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Café Japengo - La Jolla Sushi

Okay, so here we are at what is arguably the best Sushi Restaurant in San Diego (they’ve been named that for years by local magazines, as well as the California Restaurant Association) and all we can do is stare at the fixture above the bar. Looming before us is a caricature wooden face about six feet high and two-hundred years old. Situated smack dab in the middle of the proliferation of liquor bottles behind the bar. This is so unexpected, but it works perfectly with Café Japengo which brings high-end dazzles with a splash of good-natured fun.

The aforementioned figurehead turns out to be Tengu, a demi-god who’s been hanging around for thousands of years. He is known as a guardian over prostitutes and thieves and brings a sense of occasion to the eclectic venue. Not quite our normal crowd but Tengu sounds like he’d be a lot of fun to hang out with. But alas, here at Japengo he has to settle for having a couple of dishes named after him.

Café Japengo is legend here in San Diego and serves up amazing sushi along with captivating menu items to satiate your appetite. It’s a place you go to have fun, be seen, discuss business over lunch and, most importantly, to enjoy some fine food. Located in the UTC area just East of La Jolla in the Hyatt Aventine Complex.

Once you can get past Tengu tempting you from the cool, expansive bar area on the right, and the ever bustling sushi bar enticing you on the left (this may be all you want, so grab a chair and start ordering your sushi of choice), let your eyes wander the deeper interior. Zen inspired tones adorn the seating area while fine draperies do so for the floor to ceiling windows. Enjoy the delicate rock garden that lines the back of the venue and if you can, request one of their screen enclosed booths that provides you ultimate privacy. Finish it off with the high industrial ceiling offset by unique cobblestone flooring and there you have Café Japengo.

Now it is distinctly hard to choose whether to order from the lavish sushi menu or indulging in their exceptional entrée offerings. Our advice, give in and order from each. Enjoy the crisp Edamame while making your dining decisions. We sampled the Rainbow Roll (inside-Crab & Cucumber, outside-Rice topped with Tuna, Salmon, Whitefish & Avocado) which was perfectly presented and tasted even better. The generous rolls shined with their fresh seafood elements and appealing flavors. A great way to start the meal.

Next up were our selections of Hoisin Seared Ahi Nicoise (Tot Soi, Quail Egg, Kalamata Olives, Long Beans with Miso Sesame Dressing) from the salad offerings and Cashew Chicken (Water Chestnuts, Asparagus, Sunburst Squash and Toasted Sesame Rice with Black-Bean Garlic Sauce) from the “Tengu” Specialties listing. The Hoisin Seared Ahi was a truly inspired dish. With so many tangy flavors enveloped into a crisp bean salad, it was delightful. The miso dressing enhanced the creative components and after already devouring the aforementioned sushi, made for a nice balance. The Cashew Chicken is a wonder. The chestnuts, the squash, the sauce, the succulent chicken, all blended so well together. One bite crunchy, the next tender and savory, then tangy, and all consorting to provide you with an appealing, exotic dish.

These festivities are brought to you by Executive Sushi Chef, Jerry Warner, and a mainstay at Japengo since opening its doors in 1990. Chef Warner first served as the personal apprentice to master Sushi Chef Osamu “Fuji” Fujita before taking over the reins himself. He has maintained the legacy with flying colors and continues to bring new culinary concepts and distinctive styles to his dishes.

Café Japengo is on the high end of the cost spectrum but is well worth taking a second on the house. Just kidding. The ambience of the restaurant, the glossy décor, excellent sushi and delectable menu dishes are all well worth the indulgent cost. Plus, if all else fails you now have the blessing of Tengu on your side. Hey, it never hurts to have friends in high places. Free ample parking is also available. Experience some marvelous sushi for yourself. You will be happy you did. Enjoy!

The good – We’ve already said it all! This is some great fine dining in a comfortable, sexy venue.

The bad – Service can be a hit or miss, we’ve had amazing service there and other times, not so much.


Details »
  • City: San Diego, CA 92122
  • Phone: 858-450-3355
  • Name: Café Japengo
  • Address: 8960 University Center Lane