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Roppongi still adding excitement to Asian-Fusion

When you think Asian-Fusion in the San Diego area, one La Jolla restaurant always comes to mind: Roppongi.

Roppongi was at the forefront of the Asian-Fusion culinary scene from the time it opened its doors almost nine years ago, and the restaurant is still pushing the envelope. Executive Chef Stephen Window was there at the beginning, and he’s still creating the irresistible cuisine that makes this restaurant a popular hot spot.

Under Chef Window’s supervision, the kitchen at Roppongi is a treasure trove of Asian-inspired dishes, many of which you just don’t find anywhere else. And the talented chef never rests on his laurels. Chef Window adds exciting preparations to the menu all the time.

These days, the newest delights are listed under the Asian tapas section of the menu. There are at least seven new tapas, so be sure to try a few of these. Naturally, Roppongi’s signature tapas - such as the Polynesian crab stack we’re particularly fond of - are still very much in evidence. La Jolla diners would never stand for it if the crab stack, the Mongolian shredded duck qauesadilla, or many of the other classic Roppongi delicacies disappeared from the menu.

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But you can bet several of the recent additions will become signature items as well. The “Hot Rock” thin-sliced New York steak with chili ponzu sesame coma sauce ($15.95) seems a shoe-in to become a classic. This unusual steak dish is prepared at the table - by you!

There are several other tempting tapas on the new menu, such as the warm Japanese miso eggplant with Thai bail salmon ($12.95). The eggplant and salmon complement each other, and the warm salad is delicate and delicious.

The rock shrimp and fennel tempura with wasabi aioli and remoulade ($14.25) is another welcome newcomer, as is the braised beef short ribs with hon shimeji mushrooms in puff pastry ($11.95).

Busy sushi chefs operate in the bar area, making all kinds of sushi rolls, sashimi, appetizers and sides. If you haven’t sampled some of the sushi offerings, check that out on your next visit. You’ll find everything from California rolls to Spanish mackerel sashimi on this impressive sushi bar menu.

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By the way, during Happy Hour (4 to 6 p.m. daily), you can enjoy the tapas and sushi rolls for half price in the cafe and patio area of the restaurant. That’s a great deal.

Roppongi’s regular menu features soups, salads, seafood and meat and poultry items. We love the Asian pear arugola salad with blue cheese and pomegranate soy vinaigrette ($8.95) to start off a dinner. But the selections run the gamut from corn velvet soup with crab and avocado ($8.95) to Thai noodle salad with romaine, spinach, tomato, mango and herbs in a spicy chili lime dressing ($8.95).

When it comes to seafood specialties, Roppongi can hold its own with any seafood restaurant. Try the pan-roasted salmon with curried cauliflower puree and candied cashews ($25.95) or the Mongolian grilled shrimp with mango salsa and pineapple-egg fried rice ($29.95). There are usually four seafood specialties on the menu.

Grilled Kurobuta pork chop with mushroom puree and a scallion honey demi-glaze ($27.95) would appeal to any meat lover, and the crispy Shelton Farm chicken breast with hon shimeji mushrooms and pancetta bacon ($22.50) is unlike any poultry dish you may have eaten around town. Nothing boring on Roppongi’s menu.

Roppongi doesn’t pay short shrift to dessert aficionados. The selection of sweets served at this upscale eatery is as mouthwatering as the rest of the cuisine.

The exotic dining experience at Roppongi starts even before you order your food, with a striking ambiance that reflects the calm and sophistication of the Asian continent. The lighting at Roppongi casts a soft golden glow on the dining room, and if you choose the table near the open fireplace, you’ll feel like royalty.

Roppongi serves lunch and dinner, and variety is definitely the byword. You’ll find specialties from Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Polynesian and Indian cuisines integrated in the menu. These epicurean delights have been blended with contemporary California ingredients to create masterful and memorable meals.

It’s easy to figure out the reason for Roppongi’s phenomenal success. The presentations are picture-perfect, and the service is excellent. Add that to the spectacular culinary experience and you won’t find anything else quite like it.

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Roppongi is at 875 Prospect St. Call (858) 551-5252.