There’s a certain sense of the exotic that comes to mind when hearing the words Asian fusion or Pacific Rim. The seafood and the temptation of foreign flavors are as palatable as the cuisine itself and Cafe Japengo does not fail to deliver. It is after all, the California Restaurant Association’s winner of “Best Sushi 2013.”
Tucked within a cul-de-sac of other fine dining establishments that make up the The Aventine La Jolla, Cafe Japengo appears casually unassuming from the outside. Upon entering the restaurant however, you’re immediately transported to a setting of Japanese design, where kimonos are tastefully erected on stands and traditional seascapes adorn the walls. In prominent viewing is the sushi bar, with chefs intent on crafting artful arrangements of fresh sashimi. Walk past the bar and every other table and booth is bathed in soft light, making for the perfect atmosphere for an intimate dinner or romantic night out.
Once settled, be sure to ask for tea. Make your selection from an impressive list and watch as the presentation includes delicate pours from an old-fashioned cast iron pot. The servers are intimately schooled in the restaurant’s main menu and rather than suggestions, provide recommendations customized to your palette—with gentle assurances that the chef will cater to your preferences. Custom hand rolls, for example, can be whipped up to your exact liking.
There are secret appetizers off the menu known only to a select few, so be sure to ask for the soy braised short rib flat bread—it’s an old classic of the restaurant that reappears every once in a while at the behest of a veteran patron. One bite and you’ll see why this dish can barely be kept hush-hush.
Most revered is the chef’s special of truffle yellow tail, topped with Black Tobiko. Or for those wanting a heartier meal, the vintage New York steak is a favorite choice of Chef Warner’s, chief culinary master. Is it sushi that makes you swoon? Then order up the Ken Special, a delicious role of tuna, urchin, crab, avocado, shrimp, broccoli and squash.
End the night over a medley of desserts because with choices such as chocolate brulée tarts or pan-fried bread pudding with poached Asian pears, you’re bound to select at least two to share.
Cafe Japengo is also perfect for small events or birthday gatherings and their happy hour boasts a lively crowd. Specials include half price on half rolls of sushi and $3 draft beers.
General Manager Monia Tonazzo also stresses the establishment’s efforts on using sustainable fish and developing partnerships with local farms. Additionally, the restaurant has recently expanded their gluten free menu, including several vegetarian friendly dishes using organic, seasonal produce.
Intrigued by the gastronomical delights that await you at Cafe Japengo? For more information about one of the most consistently best ranking restaurant in San Diego, please click here.
WHERE: Cafe Japengo
8960 University Center Lane
San Diego, CA 92122
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Monday – Friday 4:30 – 7 p.m.
Saturday all evening long.
Monday – Thursday 5 – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5 – 10:30 p.m.