by smmmarti guide
October 18, 2002
As we approached Café Japengo, I was struck with déjà vu, recalling now many times I’d stayed at the Hyatt and waited anxiously in the jam-packed bar for a table while the collection of the world’s most beautiful young people strutted their toned biceps and muscular calves around me. My head was usually awhirl while observing the fantastic collection of fashion, food and sex appeal that was served up regularly at Japengo.
"Your friend doesn’t work at some sushi bar," I corrected, "he works at the sushi bar." It amazed me to think that someone gets paid to witness the spectacle of "San Diego’s finest" on a daily basis and eat the sushi here, too.
Café Japengo has been voted San Diego’s top sushi bar (and there are loads of sushi places in San Diego) for seven consecutive years by San Diego Magazine. Part of it is surely the "scene" at this popular eatery, but it couldn’t endure all these years based on that alone. Anyone knows how fickle the "hipsters" are. They’d have scurried off to somewhere new long before now were the sushi not so utterly scrumptious.
Fortunately, arriving unfashionably early dressed in post-zoo wear, I didn’t feel self-conscious about not sporting the latest from Vogue (or Paper, or whatever); we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We obviously didn’t have to wait for a table and chose to brave the slight chill on the outdoor patio under the familiar "heaters" of San Diego. Later in the evening a fireplace was set aglow providing additional warmth and atmosphere.
A new waitress trainee was being taught her steps by a more seasoned veteran who stood a few paces behind her and observed her every word. We must have been her only customers. That was a good thing. She needed a little experience before I’d send her to do battle with the regulars on a heavy night.
But regardless of the somewhat shaky service we overindulged in an assortment of specialty rolls (rainbow, dynamite, japengo special) and sushi from the bar menu. Our first appetizer, the Black Bean Honey Glazed Shrimp with Green Papaya Salad and Sweet Lime Chili Sauce ($12.00) was really delicious and almost rendered the sushi order excessive. Almost.
Besides sushi, Japengo actually does offer entrees and desserts. Wood roasted oven duckling or lamb, pan-roasted sea bass, filet of beef, short ribs and the famous "ten ingredient fried rice" give plentiful options to anyone who dines here. For those who manage to save some room, the menu tempts with chocolate lava cake, sorbets and the Firecracker, with Granny Smith Apples,
Sun Dried Strawberries, Fresh Fruit, and Kiwi Coulis ($6.75.)
To be part of the "scene" arrive late and be prepared to wait, or go at 5 and really enjoy yourself.
From journal Pleasantville, with a nude beach