La China Restaurant's vast and varied menu brims with classic Chinese recipes. Start off with savory potstickers or creamy crab rangoons, each packed into a paper-thin dough envelope perfect for stamping with sauce and mailed as a thank-you note to a loyal carrier pigeon. A wide range of meat-, noodle-, or seafood-based entrees also beckons diners—including the pecan shrimp, which drenches the crispy crustaceans in an ambrosial honey sauce. The five-flavor chicken lets tender poultry mingle with minced water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots in a signature sauce for an opus of tastes more harmonious than the Beatles' weekly potlucks. Beverages toe the line between domestic and imported tastes: wine selections range from California varietals to traditional sake and plum wine, and beer brands include Budweiser to Tsingtao.
After graduating from high school, Reza Karkouti dreamed of opening his own teriyaki restaurant. He garnered support from family and friends, and he and his father, Ahad, opened a tiny eatery called Tokyo's Teriyaki in Encinitas in 1992. Through hard work and an attention to detail, the restaurant's reputation grew, and the demand for juicy, teriyaki-glazed chicken and beef quickly spread to other cities. This led Reza’s younger brother, Amir, to help open a second location. Now a seven-location, family-owned chain, Surf Brothers Teriyaki still sees its two siblings focusing on customer service and quality products.
The duo chooses natural meats that are minimally processed, hand trimmed, and grilled, avoiding shortcuts such as microwaves, frozen foods, and laser-based slicing. Their Hawaiian-themed restaurants and catering business have been featured in numerous television spots, radio shows, and newspaper articles. Michelle Murphy Zive of SanDiegoFamily.com says the restaurant offers "a taste of Hawaii" and "healthy food served fast." The brothers give back to the community that helped them grow by donating to charitable organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Homes project.
Jeff Roberto, a sushi expert, brings a plethora of experience to his San Diego sushi oasis. He has catered large events of up to 16,000 guests as well as the sets of such Hollywood films as Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and Elizabethtown. Inside SOAR (Sushi On A Roll) he constructs specialty rolls filled with shrimp tempura, seared tuna, spicy scallops, and sashimi and nigiri rolls featuring fresh water eel and squid.
Roberto also leads group explorations in the art of sushi preparation during interactive sushi-making classes held inside a private sushi bar. Two-hour classes commence with an assessment of how many edamame you can stuff in your cheeks before you begin tucking vegetable fillings in sheets of seaweed with the help of a bamboo mat. Students jot down notes on the proper consistency of sushi rice, when to sprinkle rolls with sesame seeds, and how to repurpose chopsticks as the mast of a ship-in-a-bottle.
A koi mural provides the backdrop for the expansive 30-seat sushi bar, which is outlined in neon to highlight the dramatic curve of the space. The expansive venue, which accommodates up to 100 people, is popular among large groups of friends looking for a fun outing and U.S. senators playing hooky. Free parking is also available.
Origano prepares authentic Italian dishes as patrons lounge in a cozy dining room filled with sunlight by day and lit by warm chandeliers by night. Origano's chefs handcraft gourmet pizzas, such as the pizza portobello e speck, which pairs mozzarella cheese and portobello mushrooms with speck and truffle oil ($12.95). During lunch or dinner the paccheri pasta regales noshers with tales of pistachio pesto, speck, and parmigiano, castaway on a sea of cream sauce while trying to flag down passing forks ($12.95 for lunch; $13.95 for dinner). Dinner guests bask in the savory glow of the lamb shank braised with red wine and served atop saffron risotto ($19.95). The wine bar, nestled in a rustic cove, stocks an array of wines, ranging from an Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand ($28 / bottle) to a 2008 Tuscan sangiovese from Antinori Santa Cristina ($25 / bottle).
Though it’s firmly planted in San Diego soil, Gourmet on 5th mimics the epicurean traiteur shops that pepper European roadsides. The store empowers its visitors to eat healthy, and at the same time helps them do so without having to dawdle over a hot stove or buy out a local vegetable farm. Brimming with French influence, Gourmet on 5th’s blackboard menu changes seasonally. It features full meals, including lamb shanks, duck confit, and coq au vin. But the store also has nutritious bites for on-the-move munchers, such as crepes and signature sandwiches, along with energizing drinks, such as espresso concoctions and exotic teas.