Sunday, November 4, 2007

Izakaya Sakura

One usually does not go wrong with a restaurant that Kirk recommends. When it became part of their "rotation" and I realized that it had received multiple posts, I put a visit to this place on my to-do list.

Apparently, Sakura is in the Izakaya style, which I guess is something similar to a tapas bar. Anyway, I went during lunch since I needed to do some shopping in the area. (namely, chives, ginger, and dumpling wrappers for some gorgeous ground kurobuta pork)

I was eager to try the beef in sesame sauce, but it appeared to be absent from the lunch menu I was given. I settled for the ribeye steak, which is something that is only served on Sunday. (My hypothesis is that they get their shipment of beef on Sunday, and any leftover steak is turned into something else for the week.) But first, I started off with some appetizers.

First up was the agedashi tofu: three smallish pieces of deep-fried tofu, topped with a generous helping of grated daikon and shredded green onion and in a light broth. My first impression upon tasting it was that it was much less flavorful than the agedashi tofu at Sammy's (that post is probably coming in a month). My second impression was "ouch, I think I burned my mouth". Weakly-flavored food usually means one of two things: either the cook thinks the patron can't handle the flavor (ala "weak" mapo tofu) or the cook is confident in the flavor of the ingredients and doesn't feel the need to mask anything. The latter seemed to be true here, as the broth for the chicken kara-age was very similar, but somehow, worked really well for the deep-fried breaded chicken.

While the mayonnaise w/ cayenne? pepper is probably a more traditional sauce for deep-fried meats, the light broth with daikon works extremely well. I am unsure what is in the broth, since the daikon is a little overpowering. It ends up tasting very similar to the broth when my mom makes a slow-cooked beef with daikon soup, so I wonder if it isn't some form of pork or beef broth given that Sakura does have a slow-braised pork dish on the dinner menu. Either way, it makes me sad to hear that the sauce does not accompany the chicken during dinnertime.

Last up was the steak special. It looked fantastic, and flavorful enough without the accompanying sauce. The sauce this time was a strong ponzu, again with grated daikon. What looks like mashed potatoes on the side there, is probably mashed mountain yam, as you usually don't get stringiness with regular mashed potatoes. The miso was a little bland for my taste; I don't think the light flavor works so well for the miso as it does for the agedashi tofu or the chicken karaage sauce. The salad came with a home-made sauce, which you might be familiar with if you've ever had that sort of salad in a Japanese restaurant. This one had hints of egg and daikon, so I'm guess the main ingredients are probably mayonnaise, rice vinegar, cooked egg, and daikon. Since the sauce for the steak was so strong, I ended up just straining it for the daiko and using that to top the steak, which worked rather well. The steak was pretty good, no $40 filet mignon, but pretty good for a restaurant steak, if just a little bit overcooked in my opinion. For a piece of meat that thin, it really only needs a few minutes to bring it to a nice medium. At least the garlic on top wasn't burned as that is usually what happens when I try to cook steak without a real grill.

Overall, I was very pleased with the food, and the service was excellent. I had a friendly chat with one of the waitresses when they realized I spoke some Japanese, and they were very apologetic and nice about fixing my bill when I pointed out the miscalculation (in their favor).

The crowd was pretty large for lunch on Sunday; I would say that it was about 3/4 Japanese, and 1/4 asian-looking students. I guess business is going pretty well, and that word-of-mouth works for them, as they do not have a sign on the outside denoting the location. At some point I will have to return for dinner, as it seems that their sushi is also pretty good and to see what the dinner menu has to offer.

Izakaya Sakura (in between the military recruiter and the chiropracter)
3904 Convoy St #121 (same plaza as the original pancake house)
San Diego, CA 92111

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November 6, 2009 at 4:11 AM  

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