Solid. This is a very good business to bring to Goleta. I’m really glad it’s opened.
It’s not fancy or fine dining. It’s in a strip mall, so is subject to the usual plastic aesthetic, although they’ve added some fishnets here and there and buoys to give the impression of an old salty diner. It’s a valiant attempt, but it is still a strip mall.
The food is super fresh, that’s the important thing. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked beautiful, piled up on plates. Light, crisp looking batters on the fried dishes, baking sheets with crusty loaves of bread waiting to be broken apart and dipped into seafood hotpots, and nearly all the wall space near the counter scrawled with assorted specials of the day.
McMarko and I didn’t order any of the more traditional fish and chip items, we each had our own missions. I was on the seek for interesting fried chicken wings and sweet potato fries. My friend wanted to be healthy. We got:
* grilled fish with salad, rice, mango salsa.
The grilled fish was perfect. Nice char on the outside, beautifully fork-tender and flaky inside. The mango salsa was tangy sweet, a good complement, it cost in the $14-16 range.
As for my lunch, the wings are yummy! And unique to Santa Barbara’s chicken wing scene (as far as I know). Instead of the hot sour buffalo style, they’ve got a very light tempura batter with asian flavorings and dressed with some sesame seeds. It’s not spicy hot and it is sufficiently sauced, it doesn’t need any dipping sauce.
Nikka is also a fish market, providing sushi-grade fresh fish which you can pack up to go like a regular market, of they’ll grill your purchase to eat there for $5 extra (1 pound minimum purchase).
The music inside might be subject to the whims of its staff. I like my AC/DC, perhaps not so much over lunch with office-suit types.
Overall, I’m very happy with Nikka. If you’re used to paying $10 or less for a gut-buster lunch, you might find this expensive. But if you prefer quality over quantity, this satisfies. The Elder Jellies (my parents) dined here a few weeks after I did, groused that their meals cost a little over $25 (on par with my lunch experience), but did admit the food was very good and they were very happy with their fish.
Logistical note: Nikka Fish and Grill is tucked behind some pillars and well-shaded, it’s not easy to spot from the street. It’s also not to be confused with Nikka Market, which is across the street. Best landmark to use is Trader Joe’s because *everyone* knows where that is, and it’s almost directly across Calle Real from there.
Going to San Diego is always a treat. I have many friends here, from my University days, and good friends at that. And new friends.
July is always a must for a roadtrip to San Diego, because the SD Comic Con is this month. My brother and some of his friends have been on the staff for a number of years, and this is a perfect time to see them, and get a glance of all the latest and greatest film/sci-fi/cosplay that sends its fans into a frenzy.
But first, we must eat. And we must go to Sakura for izakaya. Valerie and Rob had been there earlier in the week, and I had been to izakaya earlier in the week too, but the plates are so small and the morsels so good that there is always room for more.
1. Crab cream croquettes – served well hot. So much, I burned my lips on the searing hot cream and dealt with the blister on my face all weekend. But worth it.
2. Grilled seabass – whatever sauce they use, like a sweet miso glaze, it transforms a delicious fish into a heavenly delicious fish. There is not enough of fish in this dish for three people. Next time – order a second one.
3. Spinach and uni. I love spinach, I love uni. We gobbled it all up.
4. Fried burdock root. Loved this. More please.
5. Eggplant gratin – it was cheesy and okay. But the other dishes were so much better that this was comparatively did not impress.
6. Seafood fried rice. Another acceptable but not wow-ing me dish. The seafood element was not terribly relevant. We had some of this leftover.
7. Cucumber and eel. Oh, this was a very good one. Valerie threatened that if we did not dig in and eat it fast enough, she would, so we dug in and finished it fast. I thoroughly liked that was eel was prepared differently than the sweet eel sauce way I often see in Japanese restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I like that way too, but appreciated a little more variety.
8. Grilled tomato and bacon. Another very good one. The token vegetarian at the table ate it too, it was that good. The smokiness of the bacon came from the grilling.
Finally, I had an order of Chirashi Don, $22. It’s a handsome portion that would have been a meal itself, but can be a part of a larger meal if you skimp on eating all the sushi rice as I did. It also came with some miso soup and vegetable spaghetti. Oh, what, was I supposed to share this dish? I’m sorry, I did not.
The bill was about $90 for three people, after tax, before tip. A great value for all the good things we got. Parking is tough. Seating is tough if you want to dine during prime time. Just fyi.
Sakura (Convoy area)
It starts out small enough, when one friend reaches out to suggest dinner and I commit to it. Then another friend emails about dinner at the same time, so I suggest combining into a group. And suddenly the group becomes five, all settling down comfortably in the restaurant on a Friday evening, with rainclouds looming outside.
This is a new experience for Perry, who usually dines here with her husband and they often order the same thing. You know what this means – someone’s going to have a new experience and it will *definitely* include shiitake nigiri! Boom!
Also a new item for Perry: the braised pork belly and vegetables. So glad this item migrated over from Kobachi. It’s ridiculously good.
There were two vegetarians in the group, both eat fish, but only one eats raw fish. Ahi had enough options that kept the most picky eater happy. She got the tempura shrimp roll, and a California roll (not pictured), among other things. Meanwhile, my side of the table had one omakase item that was sashimi with spicy yuzu sauce. Mmm.
Most of us had green tea to drink, but we were all curious about Ahi’s infused shochu cocktail blends, so we ordered the Hello Kitty, which has muddled fresh lychee. It was very good! Light and fruity without being overly sweet. The token male at the table seemed to enjoy the drink the most, so there you go.
For dessert, Ahi’s menu was quite simple: green tea ice cream, that is all. We ordered a couple, and our green tea ice cream came with strawberries, and all drizzled in honey.
I was meant to move on to another event after dinner. My friends were supposed to go downtown for a music show. We all enjoyed ourselves so much at Ahi, we simply lingered on, and on, until near closing time. Then walked out into the springtime rain to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Ahi customers can also park at the Motel next door, if parking at its own lot is tight.
I’m stubborn. When I hear my girlie girlfriends say Seagrass is the place for The Romantic Date or, *shudder*, the Valentine’s Day dinner I spin around and flee in the other direction.
Dude. So not the case. Ok, yes, look at the menu and gawk at the $15 appetizers and $30 mains.
It’s only offered on the non-prime time nights, Sunday – Thursday (and they are currently closed Mondays, but I think that’s changing in May).
Just $35 for three courses, based off their daily menu. So it’s not like everyone else is chowing the $30 waygu beef while you get yesterday’s coq au vin a la king. No, you get the waygu beef.
This includes a starter, a main dish, and a dessert. The portions, so I’m told, are a smidge smaller than the a la carte sizes, but honestly, it’s enough food. I was full. And it was delicious.
The first time I ate there:
My friend had the beet salad, sauteed local snapper, and raisin pudding.
Second visit was a big share fest with my dining companion.
* Kumumoto oyster shooter, ginger gelee, salmon roe, scallions, ale foam as one starter.
* Main – Sauteed wild seabass, sugar snap peas, leek soubise, pommes brunoise, tomato fondue, veal jus, basil oil. Can you tell I cut/paste this from their website? I really have no idea what soubise and brunoise are. My friend ordered this.
* Main – Slow braised Kurabuto PORK CHEEK, carrots two ways, pan fried polenta, braised shallots, tangerine foam, natural braising jus with thyme. There was also a juicy piece of pork belly, like an obelisk of bacon stacked on the polenta. This was an incredible dish, the pork belly was so tender. There was also a slow roasted half onion on one of the polenta disks that was sweet, tender, and still held its form. Loved it.
For dessert we both had the Valrhona bitter-sweet chocolate torte, in vanilla bean crust with candied orange zest and raspberries.
Both times the meal started with bread and butter, and a little amuse buche that was a spoonful of some kind of fish, and crisp slice of parsnip.
They source locally and very seasonally. They plate the food lovingly. The owners and chefs browse the tables to see how everyone is doing. It’s a family run business, but definitely not a “mom n’ pop” style place.
And yes, you can come here for a romantic date, or the mother-in-law meal. You know what I’m talking about.
I’m really enjoying the prix fixe options in this town, they keep getting better. Such a good deal. Add Seagrass near the top of the list.
All through December, Kobachi was giving away coupons as Christmas gifts. Between two people, we’d collected about $15 in vouchers, so on this time we were in the mood for sashimi and thought we’d combine these, along with another $30 and request sashimi omakase. Ken-san was in, and agreed.
First, though, some drinks and nibbles. We had Asahi on draft and some seaweed salad.
Good, as usual, but this was more what we were waiting for – a big platter of luscious fresh sashimi! Ooooooh.
Simple, wonderfully cut, and so so good. I’m not sure I can remember everything we got, but I’ll try. Starting in the upper left and going clockwise: two kinds of maguro, premium hamachi and standard hamachi, Santa Barbara uni, snapper…then two other fish I cannot remember, and finally salmon roe. Jebus, the premium yellowtail was so good. Everything was so good. And to think the people next to us got some boring California roll and pot stickers. Sorry guys!
Then we had an additional small sushi roll, I *think* it was a spiced yellowtail roll. I do know for sure that it was very good. Finally, a wee bit of dessert with ice cream and fresh fruit.
I love Kobachi!
Past posts. And there are a lot of them.
Kobachi Izakaya Dining
So soon after my last visit? Yes! I love dim sum.
This time it was with my family, as a new year’s weekend brunch. We got there just as yum cha service was starting, and the first thing I noticed was that its first devoted customers were all Chinese families. That’s a good thing.
BBQ pork buns, pan fried beef and scallion pies, shrimp dumplings.
Shanghai soup dumplings, shrimp and chive dumplings, and mystery dumplings!
We also had baked egg custard tarts, but I guess I forgot to take a photo.
This large yum cha session was very filling, with leftovers, and cost about $15/person before tax and tip.
It was Vanae’s Holiday Craftique, and it was completely pissing down with rain. A real bummer because there was a lot of buzz for this craft fair, but both shoppers and vendors bowed out due to the poor weather conditions. About a dozen still set up under EZ-ups, and I bought some items as gifts, still…it wasn’t as good as it could have been.
Afterwards, it was time for lunch. We wanted Mexican food, and considered heading down to Milpas, but we opted for the easy convenience of walking practically next door, and going to Palapa.
Their seafood dishes are good. Ted got a simple lunch plate of fish, rice and beans. As standard, there is a choice of red or green rice, and black beans or refried beans. He opted for green rice and refried beans (my favs, too). The fish came smothered with a warm tomato salsa, and a side of tortillas – choice of corn or white, and I recommend the corn, which are made fresh onsite. This cost about $10.
I had a chile verde burrito, around $8. Yeah, that’s a really boring photo of a large burrito. About half of it went home in a doggie bag and made another meal, because it’s so big.
I went to Arigato with two acquaintances. One’s Cynthia, a former Santa Barbara resident, and whenever she comes through town she must have two things: the fresh tortillas from a taqueria on Milpas, and the sushi from Arigato.
We went on a Monday evening (kudos for actually being open on a Monday when so many other restaurants are closed), and the place was busy. Still, there were three open seats at the bar, right in front of her favorite sushi chef, Andy. Serendipity? And as soon as she saw him, she knew she had to sit up there with him and request omakase. I personally couldn’t make this request at Arigato, because I rarely go there and have no established relationship of mutual trust and respect with the chefs, but I love the challenge and if someone else I’m dining with has the ability to initiate it, I’ll be a more than enthusiastic participant. Also, it wasn’t 100% in the hands of the chef; my friends did have a couple requests that influenced the dishes.
Due to the nature of omakase, it wasn’t possible to know exactly what I’d been served, as the dish isn’t necessarily on the menu. Like I said, it was up to the discretion of the chef. I have checked over the menu to find its closest match.
First was a carpaccio selection of thinly sliced sashimi with extra virgin olive oil and Arigato vinaigrette. We’re guessing the fish was maguro, halibut and hamachi.
Second was one of Cynthia’s favorites: sunny side up scallops, torched with spicy aioli, quail eggs and garlic vinaigrette.
Third was a special request from the other diner, who lives in San Francisco: uni nigiri, made with Santa Barbara uni.
Nirigi assortment – from left to right:
The last item I couldn’t find anything similar on the menu. We thought the fish looked like maguro and albacore tuna, with a scallop and flying fish roe stacked between thin crackers. It was served with balsamic reduction and basil oil.
Price? Less than we expected, I’ll guess it should have been about $50 a person. The meal and enjoyment of everyone there was worth it, that’s all I can say!
A fellow BRC denizen recommended this place as a good Reno pitstop, so we came here after 8 days of extreme desert camping, absolutely famished for some fresh raw food. Calling ahead, the person on the phone said it was totally okay for two grubby campers to come in.
Arriving just a few minutes after the beginning of lunch service, the place was already packed and we were among the last few to be seated before there was a queue by the door. We were promptly served a little salad.
Most of the patrons were the sturdy types who obviously appreciate the “all you can eat” menu. I took my cue from the friendly man sitting next to me at the bar and ordered most of what he was having.
I generally stuck with nigiri, which offered the most variety of seafood. Unfortunately, there was no ama ebi available, and the first round of saba was disappointing, which the chef was very upfront about as he said it was the last of a batch and promised more saba would be available soon. The vegetable tempura was also a bit spartan, it would have been a real bummer if this was an a la carte item, but hidden amongst the piles of ayce options, we weren’t put out.
The albacore, hamachi, flying fish roe, tai, unagi and later round of saba (with extra pieces on the side) were all A-Ok, on par with all other mid-range sushi places! I enjoyed the upside down shrimp, filled with spicy roe and scallops. In second place was the Mickey, and finally I had the tempura upside down shrimp, which was underwhelming due to mainly tasting like fried food rather than fresh raw seafood. But duh, that’s exactly how it’s described on the menu, so that’s my bad.
Top: unagi and flying fish roe nigiri, hamachi nigiri, and albacore nigiri.
This was my first time having a quail egg shooter, which was fine.
I only had one roll, the Moondog Long Roll. It was underwhelming and most of the other rolls seemed to be that way as well – mostly filling, mostly drenched in sweet sauce. We struggled to finish this one.
If you can really stuff a lot of food in your gob, the handrolls are extremely generous with your choice of filling. If your stomach real estate isn’t as ample, like mine, the handroll will provide a lot of the same item, which might be great if you only like one item. But I prefer variety, so I stayed well away.
The sushi is Americanized, very sweet, and very sauced. It’ll fill your gut quickly and I know that’s very popular. Sticking with the nigiri will provide the most variety (and supposedly the most skill of the chef) Sushi Pier has available in the ayce section, including a few items off the beaten track of salmon and maguro. Again, I understand that making the nigiri pieces themselves all fancy dolled up is very popular, but it does mean that the first bite will be rice rather than fish, as there’s no way the nigiri can be flipped over with all the accoutrements stacked up on top.
Props to all the folks working there. We were tucked into a terminal point of the bar, out of eye contact range with the chef. But he made a point to look over and check up on us, as did a number of the staff.
Last year Blue Nami had a late night happy hour with a small menu of half price rolls. I guess the recession is still in full swing because the cheap rolls menu is now available all day. We didn’t know that and rolled in around 10 pm, but we could have gone earlier.
This one’s going to be short and sweet: we ate a lot of rolls and I don’t remember what they were. We were very tired after a long drive.