Back in November, we clued you in to our city's hottest foodie buzz: sbe Restaurant Group is bringing the popular Katsuya brand to the former Quarter Kitchen restaurant space within the Andaz Hotel.
The new Katsuya San Diego is now open for dinner service, and we got a sneak preview during the VIP press preview night on Saturday, March 3. The exclusive evening was hosted by Charger Shaun Phillips, the Pro Bowler turned celeb-restaurateur partner of Katsuya San Diego.
In between courses, I sat down with Phillips for the scoop on how he is expanding beyond the NFL to put his degree in hotel restaurant management to good use. In this DSD exclusive, Phillips dishes on his favorite menu items, shares his secret obsession with lychee martinis, but only served over ice, and reflects back on dining solo at the Nobu sushi bar. I think it's safe to say, Phillips will never have to eat sushi alone again.
Q: How did you get connected with the sbe Restaurant Group?
A: I've been a big fan of the sbe brand and Katsuya brand for quite some time. A good friend of mine, Frankie Delgado, came to me and was like, hey -- sbe is coming to San Diego, they're bringing Katsuya to San Diego, and they want someone who is involved in the city, that has a good name -- would you want to be involved? And for me, I said -- it's a no brainer. It's Katsuya, I love Katsuya. Let's do it, and the rest is history.
Q: What Katsuya locations would you visit, before the San Diego expansion?
A: I've actually been to both of the Katsuya locations in L.A., and I've been to the one in Orange County. But I used to eat at the one in Hollywood the most because I always stay in Hollywood.
Q: Oh wow, so you really are a true fan!
A: Ya, I've been to all of them. My girl I used to date lived in L.A., and we would meet at the one in Orange County.
Q: So there is the real story...
A: Haha, ya. But when I lived in L.A., I'd always eat at the one in Hollywood. I'm in L.A. like two to three times a week and I usually stay at SLS [Beverly Hills]. Most of the head people at sbe are my personal friends. But I've never thought of it in a business way because I look at them like my friends. But this came to me, and I was like, it's a no brainer.
I knew it would do great in San Diego. One -- location. Two -- it's a great brand, and a great product, and great food. I got my degree in hotel restaurant management, so I have somewhat of an eye for it. I'm not a professional, but I know good food.
Q: What are your favorite items on the menu?
A: Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, and the ahi with the crispy onions on it. They have a baked scallop roll that I like as well. Honestly I know the menu like the back of my hand. Everything here is just so good, and it's light, it's not too heavy. And we can't forget about the drinks.
Q: Absolutely not! What are your favorite cocktails?
A: I don't like to admit this, but the lychee martinis are my favorite. But I don't get martini glasses. I just feel like -- a guy with a martini glass? I get it over ice in a regular cup.
Q: Is there a secret code word we can say to have our cocktails served over ice, Phillips-style?
A: Maybe we'll work on that, that's a good idea. Let me get the Shaun Phillips martini! That one right there is good too -- [pointing to one of many tasters on our table] the White Grapefruit Cosmopolitan. But again, I still get it in a regular cup. I'm too big to be walking around with a martini glass.
Q: What about the nightclubs? Are you going to be involved with entertainment at the Andaz Hotel?
A: Actually, I never believed in investing in restaurants or nightclubs, but now they're flourishing so much, that if the right opportunity came along and I could be involved in the right way, then I'd take advantage of it. But more than likely, no -- I've said no to 99 restaurants and clubs and everything so far.
Q: How often will you be at Katsuya San Diego?
A: Three times a week -- whenever I feel like dropping in. I used to go to Nobu all the time by myself.
Q: You were never by yourself, come on...
A: I swear! I'd go to Nobu and sit at the sushi bar by myself. Because when you want to eat, it's a big deal to call somebody and then they've got to get ready. I'd be driving downtown and want sushi, so I'd just go to Nobu and sit at the bar.
Q: So will you ever go back to the sushi bar at Nobu?
A: I can't, I can't cheat -- but I wish them the best, Nobu is a great restaurant. So I can't say, oh Katsuya is better than Nobu. But I've got to go where home is, that's where I want to spend my time, and that's what you should do. I'll go to Nobu outside the city [San Diego], I just won't go to it here.
View more photos from the Katsuya VIP press preview hosted by Shaun Phillips in our gallery