Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trip to San DIego (Fall 2010)...Night at Oton and Okan

I had such an inspiring fantastic night in San Diego tonight.

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My new Japanese friends, who are both locals in San Diego, introduced me to their regular hangout spots for dinner. We first met at Robataya Oton in Kearny Mesa, which is an eastern community of San Diego. We went there because Oton serves authentic donabe dishes in Iga-yaki donabe!!! I was so excited to try their donabe dishes there.

I was so delightedly surprised when I entered the restaurant with the beautiful look and ambience of this place. It felt just like a nice izakaya in a district like Ebisu of Tokyo! There is a small counter seating over looking the kitchen, and the rest are all the semi-private dining rooms with hori-gotatsu (the low table over the whole on the floor). The interior design has both modern and classic decorations, it's so stylish and cozy at the same time.

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The menu is very extensive and includes many seasonal specials. I wanted to eat everything. The sake list is also extensive with some are very rare artisanal items. I started with Japanese COEDO Beer (black) from Kawagoe, Saitama. We also had Kikuizumi, Ginjo, from Aomori, which is a rare sake to find in the US.

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Wow...everything was so authentic and so delicious! I never expected I could taste the real quality Hiryuzu (that's how they call Ganmodoki in Kansai region...stuffed deep-fried tofu in light broth) in San Diego. So precious. Every dish was prepared with the real professional "work" with care, and they were all served in beautiful dishware.

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It was time for the donabe dish! We chose Kaki no Dotenabe (Hiroshima-style deep miso hot pot with oysters, tofu, and vegetables). It was prepared in Nagatani-en's donabe at the table. The dish was so beautiful by both visual and taste. For "shime", we chose ramen noodles. My stomach was so happy. We even had the sesame flan. So yummy.

I had a top-notch izakaya experience tonight. I was so impressed by everything. The service was very nice, too.

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After the dinner, we went down to Okan, which is a sister restaurant of Oton and located nearby. We only had drinks there (we were already beyond full), but my friends told me Okan's food is as great as Oton's, and they serve upgraded homey Japanese dishes. Their space was also beautiful and felt just like in Japan. I want both Oton and Okan in LA...seriously!!

I had a real blast with wonderful food and the wonderful people. Thank you, Hiroko-san and Tomomi-san!!