3027 Adams Avenue, North Park
Usually when a sushi place tries to add American elements, it is more confusion than fusion. But when it’s done well, it can take Japanese flavors into an interesting new place.
One restaurant that does this neo-sushi well is Sabuku Sushi on Adams Avenue, which is turning out to be one of the best eating streets in San Diego.
Rather than stick to authenticity, Sabuku chefs use sushi favorites as a starting off point for their own thing, which works better than you might think. For example, it would be hard to argue that jalapeño poppers stuffed with pulled pork ($4) is Japanese, but Sabuku adds a sweet teriyaki-like sauce and aioli on top to add the Japanese flavor.
The Buku Nachos ($14) also work well. It’s raw ahi served over deep-fried wonton chips with pico de gallo and guacamole. Ahi is pretty good at supporting whatever you want to put with it. I liked that the pico de gallo had a citrusy sweetness that came out in at the end as opposed to being blended into the dish and overpowering it from the beginning. The downside is that the chunks of ahi don’t always want to stay on top of the chips and can fall off before they get to your mouth.
A dish that wasn’t as “fusiony” but still satisfying was the seaweed salad ($5). Seaweed salad can be a little sweet since it’s flavored with ponzu, a citrusy soy sauce. Sabuku’s version is brinier in a good way, emphasizing the ocean element in a pleasant palate-cleansing manner.
Among foodies, Sabuku is probably best known for its selection of bacon-themed sushi rolls. Since bacon has a strong flavor and isn’t exactly authentic, the idea might seem crazy. As Brandon Hernandez noted in 2012, “Bacon isn’t particularly suited to sushi making.”
But Sabuku’s bacon scallops roll ($13) manages to turn a what could be a bizarre concoction into a delicious roll. The key is that the saltiness of the scallops is able to stand up to the saltiness in the bacon. A sauce of spicy ginger and mandarin brings out the sweetness of the bacon while still allowing the bacon to be the star.
As good as that roll was, I enjoyed the Nut Tonight roll ($15) more. It stuffs tuna, jalapeño, cilantro, and avocado on the inside and adds honey-roasted peanut crunchies on the exterior. A cilantro wasabi aioli and an eel sauce added sweetness. The tuna, surprisingly, didn’t disappear under the mix of other ingredients.