Dec. 5 2014 05:15 PM

Fish so good, you should get to this Carlsbad shop early

This place is itty-bitty.
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

I have a shameful confession. For too long, I've acted like I know what I'm doing when it comes to one particular food norm, but I can't hide any longer. How do I handle chopsticks? I just—I just can't do it. Perhaps I never developed the fine motor skills as a child (thanks a lot, Mom and Dad), but I've never figured out how to wield a delicate pair of sticks in between my fingers, gently picking up an elegant bite of clean, Japanese flavors. Give me a fork to clutch in my meaty paws so I can stab at my food with the blind gusto that I'm pretty sure I'm entitled to in the Constitution. 

I'm finally coming clean with my ineptitude after a visit to Yoshino Japanese Deli in Carlsbad, where the fishy delights are so good, I can't be expected to eat as slowly as I'd have to with chopsticks in hand. Plus, the kind man at the counter gave me a fork "for the little one," pointing at my 3-year-old, not knowing that she'd use her fingers once I bogarted the utensil for myself.

Does it really matter how the sushi gets into your hungry, gaping maw? The focus should be on the quality of the product that's reaching one's mouth. And that quality is front and center when you visit Yoshino, an easily missed little storefront in the heart of Carlsbad Village (2913 State St.).

Normally I grumble and grouse at businesses that remain steadfastly cash-only, but, somehow, Yoshino's has turned this bit of inconvenience into an element of its quirky charm. There isn't much to this tiny joint: A small fridge is packed with freshly made rolls, bowls and salads, and another holds bottled drinks. Grab what you want, pay at the counter and don't show up too late, because once they run out, the crew closes up shop and you're out of luck for the day.

Do yourself a favor: Grab a poke bowl, head down to the beach and give thanks to the ocean for providing the buttery chunks of ahi tuna in your bowl. If there's anything to complain about, it's that there aren't more quivering, magenta gems to scoop up. Every bite is fresh and bright and wonderful alone or with salty bits of seaweed salad or sticky rice. Cold, creamy cubes of avocado match the smoothness of the fish while a scoop of spicy crab adds texture. For around seven bucks, this modest-looking bowl of food was a satisfying and healthy belly filler and a pleasant balance to the previous week's menu of gravy-coated offerings.

Familiar rolls (as well as variations on the poke bowl) round out the refrigerator, from spicy tuna and salmon to eel and veggie. Because the deli is tiny, it's easy to watch the staff crank out their tasty wares, but the advantage of this intimacy is that you can often request a bit of customization to your food. Just remember to get there early while the selection is plentiful.

And, please, try not to mock those of us who are using forks.

Write to and Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennymontyinsd.


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