Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finally Japanese in SD: Wa Dining Okan

I haven't had any Japanese (except bad sushi) since I've moved to SD. This is strange because in NY I have Japanese at least once a week -- izakaya, sushi, ramen, yakitori, soba, you name it. So when Cindy and I finally met up for our monthly dinner, I decided I had to try Japanese once before I moved out of here.

After much deliberation, I settled on Wa Dining Okan in Kearny Mesa, because it received such strong reviews. Once there, we were overwhelmed by options. Cindy doesn't eat raw fish though, which cut out a lot. And we tended to be leaning more towards the veggie specials.

This is what we got:

Kabocha pumpkin, stewed. This was good. I love pumpkin, simmered in this way so that it's soft and sweet.

Bamboo shoots, simmered in broth. This was really really good. The shoots were tender and flavorful, with none of the scratchiness that shoots can sometimes have.

Having read so much about the gobo salad, I knew I had to try it. This was awesome. The veggies and dressing was bright and provided a good contrast to the fried stuff on top. I still have no idea what gobo is, by the way, but this was fun to eat.

Salmon and scallop carpaccio. Cindy let me get this even though she's not much for raw fish. The salmon was lightly seared though, so she had that. They both were very sweet and soft, melt in your mouth. The scallop was creamy and not overly fishy, while the salmon was very oily, but in that good sort of salmon oil way.

Agedashi tofu. Classic. Though it made me miss New York and all the times I've ordered this.

Clams in sake. This was the only miss of the evening. The clams felt slimy and were way too fishy. I love clams normally, but these felt like they were still moving or something. We had to send it back.

Grilled onigiri with soy sauce. I love onigiri, especially grilled, so this was a hit for me.

They called this something like yam cake with or something. I don't really know what it's really called, because at Ba Ren it's called taro cakes. It has the rubbery jelly consistency of konnyaku which I really like, but Cindy was freaked out by. I liked it, it was in this light spicy dashi type broth.

A classic goodie: chicken drumsticks. This was so good. The batter was light and flavorful, and so comforting.

Then dessert! I had a strawberry mousse parfait - the mousse was so nice and layered with oreo cookie bits! Not what I'd expect at a Japanese restaurant but really nice, like the kind of dessert your mom might make for you.

Cindy had the caramel pudding with black honey. It was very egg custardy, but smooth and good.

I really liked this place. It's comforting Japanese fare, and the kind of place that I feel like me and my friends in NY would visit often for a quick bite after work.

Wa Dining Okan
3860 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 279-0941


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