This Week’s Featured Restaurant – Café Japengo in La Jolla
Café Japengo never disappoints with its fresh sushi and sophisticated ambience. This La Jolla eatery boosts a modern interior with Asian accents and an award-winning menu of fusion cuisine.
Starting your meal is a hard choice between such delicacies as the ponzu spiced ahi stack and the char siu duck salad. Sushi specialties are in abundance on the menu. An especially tempting choice is the famous tootsie roll; a soft-shelled crab topped with shiitake mushrooms, avocado and finished with a sake marinade.
Best known for incredibly fresh sushi, Café Japengo also offers a large selection of house specialties such as the miso Chilean sea bass and sake-marinated prawns. If you’re not in the mood for seafood, try the Kobe flat-iron steak, kona spiced pork ribs or the roasted pineapple coconut chicken.
Dining at Café Japengo is an event for the taste buds and should not be rushed but should you find that you are in a hurry, an express lunch is offered weekdays in the form of a Bento Box. The tantalizing options include assorted sashimi, sushi rolls, BBQ salmon and sugar-spiced prawns.
Café Japengo not only serves up deliciously prepared sushi but will also educate you on the history of the cuisine. Roughly 1,300 years ago, sushi originated as a means of preserving fish by using salt. It wasn’t for another 700 years that the preparation of sushi evolved into the combination of raw fish and rice that we are familiar with today.
The wait staff and talented sushi chefs will also educate you on “sushi etiquette” or the proper way to eat these culinary delights. Both forks and chopsticks are readily available but sushi is known to be one of the first “finger foods” and as such it is never in bad form to dive in and use your fingers. Just remember that when eating sushi, make sure that the fish hits your taste buds first so that you can enjoy the full flavor.
Sushi condiments are readily available to further enhance the taste of the fish. There is the traditional soy sauce that adds its touch of salt and the spicy wasabe that can light your taste buds on fire. Just don’t use too much, you don’t want to overpower the delicate taste of the fish. The traditional sliced pickled ginger, known as ga, should be eaten to cleanse the palate between courses or varieties of fish. Green tea, sake or a crisp, cold Japanese beer will also make ideal companions to the many flavorful varieties of sushi.
As with everything at Café Japengo, even the sake comes in many, distinct flavor combinations. There are creamy and sweet varieties to choose from as well as dry, full-bodied or even spicy choices. The sho chiko bai or “crazy milk” sake is my personal favorite with its sweet flavors of coconut and honeydew.
Happy Hour is offered from 5-7pm weekdays and all night Sunday in the bar and patio areas of the restaurant. Select rolls and many appetizers, including the popular duck potstickers, are offered at discounted prices. Draft beers and large sakes are just $3.00 making happy hour an extremely affordable time to visit this otherwise pricier establishment.
Café Japengo is conveniently located in the La Jolla/UTC area and is part of the restaurant village of the Aventine, across from the Hyatt Regency. Open seven days a week. You’ll find them at 8960 University Center Lane, (858) 450-3355. Visit them online at: http://www.cafejapengo.com.