Updated Jan. 19, 2015
Whether you're a novice or an expert in the world of raw fish, you probably have a certain San Diego sushi restaurant you stick to. From hidden gems like Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town to lively lounges like Harney Sushi in both Old Town and Oceanside, pass the wasabi and ginger and discover San Diego’s top ten sushi restaurants.
Azuki Sushi - Bankers Hill
Nestled across from Balboa Park sits Azuki Sushi, a cozy sushi joint that oozes sophistication. Although the space itself is small, this local favorite packs a big punch. Top picks on specialty rolls include the Super Dragon Roll with spicy rock shrimp mix, shrimp tempura, avocado topped with unagi, avocado, crunchy sweet potato and eel sauce; or R U Kidding Me? with snow crab, diver scallops, tempura asparagus, topped with seared tuna and white truffle oil, mixed greens, garlic ponzu and flash fried leeks. For a light app, order the sake steamed clams, sautéed scallops and pork and leek gyoza. Save room for the dessert sampler, featuring stuffed banana, green tea crème brûlée and toffee pudding.
2321 5th Ave., Bankers Hill. (619) 238-4760 or azukisushi.com
Sushi Ota – Pacific Beach
Sushi Ota is often first off the lips of locals when asked what their must-try sushi spot is. Because of this, it’s typically a full house and early reservations are highly recommended. At Sushi Ota, you’ll find the traditional selections of authentic sushi from a wide selection of fish that’s uber-fresh. Cut roll favorites include the spicy salmon, soft shell crab roll and the Diego roll. Feeling fishy? Then try the tuna, the sweet shrimp, squid, sea urchin or the halibut cut as nigiri or sashimi.
4529 Mission Bay Dr., Pacific Beach. (858) 270-5670 or otasushi.com
Taka Sushi – Downtown
In the heart of the Gaslamp, between the bass-pumping nightclubs and the bustling watering holes, Taka Sushi presents a quiet oasis filled with delicious Japanese cuisine. You’ll find sushi and sashimi creations here, including tuna, yellowtail, giant clam, snapper, albacore and octopus. Or roll it up with top options like the yellowtail, eel, salmon skin, shrimp tempura and more. Guests can also order more conventional dinner entrees of chicken teriyaki, baked black cod and salmon teriyaki. Pair with hot or cold sake and toast to a delicious night.
555 5th Ave., downtown. (619) 338-0555 or takasushi.com
HARNEY SUSHI - OLD TOWN and OCEANSIDE
Best known for their inventive sushi served with a “funk shui” party atmosphere, Harney Sushi is a place where experimentation mixes with celebration. It’s Harney’s inventive menu that really shines, featuring rolls like the Flaming Lip, a tempura fried Cali roll with cream cheese, topped with spicy mayo, jalapeno and Sriracha sauce; Miso Harney roll with black cod, cream cheese, avocado, tempura fried with faux-nagi sauce and sesame seeds; or the Rollz Royce with shrimp tempura, asparagus, topped with tuna sashimi and jalapeno. Harney also comes highly applauded for their sustainable seafood commitment, cleansing their menu of all harmful ingredients that put our ocean in danger. This vow creates dishes that benefit both the ecosystem and our health.
Old Town: 3964 Harney St., Old Town. (619) 295-3272 or harneysushi.com
Oceanside: 301 Mission Ave., Oceanside. (760) 967-1820 or harneysushi.com
Café Japengo – UTC La Jolla
Café Japengo boasts an award-winning sushi bar, a buzzing happy hour scene and an extensive selection of wine, beer and sake. The menu, helmed by Executive Chef Jerry Warner, celebrates the cuisine of Asia and the Pacific Rim with additional gluten-free options for lunch and dinner. For more traditional rolls, order the spicy tuna, salmon skin or special eel. For something a little different, try the carne asada roll with avocado, crab, tempura shrimp and cucumber inside, seared tuna on the outside and topped with ginger ponzu and micro cilantro sprouts.
Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, 8960 University Center Lane, UTC La Jolla. (858) 450-3355 or cafejapengo.com
Hane Sushi – Banker’s Hill
Sushi Ota lovers who live downtown, rejoice! Run under the same ownership, Hane Sushi brings the long-established Japanese values to the Banker’s Hill area. Aside from the standard cuts of fish, one of the most popular dishes here is the crispy eggplant with spicy tuna. On a sushi date? Order the sushi combo special which is served with toro, yellowtail, salmon, squid, red snapper, surf clam, uni, eel, chopped toro roll and more.
2760 5th Ave., #105, Banker’s Hill. (619) 260-1411
Sushi Tadokoro – Old Town
Over in Old Town, Sushi Tadokoro boasts traditional Edo-mae style sushi prepared with ingredients from around the world using techniques by highly-skilled chefs. Guests can order up fresh sashimi and nigiri pieces like salmon, eel, scallop, tuna, yellowtail and Spanish mackerel. With dim lighting and soft jazz music in an intimate space, Tadokoro delivers a romantic ambiance to be enjoyed over your tasty plate. Feeling adventurous? Don’t leave without ordering the grilled Chilean sea bass and the green tea cheesecake.
2244 San Diego Ave., Old Town. (619) 297-0298 or sushitadokoro.com
Zenbu Sushi- Encinitas
With its one-of-a-kind sushi bar, Zenbu offers San Diego Asian cuisine that rolls oceanic and environmental sustainability into one. On the appetizer menu, diners will find many traditional and non-traditional selections such as wood fire grilled hamachi kama and vintage prime sirloin cooked tableside over a hot volcanic rock. Sushi lovers will obsess over the vast scope of rolls such as the Pill Box made with spicy crab and avocado topped with tuna and shrimp pressed in a traditional Battera box and finished with black tobiko and gold flake with a drizzle of ponzu; or the Salbacore made with spicy crab, fresh asparagus, Asian pear, cucumber, daikon sprouts, topped with seared albacore and avocado then finished with a dot of siracha, Asian vinaigrette and orange zest.
2005 San Elijo Ave., Encinitas. (760) 633-2223 or zenburestaurants.com
Roppongi Restaurant + Sushi Bar- La Jolla
Serving up an eclectic fusion of Asian seafood, tapas and creative entrees, this go-to La Jolla restaurant and sushi bar satiates cravings for all things fresh and fun. Specialty sushi rolls here take it to the next level. Our favorites include the Albacore Jalapeno with albacore, avocado, jalapeno, cucumber, kaiware sprouts, yama gobo and a garlic ponzu vinaigrette; Steak and Fries (yes, this is a sushi roll!) with kobe beef, asparagus, avocado, crab, smoked lomi lomi, tomatoes and smoked paprika aioli; or the simple Prospect roll with spicy crab, yamagobo, avocado, hirame, tuna, green onin, jalapeno, habanero masago and lime. Sashimi is also available at Roppongi, such as tuna, halibut, albacore or a combination plate with yellowtail, ahi and salmon.
875 Prospect St. #102, La Jolla. (858) 551-5252 or roppongiusa.com
NOBU - Downtown
Nestled in the hip Hard Rock Hotel, NOBU is best known for its award-winning dishes, impeccable service and ambiance that is sophisticated yet lively. Since its opening in 2007, local sushi fanatics have been flocking to this revered restaurant to dine on Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s innovative culinary creations. Indulge in cold dishes such as the Nobu style sashimi tacos made with choice or yellowfin tuna or salmon; the octopus capaccio with jalapeno dressing; or Japanese red snapper sashimi with dried miso. If you crave fresh fish, NOBU serves up sashimi including Japanese red snapper, bluefin toro, live fluke, salmon egg and live octopus. Hand and cut rolls include classic selections such as yellowfin and bluefin toro topped with scallions; asparagus yellowfin tuna; and the salmon avocado roll.
207 5th Ave., downtown. (619) 814-4124 or noburestaurants.com
Did we miss one? Leave a comment below to share your favorite San Diego sushi spot with us.