San Diego's top sushi spots for omakase dining

On Tuesday, John “Chef Kappa” Hong opened Hidden Fish, San Diego County’s first all-omakase sushi bar. The Kearny Mesa restaurant will offer two options, a 30-minute 12-course meal priced at $50 or a 90-minute 18-course meal for $90. All selections beyond that will be made by the chef.

Hidden Fish is the next generation of sushi dining. It doubles down on the concept of omakase where diners leave it up to the chef to decide what dishes he or she will send out of the kitchen. You can read more about Hidden Fish in our profile of the restaurant.

Here are a handful of San Diego sushi bars with popular omakase services:

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, Oceanside

When sushi chef Davin Waite and his wife, Jessica, opened this amusingly named restaurant five years ago, omakase service was only served off-menu to people in the know.

But as Waite’s reputation as an ultra-creative, nose-to-tailfin sushi master grew, omakase became customers’ most popular choice. Diners come from as far as L.A. to dine at “the Rodent,” which Waite named after the whimsically named pubs in his parents' native England.

“Omakase is something we are known for,” he said. “It’s a great way for adventurous diners to experience a wide range of our team’s creative offerings. There really isn’t a set menu it’s more off the cuff, and food is served until the guests surrender,” Waite said.

Some recent dishes offered on the omakase menu include seared Baja amberjack with red wine miso reduced over smoldering plum wood and pickled kale; seared opah cheek with whiskey strawberries and black garlic purée; fish rib karaage; swordfish bone marrow and hirmasa sashimi with tangerine salsa and sweet lemon koji.

Diners at Waite’s sushi bar get a guided experience, while diners at tables get a la carte dishes that can be shared family-style.

“Our omakase is the best way for our guests to taste the products and preparations that our chefs are most excited about at the moment, as well as some of the classic servings that we are known for,” he said.

Pricing is based on the amount of courses the diner can consume, but the average range is $45 to $70. There’s also a plant-based omakase service. The Waites recommend reservations and to plan a two-hour visit.

1815 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside. (760) 271-0531. seabasstropub.com

Sushi Ota, Pacific Beach

One of San Diego’s most beloved sushi restaurants is Sushi Ota on Mission Bay, where many diners pick some form of the chef’s choice menu.

Born in Kumamato, Japan, Chef Yukita Ota worked in sushi restaurants in Kobe, Tokyo and Osaka before visiting San Diego in 1982. During a fateful meal here, he order local uni and found it to be the best sea urchin in the world, so he moved here and opened his restaurant in 1990.

Because of Ota’s reputation, which draws diners from all over the country, his omakase service is a popular choice. The deluxe omakase service costs $120 and lasts about 90 minutes. Diners receive an extended chef’s choice of nigiri, sushi, uni, octopus, Wagyu beef and other cooked dishes.

There’s also the popular Chef Choice Combo C, where the chef sends out his choice of 12 courses of nigiri, plus miso soup and ice cream, for $50.

4529 Mission Bay Drive, San Diego. (858) 270-5670. sushiota.com

Sushi Tadokoro, Old Town

Last year, this 28-seat strip mall venue in a quiet section of Old Town was named to Timeout.com’s list of the 22 best sushi restaurants in America.

Run by owner/chef Take Tadokoro, the restaurant specializes in Edo-mae-style, sushi, which is another name for Tokyo Bay and the classic sushi style that originated in that area. Edo-mae sushi dates back to pre-refrigeration traditions, when raw fish needed preserving so salty and cured seafood is part of that cuisine.

Specialties include Japanese sardines, barracuda, engawa, clams, blood cockles and zenzai soup.

The omakase service is $85 for 9 to 11 dishes plus ice cream.

2244 San Diego Ave., Old Town. (619) 297-0298. sushitadokoro.com

Nobu, Downtown

The global Japanese fine-dining restaurant chain founded by chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa offers an eight-course omakase at its San Diego location. The first three dishes come from the sushi bar, the next three from the hot kitchen, followed by a soup or noodle course and then finished with dessert. The Classic Omakase service, priced at $150, is mostly signature dishes like yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, miso-marinated black cod, rock shrimp tempura, broiled lobster in wasabi pepper sauce and Japanese Wagyu beef in anticucho sauce. A higher-end omakase service priced at $150 is designed for more adventurous or repeat diners, featuring more exotic dishes.

“Omakase means from the heart so we frequently create an omakase to the requests of the individual diner on the spot. Our head chef finds the latter to be the most fun, challenging and rewarding to make,” Nobu’s marketing department wrote, in an email to the U-T.

207 Fifth Ave., downtown. (619) 814-4124. noburestaurants.com/sandiego/

pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com

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