The beautiful and contemporary Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar is a new experience among North Park's eclectic dining scene.
Located on University Ave., Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar specializes in craft sake from Japanese breweries. It also serves up a unique take on Japanese fare that pairs well with sake and uses locally, wild-caught fish to give its sushi a truly local flavor.
According to Saiko's co-owner and chef Anthony Pascale, sake is actually closer to beer than wine. Pascale noted that Japan is currently excelling in craft beverages. However, the sake that is generally popular in the United States represents only a portion of the entire market. As a result, Pascale noted that there is an entire world of sake unfamiliar to many Americans. That incredible opportunity inspires Saiko to entice locals to give sake a try.
"If you like craft beer, come try sake," suggested Pascale.
Pascale and Saiko's co-owner Evan Bennett, who also serves as general manager, are both Certified Sake Professionals. The duo use their specialized knowledge to educate patrons about premium sakes. Guests can sample and learn more about this Japanese spirit through the establishment's Sea, Air and Land flights - a theme brought over from the Coronado restaurant in homage to Naval Base Coronado and the Navy SEALs. The different flights allow Saiko to categorize sake based on flavor profiles. From there, staff can recommend flights based on a customer's beverage preference.
"Our flights are very popular. People have been really receptive to learning about sake," said Pascale.
On Wednesdays, the North Park locale offers Flight Night, discounting flights to allow patrons to experience a variety of sake.
In addition to Saiko's devotion to sake, the restaurant's approach to fish also helps set this bar and eatery apart.
"It's all about the sushi and fish," noted Pascale.
Rather than relying on fish from a prominent fish market in Japan, Pascale visits San Diego's fish market daily to hand-select ingredients for Saiko's sushi. Serving local, seasonal fish is what makes Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar unique.
"San Diego has awesome fresh fish, and a lot of it is fantastic for sushi," said Pascale.
The restaurant also relies on other local ingredients sourced from weekly farmers markets in the area. The fresh ingredients lets Saiko's staff - all dedicated foodies - help create an eclectic menu based on Japanese fare and including great vegetarian options.
"We have a small menu, but many specials," noted Pascale. "You can come in to dine multiple times and never be bored."
Menu options range from the vegetarian grilled eggplant and cucumber topped with a walnut miso to seared scallops with koji butter to wild boar tonkatsu with kimchi barbecue sauce and miso mustard.
Pairing food with sake just comes naturally given the menu offerings and the bent for beverage education.
"We make it easy for guests to choose a sake that will go with the type of food that they like, or we can also pair food to a guest's favorite sake," said Pascale.
To learn more, visit Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar online at saikosushisd.com.