Japanese fare served in high style at Katsuya by Starck in San Diego
Story and Photos By Kelley Carlson
To attract foodies and casual diners alike, Katsuya’s San Diego location recently scaled down the size of its menu — described as “Japanese fare catered to the American palate, but with a unique concentration on San Diego tastes” — along with some of the price points and made subtle alterations to the decor.
“We are beyond excited to introduce our new menu, which pairs Katsuya’s sophistication with the fun-loving community of San Diego,” Assistant General Manager Pouria Malihi said in a news release. “We want customers to feel like they can dine at Katsuya in flip-flops after a ball game or in heels and cocktail attire before a night out downtown.”
Located in a 6,000-square-foot space that’s part of the Andaz Hotel, the restaurant is upbeat and chic, yet casual.
Decorated by renowned designer Philippe Starck, the rooms have bold, contrasting colors, but they’re softened by the glow of candles, large Japanese lanterns and illuminated geisha images. The establishment is further enhanced by small details, such as pink and silver Maneki Neko cats.
Social hour is observed in the lounge, where guests can get comfortable on loveseats or make a new acquaintance at the bar. Mirrored columns boast flat-screen TVs that broadcast athletic events. Another place for interaction is the sushi bar, where patrons can witness chefs preparing rolls of rice with vegetables and raw seafood. “You get the energy of the kitchen,” Sous Chef Jason Velasquez said.
Seating for dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. For special occasions, there is a semi-private mezzanine with ornate mirrors on patterned red walls, shielded from inquisitive eyes by white, flowing curtains; and a private atrium with an open skylight that permits a peek into the heart of the Andaz.
To ease into the dining experience, some guests sip on the new “Local Libation Cocktails” such as 6th & F, a brilliant red beverage with Akvinta Vodka, muddled lychees and raspberries, pineapple juice, squeezed lemon and a splash of St. Germain. Or they may opt for one of the many wines and beers, including Japanese Sapporo and Stone Brewing Co. selections.
There are also premiere sakes; the Sasaichi brewery created one especially for the restaurant titled Katsuya Sake-Victory, which incorporates water from Mount Fuji. All of the Katsuya locations (six in the United States, and another planned in Dubai) share the same base menu, a showcase of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi’s style.
For example, there’s Sauteéd Shishito Peppers (an average of one in 10 are spicy!) and a Crispy Soft-Shelled Crab that can be dipped in tartar sauce and chili ponzu. And there’s Robata, in which skewers of vegetables, meats or seafood are grilled over special Japanese charcoal.
Yet there are a handful of selections that are exclusive to the San Diego site. One is the Double Double Roll that has a bit of zing, with rice, spicy yellowtail, spicy kanikama and cucumber rolled together and topped with more yellowtail, onion ponzu and Serrano chili. Another is the Chirashi Sushi — thin slices of fish over rice with ginger and sesame.
A favorite of the chefs are the new sliders, which come in four varieties: Teriyaki Portobello, Wagyu, Spicy Pork Belly and Shrimp Gratin Croquette.
Possibly the most popular “newcomer” is the BOP, in which servers bring sizzling rice hot pots to the diner’s table and then mix in sweet-soy BOP sauce with Japanese mushroom, braised short rib or pork bulgogi. An additional dish to be noted is the tender and juicy 6-ounce Wagyu Ribeye, served over maitake mushrooms with truffle butter.
For dessert, there are sweet treats such as mini crème brûlées; mochi, a confection made from pounded sticky rice and filled with ice cream in flavors such as mango and strawberry; and the Caramel Apple — warm Fuji apples and rum raisins in a phyllo dough basket, topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
In the near future, diners will be able to select an Omakase menu, in which courses will be specially tailored to their desires.
Katsuya by Starck
Address: 600 F Street, San Diego
Phone: (619) 814-2000
The Vibe: Chic, upbeat, relaxed
Signature Dishes: Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Special Katsuya Roll
Open Since: 2012
Patio Seating: Yes
Social Hour: 4-7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday through Saturday; 4 p.m. to close Sunday
Hours: 4 p.m. to close daily
On The Menu Recipe
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