Izakaya Sakura- I heart Uni!
3904 Convoy St #121
San Diego, CA 92184
So I have heard about this place before. A super secret authentic little Japanese restaurant. Located in between two army related buildings, it's definitely hidden, as it has no sign in front announcing its presence. I finally got around to trying it, and now it is my favorite restaurant of the month. I want to go back again and again until I have tried all the dishes on the menu that look appealing to me. So far, this place can do no wrong. The food is so delicious and authentic. This place is open for both lunch and dinner. Lunch is very affordable, with an array of items under $10. The lunch items come with salad, soup or some other sides depending on what you order. The only bad thing about lunch is that the menu is quite limited. There are some udons, tempuras, dons, curries, and some limited sushi items and appetizers. The dinner menu is much more extensive, but also much more expensive!
So far, everything about this place has been great. The service is super friendly. If you are worried that you don't speak or read Japanese, that's okay. They have English menus and the staff speaks pretty good English. You are greeted warmly when entering, and are thanked profusely when leaving. What a welcoming experience!
So the perks about lunch are that it is cheaper and on weekends the lunch hours last until 4:15! As someone who eats lunch pretty late on the weekends, this is perfect for me. At the time I visited, I had not yet decided to start this food blog, so I don't have any pictures. Next time I visit, I will take a picture of their lunch menu.
For lunch, I had the uni pasta. I've never seen such an item on a menu, and was very curious to try it. The presentation was beautiful. And the taste! Soo yummy! The sauce is creamy and the noodles taste like japanese spaghetti. But I think you have to like uni or at least eat it to enjoy it. My boyfriend does not like uni and couldn't understand my joy. My uni pasta came with buttered toast and a salad. Nothing really special about either one, but it did make my meal more filling.
My boyfriend tried to get the chirashi bowl for lunch. Sadly, the waitress told us no sushi today. Since I've only been here for lunch once, I am not sure if this is common. We'll try ordering sushi again next time we go for lunch. So instead he got the chicken katsu-don. It came with a salad, some pickled vegetables and some soup. He enjoyed the katsu-don. He said it was much more flavorful than ones at other places we've tried. I think they key was the rice. They put some dried nori and some other seasonings in the rice to make it taste better. It's little details like this that makes this place stand out.
We also ordered the chicken karaage as an appetizer. I'm not a huge fan of chicken karaage, but I have to say that Sakura has made the best chicken karaage I have tried. Very juicy and not at all dry, even though it is fried.
A few weeks later, we came back to Sakura for dinner. This time my boyfriend was able to order his chirashi bowl.
So pretty! He really enjoyed it. Also, instead of just plain old rice, the rice is flavored with rice vinegar, which he really loved.
As for me, after going to Sakura the first time for lunch, I scoured reviews on Sakura in order to determine what to order for dinner. I learned that Sakura serves some of the best uni in San Diego. I read blogs devoted to the uni. So I came to the conclusion that I must try the uni. All week I had been chattering to my boyfriend on how I wanted to try the uni and how great the pictures of uni looked on the blogs I had read. And so when I went to dinner at Sakura, of course I ordered the uni. The unidon to be exact. And it wasn't until I had placed my order that I became a little unsure of my order. Because you see, despite my chattering about uni, and the title of my post, and the uni pasta I had for lunch, I wasn't actually sure that I liked uni. At least not by itself and in large quantities. When I explained this to my boyfriend, he gave me that look he often does when he can't seem to understand what is going on in my head.
So I've had uni before. But it's never been something I've particularly loved. It's something that, if it was served to me at a restaurant, I'll eat it because it's expensive. But I've never been one to have uni cravings. But when I read those wonderful posts and reviews about uni, and saw the pictures, I had somehow convinced myself that I did love uni! And now I was sitting at the restaurant, waiting for my food to arrive, and wondering what I was going to do if in fact, it turned out, that I didn't really like uni. Because then I'd have a whole meal of uni and rice, and wouldn't enjoy it at all.
So finally my Unidon arrived. And after one taste, all my worries were laid to rest. Because I discovered, I do heart uni! At least Sakura's uni! It's creamy in texture, and slightly sweet. The Unidon serves generous portions of Uni.
My boyfriend was not won over by the magic of Sakura's uni though. His chirashi bowl came with some which he promptly gave to me. I didn't mind, more uni for me!
We also ordered two small appetizers. We had the agedashi tofu and agedashi mochi.
The tofu was wonderful! So flavorful and soft and light. I think the chef at Sakura has really mastered the art of frying. It's easy to overfry items and make them dry, especially tofu. But the agedashi tofu was so light! The sauce in the bowl really absorbs into the tofu, making it very flavorful. And the tofu used is very soft.
The agedashi mochi was not as good. It was basically fried mochi chunks which got all stuck together. I enjoy mochi, both salty and sweet, but this dish didn't really do much for me, and I didn't like how all the chunks got stuck together.
Overall, a great experience. I will be back again to try their other wonderful items.
Here are pictures of the dinner menu and a picture of a painting that my bf liked in the restaurant: