With proximity to the Pacific coast, one would think San Diego would be a sushi town. The truth is that sushi is still an occasional treat for most San Diegans, a good sushi restaurant is not as easy to come by as a good taqueria here.
However, there is a relatively new sushi restaurant that is satisfying a fresh quality sushi craving - Himitsu in La Jolla. When I was brought here on a surprise dinner, I was quite shocked at its rather nondescript location - in a corner of a small strip mall with modest-looking entrance. But, once I walked inside, I knew this would be a great dining experience.
We opted for the omakaze - it means, "I'll leave it to you". It's a set price dinner where you leave the selection of the items to be served to the chef. You will typically get 8-10 mini-courses served over a period of time, with each dish the chef will put together in front of you, then present to you with a brief explanation of the origin of the fish, the preparation, and any garnish/sauces to complement the taste. Here, it was about $80 per person, which is on a more "affordable" end of the omakaze prices.
We were lucky enough to be in Chef Matsu's care. We started off with an amuse to cleanse our palate and then were off to the races. Each piece of fish we had was carefully sliced before our eyes, with just the right amount of seasoning and garnish to heighten the taste. For example, when we had a more fatty cut, it was accompanied by mustard-y and peppery sauce to balance the richness in your mouth. When there was a more lean cut of fish, the chef brushed sweetened soy-based sauce to add more body to the flavor of the bite. Piece by piece, each sushi and sashimi I placed in my mouth made me really savor the experience, and pushed me to actually think about the taste that I felt in my mouth.
What I enjoyed about the omakaze experience is the chance to think of food as the outcome of someone's craft. Because of the training and knowledge the chef has amassed, I am able to experience the combination of new flavors. All too often, that intimate aspect of dining is lost in the hip/modern decor of new trendy restaurants. There is something about the connectedness you feel with the person who prepares your food and you that makes you slow down and focus on enjoying the food.
Next time you want to treat yourself to an evening of the full omakaze experience, plan ahead and make a reservation for the chef's table at Himitsu. It will be an experience to remember.