Sake Shaved Ice? Free sake shots? Yes, please!
Gaijin recently opened in downtown San Diego. “Gaijin” means foreigner or outsider in Japanese, a perfect name for this Japanese fusion place.
When I first read of the opening, I was a little wary. When I was contacted directly by the restaurant to check it out, I almost declined. Then I did some more research and saw many positive reviews. I perused the menu and was surprised to see creative items like Sake Shaved Ice and decided to give it a try.
The restaurant owners are very much aware that they are outsiders and don’t pretend to be otherwise. As stated in the website description, “we embrace our role as outside admirers of the country’s cuisine.” And I think they do it well.
Rather than trying to copy all the traditional dishes, Gaijin offers many dishes that are indeed inspired by Japanese cuisine but with a unique twist so that you don’t automatically compare it to a version you’ve had at a traditional Japanese restaurant. The menu is fun and so is the atmosphere. In fact, a round of free sake shots to thank the chefs are provided during dinner.
Complimentary Spicy Cabbage
I really liked this raw cabbage slaw. It reminded me a little of kimchee that has not yet reached its full fermented state.
Blistered Shishito Peppers
Lightly seasoned with salts and spices and grilled, these were simple yet addicting. I couldn’t stop eating these and will have to make them at home sometime once I figure out the spice rub used.
Black Sesame and Mango Kakigori Cocktails
Japanese shaved ice mixed with sake. I’ve never been a huge fan of sake, but I really enjoyed it in this form. I preferred the black sesame which used a milky sake that is lighter and sweeter. The mango was stronger and also had a spicy kick. These were visually appealing and so fun to eat. An extra shot of sake was provided as well to pour over the cocktails.
All the yakitori items come with two skewers and I found them to be reasonably priced. The mushrooms were plump and juicy.
The steak was grilled to a medium rare. They were tasty though I would have preferred a little more flavor on the meat rub.
Crispy Jidori Chicken Skin
This was one of the highlights of my night. The bowl might look small but there was quite a large amount of crispy chicken skins in there. Each skin was super crispy. It was so good, I’m afraid to find out the nutritional facts. Sometimes it’s better not to know and just enjoy.
Spicy Miso Ramen
We got a half order only because we were getting full. The broth wasn’t overly salty like miso broth of other spots. But I still prefer the version at Yakitori Yakyudori.
Uni Green Tea Soba Noodles
The Uni was mixed into the noodles so it wasn’t visible but I could taste it. It was served with some eggs with soft yolks.
Okay so this may not have any relation to Japanese food but it was tasty. Mmm… bacon.
DH and I had a good time here, and not just because of the free sake shots. We enjoyed all the food we tried and we liked that Gaijin is not completely trying to copy traditional Japanese dishes, but rather offer up their own unique ones. We would definitely come back again with friends.
Please note, my meal was complimentary but I was not paid for this review and my opinions are my own.
Gaijin Sake and Noodle House
627 4th Ave
San Diego CA