Yoshi Sushi 6755 Mira Mesa Blvd. Mira Mesa858-587-4755
The phrase “all you can eat” gives me the shivers, and not the good kind. So, when I got a call to meet up with some out-of-town friends to have such a meal for dinner, I felt more than a little dread. It was going to be at a sushi joint, no less, my least favorite kind of all-you-can-eat, where platters of assembly-line sushi sit, for who knows how long, sweating under a spotlight.
I've got no bone to pick with affordable sushi, so long as it's fresh—I've had plenty of acceptable meals at spots like Ichiban and Sushi Deli. But some buffet sushi places seem to aim to load you up with big rolls of indeterminate make-up, cheap stuff that's all filler, no fish. I wanted to catch up with these friends, though; I hadn't seen them since they visited last year, so I told them I'd meet them there and steeled myself for what was to come.
I found Yoshi Sushi in Plaza Sorrento, a Mira Mesa strip mall that I used to frequent when I worked nearby. I remember having some pretty decent lunches at Plaza Sorrento, at spots like Marketplace Grille and Amarin Thai, and I'll still occasionally stop in at Sorrento European Bakery for a bahn mi or a pastry if I'm in the area.
Encouraged by Yoshi's locale, I entered the restaurant and discovered more good news. There wasn't a single heat lamp in sight, just a room filled with tables, large and small, and a broad sushi bar that ran the length of the restaurant.
While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, I browsed the menu and saw an extensive list of sushi nigiri and rolls, plus Japanese appetizers and more substantial dishes like udon, katsu and teriyaki. You can order anything à la carte, but the all-you-can-eat special applies only to a certain portion of the menu that comprises an ample mix of sushi and other snacks. It costs around $12 during lunch and $25 at dinner, except on Saturdays, when the price drops to $20.
When my friends arrived, we grabbed a big table for the seven of us, with plenty of surface area for the ordering frenzy ahead. The friends of friends who'd planned the dinner were all sushi lovers from Hawaii who promised me the food would be worth eating, and so we made of bunch of tick marks on the item list: a sashimi salad, some agedashi tofu, a handful of rolls and a few pairs of nigiri. I was glad to see a favorite, hamachi (yellowtail), included on the list, but my other must-eats, toro and uni, weren't part of the lunch special, though they can be had for an extra fee. Round 1 arrived on plates and platters, and we tucked in. All the rolls were fairly tasty, including one filled with fried soft-shell crab and another with spicy scallops. A rainbow roll and shrimp tempura roll were also decent, but I took only one piece of the eel roll, as the dark sauce drizzled over it was way too sweet.
One of the pleasant finds on Yoshi Sushi's all-you-can-eat menu was hamachi kama, or the collar section of a yellowtail, broiled and served with some grated daikon, chopped green onions, lemon wedges and a ponzu dipping sauce. This prized portion of fish is the most succulently textured meat on a whole fish—juicy, moist and rich with yummy fish oil. Obviously, there are only two collar halves per fish, so hamachi kama are usually quite pricey at sushi restaurants. Here, they cost around $8 on the regular menu, but one per person is permitted in the all-you-can-eat deal, so we ordered seven of them and had a delicious time picking bits of meat and skin from the generously sized collars.
After that first round, only a few of us had enough room for more, so we picked out a couple additional items and tried to finish what was left on the table. No one wanted to waste any food, so we managed to put away most of what was there, though I confess to eating only the crispy salmon skin out of my last hand roll before retiring my chopsticks.