One recent cold, windy, dark-but-not-quite stormy Monday night, we found ourselves, tired and hungry, searching the streets of Chula Vista for something to eat.
Utage Japanese is in one of the many tiny, anonymous strip malls sprinkled throughout Chula Vista was beckoning to us with its brightly lit sign and number of cars parked in front. In contrast, the Panda Inn Chinese in the same mini-mall had about fifteen parking spaces all painted "Panda Inn Only" and all were empty.
Stepping inside, we were warmly welcomed by the hostess; she seated us and bustled away to get our drinks. Looking around the nicely decorated room, I noticed that many tables, including the tatami room, were occupied by professionally dressed aduts, mostly Asian, with not a child in sight. Whaa? On a Monday night in south central Chula Vista?
I puzzled over this as I watched a "salaryman" in the tatami room clutch his big bottle of sake to his chest, leaning back to the floor, giggling helplessly. Then I remembered that there are a number of large Asian corporations with offices in Chula Vista and maquilas in Tijuana.
Now to the food - Utage has a large menu. The hubby had a nebeyake udon and chicken katsu. The nabeyake was delicious, but he pronounced the katsu (wbite meat) as dry, but when I reheated the leftovers in a curry sauce the next day, he liked it much better.
I had spanish mackerel (aji) and hamachi sashimi, both were fultra resh and sweet. Then I plunged into the appetizers; bacon-wrapped asparagus, grilled squid and grilled shiitake mushrooms and soft shell crab. Hubby commented that the grilled squid was a bit chewy, but the next day, it reheated nicely and had a wonderful smoky taste that I hadn't noticed the night before that I assume came from charcoal grilling. The only disappointment was the soft shell crab, it was small, overcooked and not very meaty.
There are many other items on the extensive menu, including shabu shabu and many varieties of "dons". The table next to us ordered sukiyaki and it looked and smelled delicious.
Our dinner, with drinks, came to a little under $100 and we had leftovers enough for two days lunches.
Utage Japanese Restaurant
1200 Third Ave.
Chula Vista, CA 91911