Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi is in Banker’s Hill and from the outside it’s an unassuming little house but when you walk in the inside is surprisingly nice. The decor is simple but trendy-ish with accent lighting and they project movies on one of the walls, then past a narrow corridor they actually have a large covered patio area. Oh and the sushi ain’t bad either.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi

While I love pricier sushi options like Hane Sushi (a couple blocks up the street, see a review on it here) and Sushi Ota in PB sometimes you just want yummy sushi that’s affordable. But not too affordable like the gross discount stuff filled with cream cheese they peddle at so-so places like PB Sushi or god-awful places like Yakimono’s by the Vons in UTC/La Jolla. It’s closed now but has anyone ever been there? Every underage UCSD student used to go there because they did not card at all but the sushi was SO BAD.

Anyways Azuki has turned into our go-to stop; really good sushi at good prices and great happy hour specials. They have really good traditional nigiri and sashimi as well as creative entrees and super creative (and delicious) rolls.

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Menu

Azuki Daily Specials

Normally we come for happy hour because they have great deals on sake and beer as well as appetizers like the huge super-garlicky Garlic Edamame for $3 and their amazing Tuna Tataki with ponzu and jalapeño for $6 dollas. However this would be a great Valentine’s Day stop (HAPPY VALENTINE’S CHILDREN) because sushi in general is a much better idea than overpriced red wine, steak and chocolate lava cake dinners. We did that last year for Valentine’s and afterwards you feel like a beached whale and you just want to lie comatose on the couch and watch Netflix…which is perfectly fine every other day of our lives but perhaps not the best way to spend Valentine’s. Sushi on the other hand is sufficiently fancy and very delicious but also light and you feel great afterwards. Sprightly even.

APPETIZER: To start with we got their Root Vegetable Fries. These are super thinly cut super crispy strips of carrot, green beans, zucchini, and potatoes that are tempura-fried and served with a creamy aioli.

Root Vegetable Fries

Root Vegetable Fries

Of course we finished all the aioli before I remembered to take a picture. Yum emulsified oil and egg.

ENTREES: We’ve tried so many of their rolls and they are all awesome but a favorite is the By the Border Roll which has spicy tuna and avocado inside and seared albacore, sliced jalapeño, signature ponzu and spicy aioli on the outside.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

The avocado, ponzu and jalapeño are a great way to add flavor to the tuna so that it’s a good roll for sushi neophytes who are not yet crazy about raw fish. At the same time you get a very decent serving of tuna and albacore and their fat little dot of spicy aioli makes it the perfect amount so its not one of those rolls that is swimming in mayo.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

Me on the other hand, am all about the raw fish, no accoutrements necessary. I went with the Adventurous Nigiri course that comes with (from back to front, might have some mistakes): chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), saba (mackarel), sake (salmon), kanpachi (amberjack), ebi (black tiger shrimp), hamachi (yellowtail) and snow crab. The snow crab actually should have been uni but I hate uni so I asked to sub in ankimo (monkfish liver, tastes like foie gras, is awesome) but they said they couldn’t substitute that in so I left it up to the chef. I got fresh snow crab and I was pretty happy with that because it was delicious.

Adventurous Nigiri

Adventurous Nigiri

This was amazing and I love the way they do their nigiri here with only a small amount of rice and a nice huge slice of fish that drapes over both ends of the rice. I’m constantly picking out rice from rolls that have too much rice but this is never necessary here.

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Overall it was a great dinner, as always at Azuki (alliteration). The only disappointment was that on OpenTable I mentioned it was our anniversary dinner so I was hoping for a free dessert but no one read the notes or asked if there was an occasion so no dessert for us. Our waitress misheard me when I ordered the Adventurous Nigiri and thought I ordered the Adventurous Sashimi and that was brought out then had to be sent back so I felt bad being all ‘hey its an arbitrary personal milestone for us give us a thing for free’. Nonetheless, can’t wait to be back.

CHECK:
– Root Vegetable Fries $6.95
– By the Border Roll $13.50
– Adventurous Nigiri $28.00
– TOTAL (w/ tax) $52.48

Azuki Sushi

2321 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
619.238.4760

http://www.azukisushi.com/

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack is, as the name hints, an inconspicuous little shack in North Park on University Av. that serves a delightfully pork-centric menu. You order at the window on the front and then walk towards the back where you’ll be surprised to find a nice spacious shady patio with an herb garden and another shack towards the back that pours cool draft beer. How handy.

Rib Eye Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

The food is inexpensive and portions are generous. Yet they use high quality all local ingredients and have inventive if sometimes over the top dishes. Not that that’s a bad thing. Its a casual but pleasant atmosphere and despite the uncharacteristically high temperatures and humidity that has been plaguing San Diego lately it was a nice spot to linger at with friends – especially in the evening when it cooled down a little.

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack

Anyways onto the food. Some of their dishes change daily and they’re really good about updating their menu on their website but we ordered dishes that were all staples. You can order their Carnitas in either taco or torta form. The taco form is topped with guacamole and tomatoes on a tortilla and the torta form has guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on a roll. I chose taco. Seeing as you only got 2 tacos I was concerned I would still be hungry. This was a completely unnecessary concern because they PILE ON the meat and I could barely finish my plate.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

The carnitas are pretty good but not as amaaazing as I expected. Still really good though. I was hoping for more crispy bits but then again that might be a personal preference. There was a lot of meat and not a lot of just bits of fat which is nice because it sucks when you realize that half your carnitas portion is just blubber. And as always the combination of carnitas + guacamole + tomatoes + greasy tortillas (from the carnitas of course) is always a winner.

The entrees all comes with the corn salad you see in the picture. Its corn tossed in a spiced mayo with some herbs. Its cool and creamy and really tasty and goes well with the fatty meats that seem to populate most of their dishes. Yum.

Another popular item is their Snack Shack Steak Sandwich. This is reminiscent of Board & Brew’s Baja Beef which we boldly declared the best sandwich in SD here. Its sliced rib eye steak, pepper jack cheese, pickled serranos, chipotle mayo and tomatoes on jalapeno bread. And its glorious. Its steak-y and creamy and spicy and super messy but really satisfying. If you’re not super into pork and come here this is the way to go.

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Lastly we also ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sand which is a pork loin schnitzel + pulled pork + bacon + pepperoncini-pickle relish + shack aioli sandwich. Pretty much pork every which way. Now sadly I did not get to try this but it was decided that this was superior to the Snack Shack Steak Sandwich which surprised me because that had been my favorite.

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Dammit I should have tried it.

Oh and we got the fries too. They have bacon salt on them and come with a salsa like condiment that might be an attempt at homemade ketchup. These were pretty tasty and perfectly fried, reminiscent of McDonald’s fries – which is a very high compliment for any attempt at fries by the way. And for only $2.50 well worth it.

Fries

Fries

They have a very decent beer selection too. I went with the Cherry Cider which was crisp tart and not too sweet. Very nice.

Cherry Cider

Cherry Cider

For dessert I got the Banana Split Truffles. You get 2 super chocolate-y ganache truffles covered in dark chocolate and then drizzled with white chocolate, salty peanuts and banana chips. Really tasty. Sadly no pictures because they disappeared too fast. I wished there were more salty peanuts and banana chips to balance out the richness of the ganache but can’t complain too much.

Anyways. Great atmosphere and great food. The only mild annoyance is that on hot days you have flies around because they’re trying to hang out with you on the shade. They light candles that are supposed to keep them away but I would recommend sitting underneath the fans so they stay away definitively. Can’t wait to be back here and try the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich!

CHECK:
Snack Shack Steak Sandwich $9
Triple Threat Pork Sandwich $9
Carnitas $7
Fries $2.50
TOTAL: $29.70 (w/ tax)

P.S. Can’t remember how much the Cherry Cider was so left that off. Sorry kiddos.

Carnitas Snack Shack

2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 294-7675

http://carnitassnackshack.com

Related links:

Bleu Bohème

For Restaurant Week Bleu Bohème used to have a dish called Tournedos Rossini which is filet mignon tournedos in a Madeira demi-glace on top of a crouton topped with foie gras and truffles. These are basically all my favorite things so I bookmarked this place but unfortunately never made it to Restaurant Week. We did however make it to happy hour and managed to sample quite a few dishes.

Bleu Boheme Patio

Bleu Boheme Patio

Their happy hour is quite short but worth it if you can make it to Kensington between 5 and 6 pm! Their martinis, champagne drinks, wine by the glass and craft beer selection (which is awesome btw) is all 50% off. They have a selection of appetizers and of mussels + fries that are all 50% off as well.

Basil Martini

Basil Martini

Red Ale

Red Ale

We started with the basil martini with citrus and a red ale. The basil martini was refreshing and not to sweet, it has tiny pieces of the basil in the drink which gave it a strong basil-y flavor. They also serve you crusty bread with butter right away. We liked the bread but it was extremely crusty so much so that we ended up just eating the insides.

Bread

Bread

APPETIZERS: We ordered quite a few of these. Our favorite was the Nouille au Fromage, a.k.a. the mac n’ cheese. Flat wide pasta with creamy gruyere cheese sauce, peas, duck confit and bacon all baked so the cheese is browned on top and piping hot inside. We did not see much of the duck confit but there was a good amount of bacon and this dish is a fairly large portion.

Nouille et Fromage

Nouille au Fromage

Next with so many options for mussels and fries, we chose the Moules et Frites au Champignon which has a creamy garlic sauce, white wine, bacon and wild mushrooms. This was also delicious and it came with PLENTY of mushroom and bacon (see picture below). The sauce was very flavorful and we definitely were mopping up the extra sauce with the crusty bread we did not eat (problem solved). The fries were very thinly cut and perfectly fried, we just wished they were a tad saltier. Overall would definitely order this again!

Moules et Frites au Champignons

Moules et Frites au Champignons

Next came the Galette du Crabe or crab cakes. These were 3 small crab cakes with an aioli on top and served with jicama remoulade and tomato-rocket salad. These were good but nothing too remarkable, I prefer when crab cakes have big lumps of crab as opposed to the finer shred meat, nonetheless it was not the type of crab cake that is predominantly bread and it was very well seasoned. Although it doesn’t sound very traditionally French, we loved the jicama roulade which was cool and crunchy and a nice contrast to the fried crab cakes.

Galettes du Crabe

Galettes du Crabe

Perhaps the dish I had the highest expectations for was the Crèpe de Homard, a lobster crepe with marscapone, asparagus and white truffle-carrot sauce. However the crepe was quite small and had finely shredded lobster that did not have a strong lobster flavor. The thick orange sauce had carrot and truffle but I did not care for it too much and thought it overwhelmed any lobster flavor in the crepe. Don’t think we would order this one again.

Crepe au Honard

Crèpe de Homard

Lastly another dish we quite liked was the Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé which was rum cured-house smoked salmon, crème frâiche raifort, baby arugula salad with shaved fennel, lemon zest, Champagne vinaigrette and capers. This is the only semi-healthy dish on the happy hour menu if you care for that sort of thing, but it is so flavorful we were all fighting for the last pieces of the salmon. Although we could not taste the rum-curing (not even sure if this would impart flavor though?) the combination of all the elements was very good. You had the salty smoked salmon with Champagne dressed greens, the crunch of the anise-y fennel, tangy capers and lastly the crème frâiche raifort to balance it all out.

Carpaccio

Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé

You thought that was it didn’t you? Well after all this can you imagine we still ordered dessert? We can.

DESSERT: There were many good dessert options and we had heard good things about the crème brulee crèpe however we ultimately decided on the Brioche aux Cerises. With brioche bread pudding, dried cherries, white chocolate, toasted almonds and Amaretto with crème fraîche this sounded like quite the combo. The bread pudding was not dense and was very light in texture but still custard-y in the middle. The white chocolate flavor was not very prominent but the dried cherries added sweet, chewy bites to the pillow-y soft bread. We really, really wished this had come with ice cream because that would have taken it to the next level.

Brioche aux Cerises

Brioche aux Cerises

CHECK:
Red Ale $3.50
Basil Martini $5.50
Galette du Crabe $7.48
Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé $7.98
Crèpe de Homard $8.98
Nouille au Fromage $6.75
Moules et Frites au Champignon $6.98
Brioche aux Cerises $9.95
TOTAL: $61.69 (w/ tax)

Patio View

Patio View

Overall we thought happy hour was a great deal. There are quite a few options for food and drink which was nice. The dishes that really blew us away were the Nouille au Fromage and the Moules et Frites. Everything else was good except for the Crèpe de Homard which I thought was a little underwhelming. Definitely want to make it back here for the Tournedos (*crossing my fingers it will be in the next SDRW menu*).

Bleu Bohème
4090 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
www.bleuboheme.com

Jayne’s Gastropub

Jayne’s came highly recommended from a friend and after leaving Polite Provisions we were hungry then what do you know…Jayne’s Gastropub was right there. On the corner of Adams and 30th. How convenient.

On the outside it looks like a simplified English pub. White building, dark green trim, and Jayne’s discreetly written on the front. Once you go inside its quite cozy with lots of dark wood. Its a smallish space with a smallish bar but the drinks sounded good and the place was packed, which is normally a good sign.

We wanted to sit at the bar and just order appetizers then bounce, we told the hostess this and she was quite gracious and said we could wait for a spot at the bar or sit at a table outside. We chose to sit outside and this was quite lucky because their outside patio is gorgeous.

Jayne's Gastropub Patio

Jayne’s Gastropub Patio

There are tall hedges surrounding the patio and then a tall wall with aged brick on one side. There are globe lights overhead and heaters to stay warm and the tables have white tableclothes and red roses. Its quite the charming place to have dinner and probably a perfect date spot.

White Linens and Red Roses at Jayne's

White linens and red roses at Jayne’s

APPETIZERS: We ordered two appetizers, the Gambas al Aljillo and the Calamari. The Gambas were shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce with sliced baguette bread. Though the shrimp were good, the sauce was somewhat lacking. The chilis and garlic didn’t have enough time to infuse in the oil, so the oil was relatively flavorless. It was a little pricey for 6 shrimp as well. The calamari on the other hand was great. It was served piping hot and had the perfect amount of breading. Sometimes you get too much cakey breading and its slipping off the calamari rings. Here it was crunchy but not greasy and you could tell it had just left the fryer. The calamari comes with cocktail sauce and aioli.

Gambas Al Aljillo

Gambas Al Aljillo

Calamari

Calamari

Overall, we thought the food could’ve been a tad cheaper but its hard to be upset when you’re dining in such a pleasant environment. Their menu also had some really great sounding dishes like their crostini with white bean puree and roasted peppers, the brick chicken and especially the gnocchi with cream, mushrooms, and chicken.

CHECK:
Calamari $10.50
Gambas al Aljillo $15.50
TOTAL: $38.88 (w/tax)

Their drinks sound good, their burger won best burger in SD at one point, and they have a $5 dollar happy hour plates special. Jayne’s: We will be back.

Another view of Jayne's patio

Another view of Jayne’s patio

Jayne’s Gastropub
4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
http://jaynesgastropub.com

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant – sandiego.com

We were so excited to try Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant after hearing rave reviews from friends. The restaurant is one of Carl Schroeder’s projects, who was recently nominated for a James Beard Award and is the chef of Market Del Mar. Market does amazing very seasonal and local food and Bankers Hill Restaurant is supposed to be a casual, bistro interpretation of the same kind of fresh food.

The restaurant itself has that industrial/modern look: black walls, reclaimed wood, exposed piping and interesting chandeliers made out of recycled bottles. They also have a nice patio with a wall of succulents. They are fans of a very dimly lit interior, a little too dark in my opinion. We came here on a Sunday around 7 pm and were slightly concerned the restaurant looked so empty considering it was peak dining time.

Son of a Gun and Sidecar.

Son of a Gun and Sidecar.

DRINKS: The restaurant has a great cocktail and craft beer menu. The specialty cocktails are rotated and they are interesting without being too ambitious and have some simple and smart combinations. We tried the Son of a Gun and the Sidecar and we were big fans of both. Their beer selection is quite extensive and they have something for everyone. Including the Bruery‘s Tart of Darkness which I would have ordered were it not for its hefty price tag of $42.

Fries with truffle aioli

Fries with truffle aioli

foto-8

Yuzu-Apple Butter and Boucheron Goat Cheese Crostini

APPETIZERS: We started with the Truffle Fries w/ Aioli and Yuzu-Apple Butter and Boucheron Crostini. The fries are fantastic. They were thin-cut, crispy on the outside and doused in parmesan and parsley with yummy aioli for dipping. The portion is HUGE and would probably be sufficient for 5 people, which I suppose justifies its $10 price tag. The crostini also came with watercress and pistachios, and despite how promising it sounded it was underwhelming. The yuzu was undetectable and there was not enough apple butter or sweetness to play well with the Boucheron. Definitely a dish that sounded great on paper and failed in execution. As a third appetizer/main dish we got the Tuna Tartare with Lemon Aioli. This was a bit of a generic, forgettable tuna tartare. Dressed nicely and with chunks of cucumber and too-thin sesame crackers, but not much else. The lemon aioli was too thick and not very lemon-y, and the red pepper jelly that came with it did not mesh well.

ENTREE: As an entree we got the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts its hard to screw things up when they are wrapped in bacon. This was tasty but nothing was really great. Good mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and meatloaf but this could have been really good with a standout sauce or more creative sides.

DESSERT: After an ok meal we decided not to bother with dessert. We were also stuffed from trying to eat that basket-sized portion of truffle fries. Ordered an espresso and it was $3.95 for a huge espresso. I was hoping there would be a cookie with it. No cookie 😦

Overall, it seemed like nothing in the menu really stood out. Sometimes you go to a restaurant and something instantly catches your eye because it sounds that GOOD. Here we had a hard time deciding and it seems we might not have made the best choices. Most of their menu (with the exception of the fries, beets salad and burger) is seasonal and constantly changes. Perhaps it would be wisest to stick to their signature items that do not change. I was also minorly upset that we did not get a bread basket when after looking at some other reviews bread is normally offered.

CHECK:
Son of a Gun $10
Sidecar $12
Truffle Fries $9.95
Boucheron Crostini $11.75
Tuna Tartare $12.50
Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf $17.50
Espresso $3.95
TOTAL: $83.86 (w/tax)

Definitely a little overpriced, we could have gotten a comparable (and tastier) meal at Brooklyn Girl for 2/3 of the price. We will probably return for happy hour but overall it was a “just OK” experience.

Although I do think that we could have ordered better options I noticed other people had similar experiences so maybe they just haven’t hit their stride yet:

Two Foodies One Journey – Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

Alice Q. Foodie – Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant
2202 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
http://www.bankershillsd.com