There was a time in San Diego when calamari and beet salad were on the cutting edge. Nowadays, local chefs are plating exotic delicacies that may give even open-minded diners pause.
Chief among these culinary creatives is Davin Waite, owner/chef at Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub. Since opening his unconventional sushi/izakaya pub in Oceanside in 2013, Waite has earned a reputation among diners and fellow cooks as being the most adventurous chef in town.
Waite, 38, doesn't whip up dishes like fish sperm chowder, swordfish bone marrow and Kentucky-fried fish heads for shock value. Instead, he and his vegan wife, Jessica, are devotees of the "zero waste" philosophy. American diners could learn a lot from Asian and European cultures that use every part of their proteins, and Waite's more than happy to be their teacher.
Fortunately, he's found plenty of willing students at the restaurant he affectionately calls "The Rodent." More than a third of his customers dine "omakase"-style, meaning they'll eat whatever the chef sends out.
"Oceanside diners are very open-minded, which makes it more fun for me," Waite says, adding that, once he earns their trust with simple sushi rolls (which he calls the "gateway drug"), his patrons push the limits further on subsequent visits to the restaurant.
During a recent lunch, Waite served filet of sea breem (fish) wrapped in its edible, crispy-fried skeleton; yellowtail fish ribs karaage (finger-licking good); seared ono topped with creamy bonita sperm (tastes like cheese); opa belly bacon (smoky and delicious); and opa pectoral fin muscle (rubbed with dried chiles, it has the texture and flavor of pulled pork).
About five percent of Rodent customers are the "Fear Factor" types who want to impress their buddies by gulping down fish eyeballs and shrimp so fresh it skitters off the plate. But most diners arrive because they've come to trust their culinary captain, who's always ready to take them on an adventure cruise.
1815 S. Coast Hwy., Oceanside 760.271.0531, seabasstropub.com