Restaurants & Bars 5

Matsuoka (encinitas) report

MV | Sep 3, 200503:15 PM

After reading some posts for the past few months about this place i decided to give it a go last night while in the area.

The place was virtually empty, which was I guess not surprising due ot the holiday weekend. The sushi chef and owner Haji(sp?) said that this past week was very slow. Decor wise it was low key and not unlike your typical local Japanese sushi bar.

I decided to go with the omakase and i tried to emphasize that i really like japanese tastes and i ate everything. Haji asked if I wanted sushi or sashimi and i definitely had to go with the sashimi. A few minutes later the plate arrived. The first thing that stands out is the carcass of the Aji that is skewered and centered on the plate. the selection of fish was fantastic. Besides the aji which was wonderful, there was some nice buttery toro which had a bit too much sinew for my liking, sardine with shallots which is possibly my fav fish on the planet and did not dissapoint, bonito with garlic, ginger and scallions which i was a real standout and some shredded marinated clam(not sure what kind)which i also really enjoyed.

I was definitely glowing from the sashimi, or maybe the good sake whose name escapes me that i was drinking when the next course came out. Hamachi wrapped in spinach, topped with enoki mushrooms, a fried piece of lotus root on a bed of chopped mushrooms which i think were shitake and a mushroom sauce. This was fantastic. The buttery richness of the hamachi worked really well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the spinach provided a nice velvety texture to the firmness of the fish. The fried lotus root also provided a good textural contrast against the fish and spinach. A definite winner.

Nigiri was next. I might have forgotten some but these are the ones i remember(it was good sake)maguro which was very fresh with none of that iron taste you sometimes find in it, pen shell scallop which i had never had before which was subtle and sweet like a scallop should be, uni presented not with nori but placed right on the sushi rice, this was very fresh and i think i liked it better without the chewy seaweed, Shika(sp?) which i believe to be a relative of the gizzard shad, this was marinated similar to saba and reminded me a bit of sardine so of course i loved it, mirugai-very fresh and a piece that was described to me as halibut side. This came with salt and i was instructed no soy and it was really good, firm with a nice richness to it offset by the salt. I think i had another couple of pieces too. The sushi was had a good rice to fish ratio with a nice ammount of wasabi. everything was very fresh.

I requested a natto roll which came out next and this was good too for all the natto fans out there.

After this I was presented with some pieces of marinated squid. This was good, another item i never had before. haji told me that the squid are thrown into the marinade live and allowed to die in there. Either way it was very tasty.

Next came out the fried Aji carcass and some ponzu for dipping. All i can say is yum. I love fried whole fish and this was sort of like a fish bone cracker fried perfectly.

For the final course i got a hand roll shaped like a tube(japanese name for the style escapes me) rather than a cone. Inside was Ankimo, preserved plum and shiso. All i can say is this may have been one of the best things i have ever eaten in my life. The way the ankimo worked with the pickled plum and shiso was like a symphony in my mouth. The two accompaniments played off the ankimo's uncutousness wonderfully. What a fantastic dessert.

Total for one was $60 for the omakase and another $12 for the sake. I walked out stuffed, it is so hard to stop eating raw fish IMHO

This is the type of place that is a rarety in todays dragon and rainbow roll world. if you really enjoy your fish i couldnt reccomend the place more. There are all sorts of fish you normally do not find in regular places. There was also a lengthy specials list that had a lot of dishes i would have loved to try, i missed out on the beef tongue app, hopefully it will be there when i go back. I normally go to Izakaya Sakura and this compares favorably. It looked like haji could use more business so i hope people get up there and give it a shot. It would be a shame for a place like this to close.

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