9118 Fletcher Parkway, La Mesa
Eating good sushi in San Diego often means visiting a strip mall. Many count Pacific Beach’s Sushi Ota among the best in town (it’s next to a 7-Eleven), and Kaito Sushi holds it down in Encinitas a couple doors down from a Five Guys burger shop.
While La Mesa’s Narumi Sushi might not deliver the same caliber fish as those two standard-bearers, when you consider the relative quality and cost, the Fletcher Parkway hole-in-the-wall holds up well.
There’s actually been a decent Japanese restaurant at this location for a couple of decades. When the owners of Shizuoka decided to retire last year, a new Japanese owner came in, keeping some of the old dishes and boosting the shop’s sushi offerings now as Narumi. The old restaurant was good. The new one is really good.
A lengthy list of sushi rolls ranges from classic to creative, giving your party a lot of options to share for 5 to 14 dollars, whether you’re into including items such as cream cheese, jalapeño, or panko flakes or prefer to keep it traditional with maybe a dash of fish roe. One nigiri offering is a delicious seared salmon that you can get for 99 cents during happy hour, provided you order a large Japanese beer.
The real surprise wasn’t the satisfying sushi but the chicken katsudon, a breaded and fried chicken cutlet served over rice and topped by a fried egg. I’ve written about searching for good katsu before. I’m always hoping I’ll find one that tastes as good my favorite after-school bento order during my teen years spent in Okinawa.
This is it. I know it seems like a simple and inelegant dish, kind of a throw-away menu item in a place where ordering sushi might be your best move. But Narumi makes it perfection for about eight bucks, capturing exactly the right eggy-meets-fried-chicken texture and flavor to kickstart my nostalgia into high gear.
To be honest, I remember enjoying the rolls I tried, but somewhere I lost track of their names and assorted ingredients. The seared-salmon nigiri was notable because I love salmon raw and have never seen it seared in this context. But finding a quality katsudon, with some Kirin lager to wash it down — it almost made me forget what a craft ale and taco guy I’ve become.
La Mesa has a great upgrade to its casual dining scene, and it happens to be nestled between a Souplantation and a Michaels craft store.