Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tora Seafood Buffet (formerly Onami)


A lot of people in my family like sushi. So when it’s time for the birthday person to choose where they want to eat, unlimited sushi seems to be a constant choice. In the last year or so, we’ve exhausted most of the unlimited sushi options in San Diego.

While trying to think of new options for the fiance’s birthday dinner, I thought of Onami. Onami was a restaurant we used to frequent a lot when I was in college. It offered a sushi buffet, along with some hot cooked foods, and desserts. I remember really loving the chocolate covered strawberries and green tea ice cream. We stopped going to Onami a few years ago.  I couldn’t remember exactly why but I think we just thought it was a little too pricey (around $25 per person for dinner), especially with the emergence of chinese buffets (around $12 for dinner).

Since we pay between $20-25 per person at the unlimited sushi places, Onami suddenly didn’t sound like a bad deal. We could get unlimited sushi and other foods as well. When I found out that Onami had recently moved to a new, bigger location (still within Mission Valley mall), and renamed themselves Tora, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try it out.

When we arrived, the place was really busy. Luckily we were able to make a reservation so we didn’t need to wait around.

When we sat down, the waiter told us they were out of lobster that night. Well that sucked. I had been looking forward to it. But I didn’t think too much of it.

The new location of Tora definitely is bigger. The setting looks shiny and new and reminds me a little of the Vegas buffets. There also appears to be more food offerings than before.

We started with the cold appetizer/sushi section. I was surprised by the sparse offerings. I had remembered the dinner sushi selection being better before. When we dug in to eat, there were quite a few different fish that didn’t taste fresh. After that, I really didn’t want to risk trying any more fish.

So we moved onto the hot food section. It seemed that someone in the kitchen had mistaken sugar for salt because several savory dishes were way too sweet. Out of all the hot food items, only this fried seafood roll (far right) tasted good to me.

The pasta and noodle dishes were dry, the clams were too sweet.

There was also a fried rice and udon noodle station. I didn’t try the noodles but my brother complained it was sweet. The fried rice was doused in so much black pepper that it was literally all I could taste.

Most of us were pretty unhappy by this point of the night.

With nothing good left that I wanted to try, I quickly moved onto dessert.

I tried a few cakes and found them dry. The chocolate covered strawberries were still there but they only had them in white chocolate, which they sprinkled with cinnamon (I thought that was a little weird). I prefer the dark chocolate or milk chocolate ones.

They also offered mango and green tea ice cream. I was surprised by how good the ice cream was. The mango tasted like real mangoes rather than the artificial taste that I often find with mango ice cream. The green tea ice cream also had a strong matcha flavor to it and the color looks like a good matcha powder rather than food coloring green. The ice creams were my favorite part of the meal.

Most of us were pretty unhappy with this meal. I did pause to wonder if we were a little jaded since my family has experience some great buffets in the Bay Area. While I think that accounted for some of why we disliked this place so much, I still think if we had never been to the good ones  outside of San Diego, we still wouldn’t have come back. On the surface, this place looks like a great deal with so much variety.  But there was honestly almost nothing I liked eating here and priced at $26 per person, I think it is way too expensive for such mediocre food.  I was especially disappointed with the sushi. Usually such an expensive price for a buffet is justified by the fact that they are serving better quality ingredients, but the sushi quality was really bad.

Overall, we were really disappointed. On a positive note, our server was great. He was constantly refilling our waters and clearing our plates. I’m sad about the new Tora. We had such high hopes going in.

TORA SEAFOOD BUFFET AND SAKE BAR LOUNGE
1640 CAMINO DEL RIO N. SUITE#206
SAN DIEGO, CA 92108
http://torarestaurant.com/
Onami on Urbanspoon

 

19 Responses to “Tora Seafood Buffet (formerly Onami)”

  1. 1

    Rosa — April 19, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    I remember my family going to Onami a lot for celebratory occassions because it was a bargain for a sushi/Asian food buffet. But over the years, it seemed their selection and quality declined and we stopped going too. Doesn’t sound like a new name has done much to change that.

    The green tea ice cream was my favorite part of the meal too. I liked getting it in cones though. :)

    • Kirbie replied: — April 19th, 2011 @ 10:26 am

      Yeah, we went for my graduation and a few other occasions. I thought new name and new space would also mean better food, but I could not believe how bad the quality was.

  2. 2

    Marissa — April 19, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    That’s too bad about the food! Do you have any recommendations for unlimited sushi in San Diego? We’ve been to Todai a few times, but the last time we went we were kinda disappointed as well…

    • Kirbie replied: — April 19th, 2011 @ 10:29 am

      I’m not a big fan of Todai either. If you only want sushi, and no other food items, Tadashi in downtown La jolla is pretty good (you have to sit at the bar, and then u can order anything off of their sushi menu list which includes some appetizers, rolls, nigiri sushi, etc. I did a post with pics of the menu options here http://kirbiecravings.com/2009/10/tadashi.html) also Mister Sushi up in Encinitas has a similar deal, but a bigger selection and you dont have to sit at the sushi bar to get the deal http://kirbiecravings.com/2010/10/mister-sushi.html

  3. 3

    Faye — April 19, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Oh man :( That bad huh? The pics of the sashimi really looked awful thou. That would have been the only reason why I would have tried this place at night for dinner. I read a review that the restaurant ‘mislabels’ the fish: like they use tilapia instead of red snapper. How terrible would that be if that was true. I saw that on a news report once.

    Did I see uni on your one of your plates? And yeah, wth, no lobster?!

    When I went to Onami for lunch, I thought their cold appetizer section was good. Did they have the cold eggplant salad, squid salad, etc?

    And yeah I too would be sad if they didn’t have dark chocolate strawberries. But so glad you enjoyed their ice cream (whew!).

    Thanks for doing review/post on this place !

    • Kirbie replied: — April 19th, 2011 @ 10:30 am

      I definitely would not recommend this place for dinner. No not uni. I forgot what it was called. I remember not knowing what it was and thought I might as well try it (and I thought it looked like uni too!). But I didn’t like how it tasted at all.
      Actually I think the cold appetizers were okay. I had the seaweed salad and that was pretty good. I didn’t try the other salads. I probably should have.

  4. 4

    Sandy — April 19, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    I guess I won’t be in a hurry to try Tora. I hadn’t been to Onami or Todai in ages, but like others have said, the prices have gone up and quality/quantity has gone down.

    One of these days, I’ll have to try one of the Bay Area buffets that you’ve written about.

    • Kirbie replied: — April 19th, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      The Bay Area ones are a lot better. I think because there is more competition. There arent many choices in San Diego. I wish more places would open here.

  5. 5

    joanh — April 23, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    my family loved todai for the birthdays and stuff too while we were growing up, but after my first taste of fresh sashimi after college, i couldn’t really do the buffet sushi anymore. sad to hear that this one has gone downhill

    • Kirbie replied: — April 24th, 2011 @ 2:31 am

      Yeah I was the same way. Todai was so exciting when it first came out, but it really has gone downhill.

  6. 6

    Patricia — July 20, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

    My Husband & I have always chosen ONAMI”S for our celebratory place to go. for anniversaries, Birthdays, and just a special date night. Tonight we went to Tora/Onami’s for my birthday dinner. I have to say, it was one of the worst dining experiences we have ever had and with great disappointment, the crab was of lessor standard, the mussels that we loved so much with the special salsa you used on them, my favorite seaweed and fungus salad was not there, the place was beyond noisy, the music was a type of rap that just caused you to feel stressed out, and then to make matters worse, the lobster I received was not fully cooked.
    But my husband asked for a refill of his diet coke, and when he went to drink it, the server poured iced tea in his glass. This was such a disappointment, I am going to tell all those that we shared ONAMI”S experience with, not to bother with Tora. We talked to the woman at Onami’s before the move, and she guaranteed that the place would be the same in every way, IT IS NOT. IT WAS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT. WORD OF MOUTH SPEAKS THE TRUTH. THIS MOVE RUINED OUR WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES AND MEMORIES THAT WE SHARED AT ” ONAMI’s” . We will not return. Looks like Todai is the next best place to go now that ONAMI’S is gone.. It is across the freeway, take the texas street exit off the eight, and cross over the overpass, make a left turn where you see the Butcher Shop, follow it down and Todai’s is on the left side of the street. Steer clear of Tora/Onami. You will be disappointed for the $26.00 they charge and what you receive. Ciao

  7. 7

    Patricia — July 20, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    My Husband & I have always chosen ONAMI”S for our celebratory place to go. for anniversaries, Birthdays, and just a special date night. Tonight we went to Tora/Onami’s for my birthday dinner. I have to say, it was one of the worst dining experiences we have ever had and with great disappointment, the crab was of lessor standard, the mussels that we loved so much with the special salsa you used on them, my favorite seaweed and fungus salad was not there, the place was beyond noisy, the music was a type of rap that just caused you to feel stressed out, and then to make matters worse, the lobster I received was not fully cooked.
    But my husband asked for a refill of his diet coke, and when he went to drink it, the server poured iced tea in his glass. This was such a disappointment, I am going to tell all those that we shared ONAMI”S experience with, not to bother with Tora. We talked to the woman at Onami’s before the move, and she guaranteed that the place would be the same in every way, IT IS NOT. IT WAS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT. WORD OF MOUTH SPEAKS THE TRUTH. THIS MOVE RUINED OUR WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES AND MEMORIES THAT WE SHARED AT ” ONAMI’s” . We will not return. Looks like Todai is the next best place to go now that ONAMI’S is gone.. It is across the freeway, take the texas street exit off the eight, and cross over the overpass, make a left turn where you see the Butcher Shop, follow it down and Todai’s is on the left side of the street. Steer clear of Tora/Onami. You will be disappointed for the $26.00 they charge and what you receive. Ciao My husband said our little 10.95 cent buffet in El Cajon is better and price wise the best bargain. Tora is not. and the Restaurant off Texas street exit is Bully’s. Sorry for the error. Tora is a big NO GO!!!

    • Kirbie replied: — July 20th, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

      Sorry to hear your birthday dinner was so disappointing and that your memories got ruined. I have fond memories of Onami too, but was soo disappointed with Tora. I guess I am not the only one.

  8. 8

    Katie — August 18, 2011 @ 10:49 am

    It’s a real shame to read so many disappoint reviews. My husband and I have gone to Onami several times and have had great food & service each time. We last went to Toro/Onami for dinner just after they moved to their new location and everything was great from the sushi & salads to the hot entrees. We always try to arrive as close to 5 pm (when they open for dinner) as we can and everything was fresh and in abundance. I don’t know if peoples experiences have been bad because they arrive later or the staff hasn’t been up on the restocking, but if it was just one bad experience than I suggest trying at least once more (maybe on a different day or time). My husband is VERY picky when it comes to sushi and if he doesn’t like anything about the food or experience, then we don’t return and we keep returning to Toro. We are currently planning a trip to the San Diego area within the next 3 weeks and intend to dine at Toro. I still hope for an excellent meal, but will keep in mind other peoples experiences too.

    • Kirbie replied: — August 18th, 2011 @ 11:11 am

      I’m glad you had a good experience. I hope your next one will be good too. Maybe it was an off night, but I’m not sure I want to try again. It is kind of expensive to have a repeat bad night. If I hear a lot of good things, I may return, but until then I don’t think I will.

  9. 9

    Jonnie — January 17, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    I found your review looking for “why” O-Nami is now Tora, and enjoyed your review. We ate there last night and I was underwhelmed by the whole meal. I was happy to see so many people out in the mall on a Monday night however. I’m not a huge sushi fan, but enjoyed something that was purple in color. I picked maybe 6 varieties and there wasn’t a lot of range of flavors. I always enjoy the textures however. From the hot line I liked the mushrooms; stuffed and the sliced portabellos. I don’t remember seeing any lobster – there were cold crayfish next to the sushi. And from the dessert bar one of the little shortbread cookies; the cakes were dry and bland. While I like the green tree ice cream it was sitting in a pan that looked like maybe it wasn’t ready to be served. What was more annoying was the logistics of plates and flatware, and it seemed counter intuitive to whether you go clockwise or counter-clockwise. People darted to a particular choice and then off to another destination quickly – I kept waiting for someone to get bumped and drop a plate (never happened). I don’t think I’m really a buffet type restaurant goer at heart. Plus, there wasn’t one sanitizing station for your hands. It was a meal out and that’s always fun, but not sure if Tora is a repeat performance.

    • Kirbie replied: — January 17th, 2012 @ 11:01 am

      I’m surprised it has remained so popular. I feel like the prices are way too high for very underwhelming food.

  10. 10

    Serge — February 14, 2013 @ 8:19 am

    I have been there for many years and absolutely loved it but recently they changed their buffet and they took about a third of their selection off the displays and of course the best ones. I am afraid that they lost me as a customer. Disappointing

    • Kirbie replied: — February 14th, 2013 @ 11:04 am

      That is too bad. =(

Leave a Comment

*

Please leave these two fields as-is:

Protected by Invisible Defender. Showed 403 to 1,219,121 bad guys.