Little Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill (All You Can Eat) - San Diego, CA
The Mira Mesa food scene has been blossoming right before our eyes with new restaurants like Little Sakana, an "All You Can Eat" sushi spot in the Mira Mesa Mall. It's across the walkway from the popular Crab Hut Mira Mesa and a few doors down from San Diego Snowy Village.
We were quite eager to visit and arrived promptly one Sunday at 11am, a week after their soft opening. The restaurant was spacious, clean and immediately more satisfying than the revolving retailers before it, which were mostly clothing stores and a temporary Halloween superstore. Food over retail for us always. We came with a giant appetite. The hostess sat us down at a table and provided us the menu options: All You Can Eat or A La Carte.
All You Can Eat Sushi
If you dine mid-day, you can choose between the lunch ($23.99) or dinner AYCE menu ($28.99). A few items are only available on the dinner menu and have a indicator next to them. After 3pm, it is only the AYCE dinner price, no matter which items you order. There's a policy enforced where you'll be charged the full price of the item if you do not finish at least half of it. With our group of two, we did the best we could to avoid wasting food and incurring extra charges.
Nigiri and Appetizers:
Carpaccio (AYCE dinner only)
The dinner-only items had a limit of one item per person but the carpaccio was its own special case. There were 4-5 fish to chose from but only one ORDER of carpaccio per person. The AYCE option had three slices, compared to the five slices you'd get a la carte. The albacore and yellowtail were served in semi-sweet soy marinade that was light yet tasty.
Salmon Belly, Yellowtail Belly, Uni (AYCE dinner only) - nigiri and Ex-Girlfriend / Ex-Boyfriend - protein style rolls
Oyster (AYCE dinner only) - nigiri
We also sampled their nigiri, namely the dinner-only ones: salmon belly, yellowtail belly, uni and oyster. The fish tasted normal, at least from my experience, while the uni was creamy and rich. The oyster had a few faults, including two pieces of shell that mixed in and the overpowering green onion that hid the delicate brininess. Surprisingly, Dennis's favorite nigiri was one of the regular nigiri items, the Umami Oil Salmon. I think their secret was to brush it lightly with sesame oil, which is a taste hubby loves. They also plated two protein style bites on the nigiri plate, The Ex-Girlfriend and Ex-Boyfriend, which were deliciously delicate with a spicy krab base but different fish on top.
Agadashi Tofu - deep fried tofu, bonita flakes, green onions, tempura sauce
Yellowtail Kama (AYCE dinner only) - deep fried hamachi kama, bonito flakes, citrus ponzu
We were delighted with the agadashi tofu here, a non-dinner item, soaking in an irresistible, slightly sweet broth that really complemented the tofu. The tofu outside was similar to a softer fried tempura. Less impressive was the yellowtail kama dinner item, crispy on the outside but not as fatty and flavorful as we had hoped. The portion was smaller which worked well in an all you can eat environment.
Hurricane Roll - IN: shrimp tempura, krab, avocado, cucumber; TOP: seared salmon, crunch (Sakana sauce, eel sauce)
Sunset Roll - IN: salmon, tuna, krab, avocado, cucumber; TOP: masago, green onions, soy paper (Sakana sauce)
Lemon Roll - IN: krab, avocado, cucumber; TOP: salmon, yellowtail, lemon slices (citrus ponzu)
We're most interested in eating rolls at sushi spots. The protein style Sunset Roll was so soft that it melted in your mouth, especially with the soy paper wrapping. You can't go wrong with the Hurricane Roll, which has a combo of crunch with the right amount of mayo sauce to balance the tempura. The Lemon Roll was simple, krab-stuffed and had generous cuts of fish with a citrus zest.
Louisiana Baked Roll - IN: krab, avocado; TOP: spicy crawfish, crunch (eel sauce)
Samurai Baked Roll - IN: eel, krab, avocado; TOP: baked salmon (eel sauce)
Baked Scallop Roll - IN: krab, avocado; TOP: baked scallop (eel sauce)
With the crawfish peeled and ready, the Louisiana Baked Roll was our favorite cooked item, presented in a cute four piece roll. On the second round, I ordered two more baked items, thinking they were small like the first but these four and eight piece rolls felt heavier and sweeter, perhaps too much eel sauce? Maybe we had finally hit our limit and couldn't handle more! The meal was finished with only one or two pieces left of the baked rolls. I think we stuffed ourselves silly!
After experiencing the full AYCE experience, personally, we'd prefer lunch over dinner due to the limitations. But if you really desire the dinner-only items, then it's probably worth the $5 upgrade. We'd also recommend going in a larger party so you can try more!
Drinks and A La Carte Menu
A few days prior, we had popped our heads in to peek at the restaurant and bartender Wayde gave us the rundown of the place. He even sampled the frozen drinks to us, which were quite refreshing. We returned the same evening as the AYCE lunch to meet up with friends.
Twisted Thai Tea Punch Bowl - Han Fire, Thai Tea, Local Edible Flower
Coolcumber Cooler Punch Bowl - Han Vodka, Cucumber Juice, Cucumber, Lychee, Lychee Bursts, Mint Leaf
There isn't a full liquor license so the bar had soju based drinks, even though it says Han Fire/Vodka. The Thai tea cocktail was strongly flavored which may have hidden the taste of the Han soju. With tons of ice, the drink was gone in the blink of an eye between four people! Dennis and I ordered the Coolcumber Cooler next, which tasted like a chilled lychee. The best part was the bursting bubbles at the bottom, sucked up easily with the huge, colorful straws! It was meant to be shared but by that time, friends had ordered their own drinks so we finished most of this party bowl ourselves! The price difference is $8 for a single or $21 for the giant size, which is approximately 3 times the size (see hubby's fist for scale). You must have at least three people to order the big size though!
Chicken Katsu - chicken, bread crumb, deep fried, grilled vegetables
Side Salad and Miso Soup
Since we hadn't eaten dinner, Dennis and I split a chicken katsu entree. The chicken crust was crispy and served with a tangy katsu sauce but the meat was cut thin and retained less moisture. The veggies were wonderfully grilled and bountiful. This was a filling dish between the soup, appetizer, meat, veggies and rice. We were happily filled up with liquids AND solids!
Between the two visits, we felt welcomed and cared for by the staff. There were both hits and misses with food but our visit was only one week after they opened their doors. The grand opening of Little Sakana should be later this month and there's already flyers with some February drink and food promotions. We'll be back for sure and hope others have a chance to check it out as well!
Little Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
8270-E Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego CA 92126
WOW! this looks really great! Thank you, for sharing the next time I am in town I will be there!
We enjoy finding new restaurants! Happy eats to you this year!
Great looking chicken katsu!
not our favorite by any means but possibly improved after being open over a month ago.
Your photographs are beautiful! It certainly makes me want to go eat at those restaurants (except for a bit of a distance issue :) )
hehe, it's great to support your local businesses though! these are totally in my hood! ;)
These dishes look absolutely delicious and I can't think of a better restaurant to go to right now during Lenten season! :)
yea! go where you can during the season! :)
I am going to have lunch here this week and am so excited. So we can order the dinner AYCE during mid week lunch? Did you say you prefer the LUNCH AYCE though? Co workers don't really like raw items so not sure if the AYCE dinner is worth it for the entire party. You took helpful photos.
Beautiful looking drinks !
the menu has a marker for the "dinner only" items so if your coworkers don't care for those particular items, i would just go for lunch menu and save a few bucks. i like plenty of items that are on the regular menu and it does seem like most of the extra dinner items are on the raw side anyway. i hope i can come by again for some of their lunch specials. been too busy with work lately.
In the end, neither my suspicion of good, cheap sushi, nor my love of a good all-you-can-eat restaurant had to give way. While Little Sakana sadly didn’t qualify as “good, cheap sushi,” neither did it qualify as a “good” all-you-can-eat option. It was, ultimately, no more or less than an endless supply of less-than-spectacular food.
It's tough to meet that criteria between price and spectacular! Hope you find your unicorn sushi spot! We're planning to go back soon with a larger group find more favorite rolls :)
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