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Tiny dogs and good sushi

A day on the patio at Shimbashi Izakaya

Mentai udon is a “must”
Mentai udon is a “must”
Place

Shimbashi Izakaya

Del Mar Plaza, 1555 Camino del Mar, Del Mar

If you’re dining on a patio somewhere, one good way to tell you’re in Del Mar is when multiple impeccably groomed, toy-sized dogs discretely nibble bits of sushi from the manicured fingers of their doting owners.

There are other clues, of course, like taking the coast highway north from Torrey Pines State Beach (alternatively south from the dog beach), or the impossibility of navigating the Plaza without making at least one wrong turn, but the “preponderance of tiny dogs” test seldom fails.

Shimbashi by night

This is the way it goes on the patio at Shimbashi Izakaya, where a weird mish-mash of families, nervous young professionals out on a date, in-the-know Japanese patrons, and ubiquitous little dogs somehow creates a compelling ambiance. Of all the places you could go for distinctly above-average sushi (where “shiny” fish such as mackerel, shad, and sardines receive treatment equal to the more expensive toro), this is one of the more pleasant and less formal.

Mackerel with cured seaweed and halibut fluke with yuzukoshō and grated salt

Shimbashi could be a spot for sushi snobs, but it isn’t. “I like goat cheese, yeah, but not the smelly sock kind,” explains one patron to the others in his party, while another lavishes praise on a bar in Oceanside that “has kombucha on tap.” The occasional scared patio dog yips or barks, and little towheaded grommets in flat-brimmed caps eat their fill of California rolls. Young men impress their dates by ordering lavishly from the sake menu, which does contain some impressively expensive libations.

Many of Naomi Wise’s observations from 2010 hold true about Shimbashi’s tapas menu. Mentai udon ($8.50) may be the only “must” dish on the menu: a tiny bit spicy and a whole lot creamy, it’s like a gentler bottarga. Deep fried garlic ($4.50), served with plenty of toasted sesame oil, also works well. But without rhyme or reason behind what’s good and what’s not, it’s safer to stick to the sushi menu.

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Mentai udon is a “must”
Mentai udon is a “must”
Place

Shimbashi Izakaya

Del Mar Plaza, 1555 Camino del Mar, Del Mar

If you’re dining on a patio somewhere, one good way to tell you’re in Del Mar is when multiple impeccably groomed, toy-sized dogs discretely nibble bits of sushi from the manicured fingers of their doting owners.

There are other clues, of course, like taking the coast highway north from Torrey Pines State Beach (alternatively south from the dog beach), or the impossibility of navigating the Plaza without making at least one wrong turn, but the “preponderance of tiny dogs” test seldom fails.

Shimbashi by night

This is the way it goes on the patio at Shimbashi Izakaya, where a weird mish-mash of families, nervous young professionals out on a date, in-the-know Japanese patrons, and ubiquitous little dogs somehow creates a compelling ambiance. Of all the places you could go for distinctly above-average sushi (where “shiny” fish such as mackerel, shad, and sardines receive treatment equal to the more expensive toro), this is one of the more pleasant and less formal.

Mackerel with cured seaweed and halibut fluke with yuzukoshō and grated salt

Shimbashi could be a spot for sushi snobs, but it isn’t. “I like goat cheese, yeah, but not the smelly sock kind,” explains one patron to the others in his party, while another lavishes praise on a bar in Oceanside that “has kombucha on tap.” The occasional scared patio dog yips or barks, and little towheaded grommets in flat-brimmed caps eat their fill of California rolls. Young men impress their dates by ordering lavishly from the sake menu, which does contain some impressively expensive libations.

Many of Naomi Wise’s observations from 2010 hold true about Shimbashi’s tapas menu. Mentai udon ($8.50) may be the only “must” dish on the menu: a tiny bit spicy and a whole lot creamy, it’s like a gentler bottarga. Deep fried garlic ($4.50), served with plenty of toasted sesame oil, also works well. But without rhyme or reason behind what’s good and what’s not, it’s safer to stick to the sushi menu.

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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
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