

Dennis K. said...

Hi K&S! You know until I saw the van this day I didn't even know they operated in North America..

Hi Sawyer! Funny I originally meant the term Legacy as in old or 'classic' software terms.. but I think that was too nerdy for most people to get, haha.
Either way I feel there aren't enough food bloggers who unashamedly express their appreciation toward a place. That's the best thing about having a personal blog and I'm the last person to care about credibility. Anyway I wrote about it on another post but believe it or not I barely know the people here. The Radiused Corner blog is pure unadulterated personal expression.. but in the kid-friendly rounded scissors type friendly format, haha.

dangoodbaum said...

brilliant- I just got so many food ideas by looking at this post

Dennis K. said...

Awesome! :)