4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Anything but ramen

Pick hits at Izakaya Masa in Mission Hills

Nabeyaki Udon, a full meal in a little metal pot
Nabeyaki Udon, a full meal in a little metal pot
Place

Izakaya Masa

928 Ft. Stockton Drive, San Diego

Inside one of the two dining rooms at Izakaya Masa

Aside from the brilliant and fleeting cherry blossom season, the one thing that makes a Japanophile’s heart warble is an awesome izakaya (the Japanese gastropub). Izakaya Masa in Mission Hills is our favorite izakaya in all of Southern California. But not for ramen. Masa’s ramen is pretty standard; when I’m craving ramen, I can easily find an equal-to-or-better version of the stuff at Tajima or Yakyudori. To me, ordering ramen at Masa would be like ordering the frankfurter at S&M Sausage and Meat. Sure, you’re going to get a good hotdog, but where else can you taste alligator and antelope sausage? If a place specializes in something rare that is also awesome, I don’t order the hot dog. When I pass through those noren (fabric doors) and am transported to a space reminiscent of izakayas in Shinjuku, I gravitate toward the kind of things I can’t get anywhere else in San Diego.

Agedashi Tofu, a great way to begin your meal at Masa

One such item is the Agedashi Tofu — yeah, yeah, I know there are a few other kitchens in town that make great agedashi, but on the whole, those tend to be more pricey, and this one is not only my ideal version (along with Sushi Tadokoro’s), it’s also only $4.95. David and I usually begin our meals at Masa by sharing this golden fried tofu swimming in a savory, umami soup comprising dashi, mirin, and soy sauce, all capped with a pile of grated mountain yam and nori confetti.

Masa's Fried Chicken, aka chicken karaage

A more indulgent appetizer is the Masa’s Fried Chicken ($5.95). Given the menu is awash in Romanji, I’m surprised this item didn’t appear as Karaage, as Masa’s version is definitive of the traditional karaage method of marinating the meat morsels in a garlic and soy sauce blend before frying. I have an affinity for sauces in general, but I’d be loath to add a drop of anything to these savory flavor/texture bombs.

The reason David has now insisted on a once a week visit to Masa is their Ten-Zaru Soba ($11.95). He’s been on a soba noodle kick lately. Here his tempura accompaniment to the otherwise simple and elegant dish of cold buckwheat noodles includes not only shrimp, but also squash, potato, broccoli, and even a shiso leaf.

David's favorite ten-zaru soba dish in town

On the noodle front, my go-to at Masa is the Nabeyaki Udon ($9.95). Thick, chewy udon noodles are submerged in a boiling hot dashi broth, served in the same nabe, or metal pot in which it was cooked. Nabeyaki versions vary, but they all typically include an egg soft-cooked in the boiling broth and tempura shrimp. Masa’s version adds spinach, tofu, thinly sliced carrots, and green onion. And of course, I spice it up with several shakes of shichimi, which is brought to the table along with the dish.

Kikusui, a fine gateway to bolder sakes.

For drinks, we order off the special menu, which doesn’t seem to change much. After tasting our way through most of them, we settled on a usual, and that’s the Funaguchi Kikusui Nama-Sake (aged one year), which arrives in an aluminum can. This protects it from the damaging effects of light and air (careful when you open them, they’re filled to the brim). This sake seems to have more character than the same brand’s Junmai Ginjo, which is easy drinking, but falls on the overly innocuous end of the spectrum.

Black sesame ice cream with green tea and red bean spring rolls, earthy-sweet.

I enjoy the subdued sweetness of Japanese desserts. Only once have we saved room for any here (the night we tried their sushi, which is interesting, fresh, and tasty, but the pieces were hilariously huge). Not on the menu, but affixed to a wall in one room that we happened to sit by one night was the sweet offering of spring rolls with ice cream. The green tea and red bean center of the spring rolls were lava hot. Fortunately, we had cool, satisfying black sesame ice cream to soothe our burnt tongues. And after a few bites, we forgot all about the pain and relished the sweet and earthy flavors.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

John Ashbery: classmate to Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara

Poems with disjunction of syntax, a prevalence of puns, whimsy and wit
Next Article

Internet love, the Mitchells' 30-year marriage, mom to an unusual child

Men imagine selves as women, lovers on love, teenage romance
Nabeyaki Udon, a full meal in a little metal pot
Nabeyaki Udon, a full meal in a little metal pot
Place

Izakaya Masa

928 Ft. Stockton Drive, San Diego

Inside one of the two dining rooms at Izakaya Masa

Aside from the brilliant and fleeting cherry blossom season, the one thing that makes a Japanophile’s heart warble is an awesome izakaya (the Japanese gastropub). Izakaya Masa in Mission Hills is our favorite izakaya in all of Southern California. But not for ramen. Masa’s ramen is pretty standard; when I’m craving ramen, I can easily find an equal-to-or-better version of the stuff at Tajima or Yakyudori. To me, ordering ramen at Masa would be like ordering the frankfurter at S&M Sausage and Meat. Sure, you’re going to get a good hotdog, but where else can you taste alligator and antelope sausage? If a place specializes in something rare that is also awesome, I don’t order the hot dog. When I pass through those noren (fabric doors) and am transported to a space reminiscent of izakayas in Shinjuku, I gravitate toward the kind of things I can’t get anywhere else in San Diego.

Agedashi Tofu, a great way to begin your meal at Masa

One such item is the Agedashi Tofu — yeah, yeah, I know there are a few other kitchens in town that make great agedashi, but on the whole, those tend to be more pricey, and this one is not only my ideal version (along with Sushi Tadokoro’s), it’s also only $4.95. David and I usually begin our meals at Masa by sharing this golden fried tofu swimming in a savory, umami soup comprising dashi, mirin, and soy sauce, all capped with a pile of grated mountain yam and nori confetti.

Masa's Fried Chicken, aka chicken karaage

A more indulgent appetizer is the Masa’s Fried Chicken ($5.95). Given the menu is awash in Romanji, I’m surprised this item didn’t appear as Karaage, as Masa’s version is definitive of the traditional karaage method of marinating the meat morsels in a garlic and soy sauce blend before frying. I have an affinity for sauces in general, but I’d be loath to add a drop of anything to these savory flavor/texture bombs.

The reason David has now insisted on a once a week visit to Masa is their Ten-Zaru Soba ($11.95). He’s been on a soba noodle kick lately. Here his tempura accompaniment to the otherwise simple and elegant dish of cold buckwheat noodles includes not only shrimp, but also squash, potato, broccoli, and even a shiso leaf.

David's favorite ten-zaru soba dish in town

On the noodle front, my go-to at Masa is the Nabeyaki Udon ($9.95). Thick, chewy udon noodles are submerged in a boiling hot dashi broth, served in the same nabe, or metal pot in which it was cooked. Nabeyaki versions vary, but they all typically include an egg soft-cooked in the boiling broth and tempura shrimp. Masa’s version adds spinach, tofu, thinly sliced carrots, and green onion. And of course, I spice it up with several shakes of shichimi, which is brought to the table along with the dish.

Kikusui, a fine gateway to bolder sakes.

For drinks, we order off the special menu, which doesn’t seem to change much. After tasting our way through most of them, we settled on a usual, and that’s the Funaguchi Kikusui Nama-Sake (aged one year), which arrives in an aluminum can. This protects it from the damaging effects of light and air (careful when you open them, they’re filled to the brim). This sake seems to have more character than the same brand’s Junmai Ginjo, which is easy drinking, but falls on the overly innocuous end of the spectrum.

Black sesame ice cream with green tea and red bean spring rolls, earthy-sweet.

I enjoy the subdued sweetness of Japanese desserts. Only once have we saved room for any here (the night we tried their sushi, which is interesting, fresh, and tasty, but the pieces were hilariously huge). Not on the menu, but affixed to a wall in one room that we happened to sit by one night was the sweet offering of spring rolls with ice cream. The green tea and red bean center of the spring rolls were lava hot. Fortunately, we had cool, satisfying black sesame ice cream to soothe our burnt tongues. And after a few bites, we forgot all about the pain and relished the sweet and earthy flavors.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Greensky Bluegrass 20th Anniversary, Sam Smith Livestream from Abbey Road, Full Moon Halloween Hike

Events October 29-October 31, 2020
Next Article

Internet love, the Mitchells' 30-year marriage, mom to an unusual child

Men imagine selves as women, lovers on love, teenage romance
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close