Because their art has a small and edible canvas, sushi chefs must specialize in precision. They pick tiny yet often intense ingredients, packaging them neatly together for the best visual and flavorful presentation. At Tabu Sushi Bar & Grill, the challenge of their task is doubled—they wield spicy add-ons whose heat must balance the crispness of the seafood. The spicy lobster roll, for example, tops its mix of lobster, cucumber, and avocado with a drizzle of Sriracha sauce. There's also the sushi burrito, one of several fusion appetizers that wraps shrimp tempura and crab in soy paper, primed for dipping in house salsa.
Stuffed jalapeños, sushi tostadas, and rolls with habanero sauce bespeak the restaurant's fascination with the southwest. Still, there are classic Japanese dishes to be had. Entrees of chicken katsu and miso-glazed Chilean sea bass make for filling dinners, whereas bento box and teriyaki bowl lunch specials satisfy afternoon cravings. Hand rolls package eel and salmon skin inside seaweed shaped like a cone hat, which the staff imports directly from mermaid parties.
At Nori Sushi Bar and Grill, chefs fuse traditional methods with new-wave techniques to transform fresh seafood into more than 20 specialty rolls. These include rolls stuffed with shrimp tempura and Red Dagon with spicy tuna, cucumber avacado, topped with cajun tuna and habanero masago that looks just as good on a plate as it would beneath a Christmas tree. But Nori’s selection stretches beyond sushi to full entrees, such as the teriyaki steak topped with a house teriyaki sauce. Diners enjoy the dishes inside the restaurant, which is adorned with bamboo plants and cat statues, or outside on the patio, next to the sand-colored exterior and underneath crimson umbrellas.
Adhering to the balanced energies of Feng Shui, the dining room at Iron Wok Asian Bistro is captivating in its blend of romance, whimsy, and chic décor. A giant fish tank and strings of hanging lights illuminate the dining room, casting a warm glow over the full-sized trees and brick walls that surround the dining room’s booths.
Chefs mirror this balanced approach with their cooking, blending together the artistry of presentation with the classic recipes culled from numerous Southeast Asian cuisines. They use only spices imported from Asia, adding a subtle zing to dishes such as their honey-glazed shrimp tossed with walnuts. Chefs even roll together a selection of sushi, and specially prepare a full menu of vegetarian dishes for those who abstain from meat. Their dessert menu incorporates traditional Asian flavors to create dishes such as their mochi or green tea ice cream and fried bananas with coconut pineapple ice cream.
Named for a Japanese raccoon-dog celebrated in myth for its roguish trickster image, Rocking Tanuki serves feasts of ocean-fresh nigiri and maki, tender katsu cutlets, and umami noodle soups and rice dishes. At the open sushi bar, chefs create inventive rolls such as an albacore and serrano-pepper Pancho Villa or a deep-fried California roll. Diners delicately munch on morsels of tuna and smoked salmon nigiri or show off chopstick skills as they pick up the pieces of tempura, chicken, and beef intermixed with udon and ramen. Deep crimson wallpaper, fluttering paper scrolls, and warm light from glowing paper lanterns unite to create a relaxing ambiance.
More than 15 HD televisions illuminate the bustling interior of State St. Grill, located steps from San Diego State University. Though its burgers, such as the bacon-topped Hall of Flame and the pineapple teriyaki, satisfy traditional sports-bar cravings, its impressive lineup of sushi and sashimi dominates the menu. Many rolls are served in unconventional ways, such as the sushi burrito, one uncut roll of shrimp tempura and spicy crab wrapped in soy paper, or the lollipop roll whose pieces are served on sticks. SDSU games make regular appearances, allowing guests to cheer on the Aztecs as they sip on hot sake, cold beer, or room-temperature air.
The experienced chefs at Wonderful Sushi handcraft a large variety of sashimi combinations, nigiri, and maki rolls, as well as a smattering of hot entrees doused in teriyaki or sesame sauce. The white tuna roll is a customer favorite, filled with spicy tuna, snow crab, and avocado and then topped with tender white tuna and special sauce. There are even some hot sushi rolls available, including the deep-fried tempura california roll. Diners can cheer on the chefs with foam fingers while sitting at the sushi bar, or they can grab a glass of wine, Japanese beer, or sake for a relaxing hour on the outdoor patio.