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Naegi Izakaya pops up in Oceanside

A chicken karaage sandwich from Naegi Izakaya in Oceanside.
(William Eick)

On May 1, chef William Eick opened his chicken karaage takeaway pop-up Naegi Izakaya at 626 S. Tremont St. in Oceanside.

Naegi is operating out of a front window of the future home of Matsu Restaurant, a 40-seat fine-dining Japanese inspired restaurant and bar that Eick plans to open around August, depending on when his liquor license gets approved. Eick had previously operated Matsu as a weekly pop-up at Mission Ave. Bar & Grill in Oceanside, which he left earlier this year to focus entirely on his Japanese-inspired food projects.

“I’m launching the concepts of my dreams from the ground up, with the support of my community,” said Eick, who formerly owned 608 Restaurant, also in Oceanside. “Matsu, in particular, is the culmination of years of time devoted exclusively to experimentation, foraging and getting to know food on a more intimate level.”

Matsu is the Japanese word for “pine” tree. Naegi means “sapling.” Eick said once Matsu is ready to open, he will find a new home for Naegi somewhere nearby. The Matsu kitchen will continue to serve as the cookery for Naegi as well as Eicks’ third project, the Hokkaido Bread Co., which makes and sells Japanese milk bread buns wholesale to area restaurants and, soon, retail stores.

Karaage is a Japanese-style fried chicken. Eick’s own karaage recipe involves marinating Mary’s organic chicken in shio koji (fermented rice), light soy suace, sesame oil, mirin wine and spices. The chicken is pressed into patty form, tossed in potato starch, fried and served on a Hokkaido bun with cabbage, kewpie mayo and togarashi seasoning and house teriyaki sauce.

The menu at Naegi is small with most everything priced under $10 including karaage sandwiches, chicken wings, Japanese-style egg salad sandwiches, side salads and onigiri (rice balls). There’s also a whole karaage chicken option for $29. Since opening Saturday, Eick said sales have been strong, with sellouts most days.

Hours at Naegi are noon to 8 p.m. daily. Online ordering will be added in a few weeks. Visit eatatnaegi.com.

Kragen writes about restaurants for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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