Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Ramblings - Lunch @ Kokoro And Oton. A Gift Of Myoga And Others

Posting on some random topics and few updates that was intended to be up last Friday -- my self-imposed oxymoron that is the 'blog post deadline'... :P

So being on a low-carb diet these days has put a sizable dent in my former ritual of going out for lunch but I allow myself cheat days once in a while, and on those I try to make the most of it. "Making the most of it" meaning if I'm going to consume carbs, it's going to have to be something worth the guilt. The same going for anything sugary.

I visited Kokoro, one of the newer Japanese offerings in SD not too long ago and had a very nice lunch. It's located in a rather hard to find area in Serra Mesa over past Montgomery Field and Pampas Argentine Grill. Once the GPS takes you to the general area, keep an eye out for a Subway and Kokoro will be next to it. Despite being in this obscure strip mall, things inside the restaurant are much different -- peaceful, minimal, and in trend with many higher end sushi places in Japan, without the usually ubiquitous horizontal sushi neta case.

I had the Chirashizushi ($18) which comes with miso soup and a drink. The Chirashi that included both fresh and a few grilled items was quite good. First, the sushi rice was excellent but I was equally impressed by the variety of toppings that seemed like from their entire sashimi menu and then some. A combination of both akami and shiromi, uni and ikura salmon roe, shrimp, both tako octopus and squid (all lightly boiled), shime saba, grilled Anago conger eel and albacore, then last but not least a very memorable tamago omelet that was mildly sweet with plenty of dashi flavor. The few kampyō pickles sprinkled over the rice was a nice touch.

The miso soup I have to say was also terrific. Nothing here from an electric kettle that's been sitting for who knows how long. A very nice scratch made taste where the fresh dashi plays an equal if not more important role than the miso used. Since a refill is $3.50, I'd be savoring the last sipful.

I have their current entire menu up on my Menu Vault for anyone interested. Prices are on the higher side but quality is quite good. There are also a few cost conscious to-go only items during lunch such as soboro, grilled chicken, beef or salmon over rice. And for the casual sushi goers, there are your many familiar Americanized rolls. Was pleased to see Kokoro's heart set both with originality and tradition, while also able to cater to popular local demands.

Kirk of Mmm-yoso has already done two posts on Kokoro including an omakase. Check it out.

Kokoro Restaurant, 3298 Greyling Dr, San Diego, CA 92123

Although Kokoro's head chef was formerly at Oton, my recent visit there for lunch was unrelated. (I ordered another Chirashi even...) I was told by a close friend that Oton may have stopped serving lunch and was quite surprised to hear since they seemed pretty busy the hour in the last year. Being the cheerleader of Japanese restaurants in town that puts effort in serving non-cookie cutter offerings, I've done several lunch posts and most always enjoyed these reasonably priced noon meals.

Turns out lunch is now only served on Fridays and Saturdays from 12~3PM. In place, Oton gains a happy hour Mon~Thurs that starts from 3PM. The recently updated lunch menu can also be found on my other blog here.

I went for the Hokkai-don (which is a play on words, sort of a bowl filled with the bounty of Hokkaido..., $18.50). The variety of seafood was also a pleasure to see which included fresh scallops, (real) crab, salmon, both ikura and kazunoko (herring roe), uni, squid, a botan shrimp and nice block of tamago.

Picking the tasty brains out of the botan shrimp with chopsticks was one of the meal's highlights. All with the sushi rice which was also quite good and drizzle of wasabi spiked shoyu, I was happy to enjoy the meal guilt free. Their miso soup has also been one of the better in town (though I must have looked American the day since they included a spoon with mine).

Oton has several Chirashi-style seafood bowls during lunch to choose from but if I'm ever back, I'd probably be having this again, though their daily bento box ($13.50) that includes a variety of sashimi, fried and simmered items is hard to pass up as well.

Robataya Oton, 5447 Kearny Villa Rd # D, San Diego, CA 92123

Been pretty hot here the last few days and so was delighted to see the Nashi (Asian Pear) flavor of the GariGari-Kun popsicle for sale at both Nijiya and Mitsuwa Markets. GariGari-Kun is known to have many flavors (at least in Japan) with even a few odd limited editions such as the Corn Pottage flavor that was out a few years back.

I had a chance to try one of their limited flavors from their Rich series during my last winter vacation that was a collaboration with Ezaki Glico and their brand of Cream Stew block roux's -- "Aunt Clea's Stew."

Creamy with a tad of savory, surprisingly it actually serviced decently as an ice snack (for me) where I even enjoyed the small bits of potato that it contained, ha. While I maybe won't be yearning for this flavor to be out again in the future, the Spaghetti Naporitan flavor that came out earlier this year I am curious about. Of course you can count on my friend EatNapo-san of NaporitanXNaporitan having covered it and can be checked out here.

Last, I was very happy to have received some Myoga from a friend's garden recently (which is the same person I had obtained some roots of my own). What you see below would roughly cost $12 as they are around $2.99 per bulb here.

I've made a quick cold tofu hiyayakko meal out of one of the smaller bulbs which turned out great. I used kinugoshi (silken) Meiji Tofu and Kamada Dashi Shoyu both purchased from Nijiya. A little grated shin-shoga young ginger and bonito flakes.

These myoga were especially fragrant and pungent, a little went a long way. Next time I would chop them even finer. Some additional julienned Shiso leaves would've elevated this to another level of aromatic flavor bomb but I didn't have any at hand.

It probably won't be until next year before my plants will start bearing these bulbs but if what I had are a hint of what to expect, I'm really looking forward to them!
Some random things I've made and posted in the past using Myoga is a baked miso and cheese tofu appetizer as well as a tempura that paired well with a soba. Both something I may try again if things cool off in the next weeks.


K and S said...

the chirashi looked great! Satoshi refused to try the napolitan gari-gari kun, lol :)

KirkK said...

Very nice Dennis. Love the lunches I've had at Kokoro, I think he does rice perfect for my tastes.

Junichi said...

That's the consensus I heard from friends about Kokoro too. Expensive but good.

Dennis K. said...

Was a great chirashi Kat! Personally would love to try the Naporitan flavor Garigarikun at least once. ;)

Thanks Kirk! It's nice to have more options in town...

Hi Junichi! I think the lunch chirashi has a good value. Curious with the lunch to-go only boxes but they were reasonable priced too. Hope you're doing well!

Siti Sharini said...

Missing washoku..