Perfect Sushi Dinner at Japengo (March 2006)

One March evening I was in a celebratory mood and decided to go for a sushi meal at Cafe Japengo in La Jolla/UTC. Although Japengo is a fusion Japanese restaurant, they do a fantastic job with traditional sushi and sashimi. I sat at the bar, and the sushi chef had the keen sense of recommending some fantastic daily specials that were mainstays in a hardcore sushi lover's diet.

After the appetizer of edamame (soy beans sprinkled with coarse-grain salt), I ordered the assorted sashimi. The chef integrated some daily specials into the assortment: ama ebi (live giant sweet shrimp) and aji (Horse Mackerel).


The aftermath of ripping a live shrimp into two. Yum!

In fact, the shrimp was so live that the tails were still writhing on the plate.

Allow me to describe the assortment below---Top row: A shrimp head fried tempura style, a skewered aji on a bed of red and green seaweed, and another shrimp head. 2nd from top row: Yellow-tail, aji fillet, salmon. 2nd from bottom row: Raw shrimp tails, and albacore tuna with a dash of ponzu sauce (a citrus-like soy sauce). Foreground: Tuna. I devoured everything on the plate, down to the red and green seaweed bed.


Sashimi Assortment

And everything meant everything. Usually, restaurants that serve aji will throw away the remains, but Japengo fried them tempura style. There was a lot of meat left on that fish. The body had the texture of a thick potato chip (and I ate all of it). The head had a nice liver/blood taste (funny, but I ate the skull too).


Fried aji remains


The head had plenty of meat left

Next I ordered ankimo (monkfish liver), one of my favorites. Japengo dressed it with a light chili sauce and scallions. The garnish was thinly-sliced radish and pickled carrots with ponzu sauce. The ankimo was tender and melted easily on the tongue. You should give it a shot!


Monkfish liver

The last item was a custom job. Usually uni (sea urchin eggs) are served in a small portion of rice wrapped in a seaweed cup. Instead of seaweed, the chef wrapped the rice in albacore and yellow-tail, in addition to topping the uni with ikura (salmon eggs).


Uni wrapped with albacore (left and bottom pieces) or yellow-tail (right and top pieces), topped with ikura.


Close-up of an albacore-wrapped uni piece.