Azuki–The Sushi, Not the Bean

We’ve eaten at just about every high-end sushi restaurant that exists in any town we are in, looking for the Holy Grail of sushi, and some standouts have really  been memorable.  In San Diego, I believe that  Azuki belongs in the same category as the best we’ve been to: for its freshness, creative presentation, and quality of preparation.

Located in Banker’s Hill near Balboa Park, Azuki is both a “sushi-ya” restaurant and watering hole.  We arrived at the door (beautiful glass with azuki beans inside the panels) just as the Happy Hour was ending but the friendly sushi chefs encouraged us to get a drink and an appetizer before they would officially close Happy Hour.  

So, we sat at the bar and immediately ordered beer and sake, with spicy albacore tataki (sprinkled with yuzu, shichimi pepper, jalapeno, lemon zest with Hawaiian sea salt (usually $14 we were charged the $6 happy hour price!).

Then we ordered a few hot dishes: the hamachi kama (grilled yellow tail head chock full of succulent morsels of cheek flesh) and three types of tofu  were delectable. Some of their creative, whimsical  interpretations of sushi or raw food were amazing:  loved the Kobe roll–spicy rock shrimp with avocado and seared wagyu beef layered on top.  Just to push the eater over the top, truffle aioli and parmigiano reggiano were garnishes laid on the seaweed.  Also enjoyed the Vertigo roll–snow crab, scallops, hamachi with shiso leaves, cucumber and avocado to add green color and veggie flavor.  The classic sushi was beautifully presented and perfect, sweet, tender, and impeccable color.

Azuki is committed to using local and organic produce whenever possible and due to overfishing concerns with bluefin tuna, serves only more sustainable aqua culture fish and seafood. The menu of hot, cold, small and large plates means Azuki has something to offer all appetites – and budgets -, even for non-sushi lovers. The wine, sake and beer lists are excellent, too, so it would be fun for drinks only…or maybe that dessert I skipped.  Live music later on weekends could make Azuki an entertainment destination in and of itself.  If you are in San Diego, this is a must! 


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