Kirbie's Cravings

Shimbashi Izakaya

Shimbashi Izakaya is a Japanese restaurant located in the Del Mar Plaza. It’s now the fifth restaurant I’ve dined at in this plaza. After this last dining experience, I’ve decided to try to dine at them all at some point.

I originally snapped a picture  of the restaurant exterior with a peek of the ocean on the horizons, but I accidentally deleted it while clearing my memory card for space. So you’re stuck with a picture of the menu instead.

Speaking of the menu, as you can see by the picture, the menu here is extensive. The menu was more like a book. Shimbashi offers a wide variety of Japanese dishes ranging from sushi to small plates to hot pot. They also specialize in sake and there were about 4-5 pages of the menu just devoted to sake. I took the time to take pictures of the entire menu, but then realized that the full menu is online as well with pictures and prices. You can view it here.

The restaurant is owned by an engineer who is originally from Tokyo, in the Shimbashi district. After moving to San Diego, he missed the cuisine of his home, so he decided to open a restaurant in San Diego. According to the menu “Shim” means “New,” and “bashi” means “Bridge.”

There are pictures of almost every item on their menu. We tried to stick to items that had asterisks, which meant that they were recommended by the restaurant. We also ordered a few dishes from the daily specials menu too.

Thin Sliced Seared Kobe-style Beef with Yuzu Ponzu sauce ($18)

FH and I love eating seared kobe style beef and always order it when we see it on the menu. I was surprised to see that the meat slices here were very marbled. The abundance of tendons made this meat quite chewy. Not my favorite version of seared kobe-styled beef.

Pri-pri Ebiten ($8) Plump fried Shrimp in Honey Glaze sauce

While this may not be the prettiest plate, it was quite delicious. I probably wouldn’t have thought to choose this dish if I hadn’t gotten a recommendation from Three Dog Kitchen. These were the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen. Usually fried shrimp at Japanese places consist of shrimp that are stretched out creating the effect of large shrimp, but these really were huge. I think technically they were prawns. Regardless, they were plump and juicy and I enjoyed them. For the price, I was impressed with the amount given.

La Fresca Roll ($19) Spicy tuna, avocado, cilantro topped with yellowtail, pico de gallo, garlic oil, sesame seeds and ponzu

We tried to order toro, but there was none that night. Doh. So we ordered one of their most famous rolls instead. It was voted best roll at the Beer and Sake Festival .

The yellowtail was very creamy. The cilantro, pico de gallo topping reminded me of a ceviche-style fish.

Lobster Salmon Roll ($18)
Lobster (with mayo), masago, cucumber topped with salmon, garlic oil, ponzu, sesame seeds, bonito flakes and onions

This menu item didn’t have an asterisk but the manager recommended it to us. I preferred this one over La Fresca, though FH preferred La Fresca. I liked the crunch of the masago, the spicy mayo, and bonito flakes just makes everything taste better.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass ($18) Grilled filet marinated in Saikyo miso paste

When the fish arrived, no steam was coming out. But as soon as I broke into it, the steam came pouring out. The fish was served piping hot and was accompanied with ice cold marinated mushrooms. I thought the pink pickled onions was an interesting touch. The fish had a slight sweetness to it from the miso glaze. Parts of it were a little salty, but the fish was very moist and tender.

Simmered duck with daikon

Thin slices of duck were simmered in a light daikon broth. The middle was a piece of daikon. It was topped with a dollop of wasabi which wasn’t green due to the simmering. Instead it turned an orange brown making it look like uni–but it’s definitely wasabi. (I learned the hard way…)

Shimbashi Mojito ($9) Shochu, fresh lime juice, mint and shiso leaves

I’m usually not a mojito person but the manager suggested we try their mojito which contains shiso leaves. We opted to split one and they brought it out in two smaller glasses. The shiso taste was subtle but added a nice fragrance to the drink and helped detract from the mint taste I don’t particularly care for.

Pear pie with lychee sorbet

Before we left, the manager sent out this dessert to end our night.  I loved the pretty presentation and almost squealed with delight upon hearing the ice cream was a lychee sorbet as I adore lychee. The sorbet was delicious. The pie was very light and not too sweet. The base was actually an asian-style custard, studded with pieces of pear.

We had a fun time dining here. Despite all the dishes we only made a small dent into the extensive menu. The manager was super nice and generous.

Overall, I thought the food was a little on the pricey side, but it’s also on par with most of the restaurants located in this Del Mar plaza. On most nights out with the FH, we would probably go to Convoy to satisfy our Japanese food cravings, but I think Shimbashi is a good choice for dinner with a group of friends or when I have people visiting from out of town. With such a diverse menu, it’s great for a large group with different tastes and likes. In the summer, it is a nice place to dine outside, with the ocean just across the street.

Please note, our meal was complimentary. I was not compensated for this review and my opinions are my own.

Shimbashi Izakaya
555 Camino Del Mar, No. 201
Del Mar, California 92014-2408

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16 comments on “Shimbashi Izakaya”

  1. Everything looks delicious. I hate it when the menu is too big since I always have a hard time deciding what to order.

  2. Great pictures and report. I sometimes wonder just how consistent the items can be with larger menus like this. It’s not as much of an issue for me with Convoy places/prices, but when I’m paying Del Mar prices I start to care a bit more.

    Definitely try flavor. Even without visiting the others, I’m willing to bet Flavor/Sip are the highlight of that whole plaza, or even Del Mar.

    • Yes Flavor is on the top of my to-do list. I do think Shimbashi suffers a little from having such a diverse menu. Everything we had was pretty good, but not necessarily the best version. Convoy is great for cheaper prices and specializing in certain areas, but this is a nicer setting for out of town guests or friends wanting a nice night out.

  3. Shiso is the absolute worst for me. I just don’t like how it tastes. XD (unless it’s purple shiso in drink form!) Every time in Japan, fresh shiso leaves would be served with squid nigiri and because the squid is so sticky… it was really hard to peel off the shiso… and even harder to drown the left-over shiso taste in soy sauce.

  4. I came here once and wasn’t all that impressed w/ the food. AND, the prices were crazy high. I wonder how they prepare the ama ebi sashimi (saw that on the Recommendation menu).

    I wish they had a more affordable menu thou!

    Have you tried Flavor in the same plaza? It’s awesome!

  5. all of those rolls look so good, especially the Fresca one! and that shrimp with honey glaze looked quite nice as well! del mar is kind of far for us but for a special occasion, we’d be willing to try this place!

    • I wanted to go to the market after for the pear tarte but it was already closed. Boo. Will have to go first next time.

  6. Yum everything (especially that shrimp!) looks delicious!

  7. This place used to offer a coupon when they first opened. We came here for a birthday dinner and I found it surprisingly authentic for a place that’s located in Del Mar.

    • I think it helps that the owner is from Japan and so is the manager. She was telling me how she visits micro breweries in Japan to get the sake they serve. I don’t know much about sake though so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how good it is.

  8. This all looks amazing! But the dishes do look a little pricey – especially for college students, hehehe. And UGHHHH shiso is the bane of my existence. So many dishes in Japan included it and I really dislike the taste of it XD

    • Aw you don’t like shiso? Yeah it is a little pricey. It’s definitely more for the Del Mar crowd than for college students I think.