9870 Hibert Street, Mira Mesa
Trying to decide on a sushi spot for dinner recently, I found myself facing a tough decision. There are easily five reliably good places I keep going back to, and a reputedly good couple I've yet to try.
However, all of them sit within a few miles of city center. Being in Mira Mesa on a rainy night, horizon-deep brake lights sat between me and the whole lot of them. So I decided to give Kappa Sushi a shot.
Tucked in a strip mall backed up against I-15, there's nothing especially stand-out or memorable about Kappa, at least by outward appearance. However, scanning the menu I noticed it does offer a few interesting alternatives to the usual norimaki and sashimi. I hit the sushi bar and — under the watchful eye of a couple ceramic cat figurines — decided to try some of the less-typical fare.
What the menu describes as "Kappa-style" sashimi adorns some popular cuts of fish with sauces, spices and/or vegetables, whether yellowtail served with lemon slices and jalapeños, or salmon served with a mandarin-like yuzu vinaigrette. Per usual, I could not resist trying the $15 ahi poke.
On the specials menu I spotted another, the Sashimi of the Day, a mix of yellowtail and salmon topped by fried leeks, sugarplum tomatoes, and a citrus chile sauce for $14. This one didn't turn out as good as it sounded. While the slivers of fried leek gave it an interesting sort of crispy grass texture, the tomatoes didn't contribute much to the fish, and the sauce erred on the side of citrus, without much heat to balance it out.
The poke fared better. Some might find it a little heavy-handed with the sesame oil, and the fish sat atop a solid serving of seaweed salad. However, I can almost never get enough sesame in my poke, and viewed the seaweed as a great palate cleanser before moving onto something else.
Next up was a house roll. Of course, most sushi restaurants catering to Americans come up with a kooky menu of rolls applying such fillings as cream cheese and lobster. Here, the latter is paired with bacon and avocado in the BLT roll, and as I write this, I cannot believe I didn't bite. But I still wanted some spice in my life so I chose the El Diablo, rolled with spicy blue crab and cucumber, and topped by pepper seared ahi.
Again, the Kappa idea of spicy let me down. The crab didn't have enough kick to keep up with the peppered ahi, which didn't hold enough texture to complement the crab salad. I enjoyed it well enough, but don't see it justifying the $14 price tag when you can get a lobster California roll for 10 and a spicy Hamachi with avocado for less than that.
Fish-wise, Kappa's doing all right, leading me to believe if I'd kept it simple I'd have enjoyed my meal a little more. Instead, trying to branch out into novelty forced me to compare the place unfavorably to my usual five-restaurant rotation, and to wistfully imagine the tried-and-true sushi dishes I could have gotten elsewhere for that 45 bucks.