Izakaya Sakura in San Diego (Authentic Japanese Food)

Where do you go for authentic Japanese food? Izakaya Sakura in Convoy, San Diego! If you are looking for a sign outside for the restaurant, forget it, they don’t even have a sign on the awning. It’s a word of mouth place. It’s literally located in between the Military Recruiting Center and a Hookah Lounge (I think its called Mirage). It’s located in the parking lot of where the Original Pancake House is. WATCH OUT! Parking can be pretty terrible. They open for lunch at 11:30 A.M. If you are going for a quick lunch break, good luck. Timing is always important for going into this complex.

So what makes this place authentic? The servers are Japanese and the sushi chef is Japanese. It’s getting harder and harder to find Japanese sushi chefs. The food that comes out of here tastes just like something my Japanese Grandma or aunt would make. They have bento boxes, unagi (eel), sushi, real miso soup, tsukemono (pickled cabbage appetizer dish), curry rice etc….All the big hitter Japanese traditional dishes are here.

You’ll be greeted as you come in the door with an “irashaimase” which is another word for “welcome”.

Some tips that you will need to know before you go!

  1. If you are going solo, bring CASH. They need a minimum of $10.00 for a card. So if you are going with others, an ATM or Credit Card is not a problem.
  2. They DO NOT OFFER FREE REFILLS (Their iced green tea is not refillable, so drink sparingly)
  3. The place is not designed for ambience, it is designed to eat “good” Japanese food. There are a couple “tanuki” (raccoon dog) statues. Can’t remember if there is a maneki nekko (good luck fortune cat)
  4. Not 100% fast service (good food takes time) Not always consistent w/delivery of everyone’s dishes at the same time. Again, I don’t mind because I go there knowing this.
  5. Approved by my Japanese mom
  6. Go during lunch, because they have an extended menu. The lunch items DO NOT SHOW UP in the evening. The Evening is where the restaurant turns into a Japanese Pub (Izakaya) It’s all appetizer plates and sushi and the price goes WAY UP!
  7. Be ready for parking to be a possible problem
Source: taste.insominid.com
You can get great quality Japanese food at good prices. If you like to explore and try new things then go for their daily bento box. It will consist of some kind of protein, rice, side pickled dishes, possibly tempura. In the case of the bento below, you see things like an egg roll, umeboshi (pickled plum), a 1/2 of a boiled egg (yude tamago), a folded up egg that has a little seasoning of sugar (tamago yaki), Japanese meatloaf, konyaku (Japanese health food that has traces of potato), a croquette (a fried potato cake), some spaghetti noodles, etc…You can tell that it is very balanced and gives you a lot of different nutritional value.
I started going here several years ago because a Japanese teacher friend of mine showed me this place. When I ate this dish, I fell in love. Buta Shoga (Ginger Pork) has a special flavor that you don’t taste when eating a traditional pork chop. The pork that they use is sliced paper thin so it is super tender and juicy with ginger. If you do not like pungent tastes, and especially ginger, then try something different. All the fresh green scallions, bits of dancing ginger and savory pork make the flavors burst in your mouth. The salad accompanied to the side has a special yellow carrot/onion salad dressing that is super flavorful. The rice salad that has vinegar in it along with some spicy pepper is so delicious!
Their iced green tea is pretty popular here. I’m guessing that they use a top of the line green tea because there are no free refills. The tea pictured below is a very famous and top of the line green tea in Japan. My mom informed me about this one. Iyemon is what you ask for if you cannot read Japanese characters.
Coming into this restaurant, I know that it is a “mom and pop” shop so I am supporting a local. Also, I know that I will get a traditional Japanese balanced meal. I know that I can practice some Japanese. Also, I will see the majority of customers be Japanese which is a big statement in itself. I’ve been told that some of the Japanese baseball players come here for a bite to eat when in town. We’ve even brought some of our Japanese friends from Japan here when they need a taste of home. It’s definitely a a place that gives you a glimpse into the heart of Japanese cooking.
Here is their menu with prices. I have put a ♥ next to what you should try if you are still new to Japanese Food:
< Fish Combo> 
  • Broiled Salmon 9.00 ♥
  • Teriyaki Fish 8.50
  • Grilled Mackerel 8.00
  • Mackerel w/ Miso 8.00
  • Grilled Saury 8.00
  • Fried Fish w/ Mushroom Sauce 9.00
  • Cooked Yellowtail w/ Daikon Radish 8.50
  • Deep Fried Shrimp 9.00
  • Deep Fried Oyster  8.50

< Beef & Pork Combo>

  • Japanese Meatloaf w/ Ponzu Sauce 9.00 ♥
  • Japanese Meatloaf w/ Tomato Sauce(w/Egg) 9.00
  • Deep Fried Pork 9.00
  • Deep Fried Meatloaf 8.50
  • Ginger Pork 8.50 ♥
Chicken Combos
  • Karaage 8.50 ♥
  • Teriyaki Chicken 8.50
  • Chicken Saute w/ Garlic Sauce 8.50
  • Veg. Saute w/ Chicken Liver 8.50
  • Steamed Chicken w/ Onions & Jalapeno 8.50
  • Chicken Katsu 8.50 ♥
 < Donburi (Bowl) > 
  • Chicken Katsu Don (Chicken Cutlet Egg Bowl)  ♥ 9.00
  • Katsu Don (Pork Cutlet Egg Bowl) 9.00 ♥
  • Sukiyaki Don w/ Egg 9.00
  • Tempura Don (Shrimp, Vegetables & Egg) 9.50
  • BBQ Eel Don 9.50 ♥
  Omelet & Rice Combo
  • Omelet & Chicken Ketchup Rice 9.00
  • Omelet & Rice w/ Hashed Beef Sauce 9.00
  • Omelet & Rice w/ Curry Sauce 10.00
  • Hot/Cold Tempura Udon w/ a Rice Ball 8.50 ♥
  • Hot/Cold Tempura Soba w/ a Rice Ball 8.50 ♥
  • Nabeyaki Udon 9.00
  • Curry Udon 8.50
  • Chanpon 10.00
  • Sara Udon 10.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Sea Urchin 12.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Salmon & Scallop 13.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Clam & Mussel 13.00
  • Yakisoba 7.00 ♥
  • Cold Chinese Noodle (only summer) 8.50 ♥
  • Sakuramen 8.50
 Ground Beef Curry Combo
  • Curry & Rice 8.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Eggplant 9.00
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Chicken 9.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Pork 9.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Shrimp 10.00
  • Mix Tempura 9.00 ♥
  • Kimuchi Hot Pot 8.50
  • Veg Saute w/ Pork 8.50
  • Subula (Veg Saute & Pork Ball w/ Sweet Sour Sauce) 8.50
  • Tuna Don  12.50
  • Tuna, Natto & Green Onion Don 12.50
  • Spicy Tuna Don 12.50
  • Sea Urchin Don 18.00
  • Chirashi Don 20.00 ♥
  • Mix Sushi 20.00 ♥
  • California Roll 6.00
  • Spicy Tuna Roll 8.00
  • Shrimp Tempura Roll 10.00
  • Caterpillar Roll 10.00
  • Alaska Roll 12.00
  • Seared Albacore 8.00
  • Spicy Fish Salad 8.50Chirashi Bowl
  • Source: Alice Q. Foodie
 < Side Dishes> 
  • Karaage 3.50
  • Stuffed Cabbage 4.00
  • Gratine Croquette (2pc) 4.50 ♥
  • Grilled Mackerel 3.50
  • Cooked Mackerel w/ Miso 3.50
  • Fried Spanish Mackerel 3.50
  • Gyoza (5pc)  6.00 ♥
  • Potato Salad 3.50 ♥
  • Fried Tofu  3.50
  • Cold Tofu 2.50 ♥
  • Natto (Fermented Beans) 2.50
  • Mekabu(Seaweed) & Natto w/ Yam 6.00
  • Tonjiru (Pork& Veg. in Miso Soup) 6.00

Works Cited:

“Alice Q. Foodie: A Sunday on Convoy with Candice, Kirk and Friends – Nijiya, Izakaya Sakura and Sage French Cake.” Alice Q. Foodie. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2008/03/sunday-on-convoy-nijiya-izakaya-sakura.html&gt;.

Foodie, Alice Q. “My Chirashi Platter at Izakaya Sakura.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 02 Mar. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/42323675@N00/2306319079/&gt;.

Izakaya Sakura. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.google.com/imgres?q=izakaya+sakura&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1280&bih=639&tbm=isch&tbnid=Tt0rMkJ3c09V1M:&imgrefurl=http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2006/05/5_days_of_feast.html&docid=16-Do8sQ55J5jM&imgurl=http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/images/sakura01_1.jpg&w=350&h=262&ei=82qUT6qtH6vYiQKrke3WDw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=345&sig=114642171631475443088&page=1&tbnh=134&tbnw=193&start=0&ndsp=17&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:69&tx=103&ty=41&gt;.

“Iyemon Cha.” Suntory. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.suntory.com/iyemon_cha/index.html&gt;.

Iyemon Green Tea. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51b6-O%2B4Z7L._SL500_AA300_.jpg&gt;.

“Izakaya Sakura Menu – San Diego, CA 92184.” Izakaya Sakura Menu. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://izakayasakura.menutoeat.com/index.cfm&gt;.

Izakaya Sakura. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://s3-media2.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/vda9FnOAELUIeESN1crK3g/l.jpg&gt;.

Izakaya Sakura Parking Lot. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://media.photobucket.com/image/izakaya%20sakura%20parking/marleism/IMG_8780.jpg&gt;.


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