Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

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

The Michelin-adjacent Japanese treats of Hatsuzakura

Drinks, snacks, and desserts range from intriguing and photogenic to boring and perfect

A "hamu sando" and other Japanese snacks
A "hamu sando" and other Japanese snacks

Considering the array of idiosyncratic treats on the menu of Hatsuzakura, I’ve ordered the boring stuff.


Place

Hatsuzakura

2123 Adams Ave., San Diego


This occurs to me as I watch a batch of emerald-green matcha tea being hand-whisked to life across the counter from my barstool. Again, as I spot an unfamiliar small appliance dispensing finely shaved ice, the base of a syrup-sweetened dessert called kakigōri. And not for the last time when the customer sitting next to me receives her order: dubbed an omurice: it’s an omelet, stuffed with fried rice, and topped with a tomato-based sauce.


It's a youthful, more fun side of Japanese cuisine than we’re used to seeing in San Diego restaurants, balanced between comfort food and the sort of things Japanese schoolkids might eat at home. Think mochi ice cream, macaroni casseroles, and white bread sandwiches, cut into triangles and trimmed of their crusts.


That it feels so youthful makes sense, given it’s an offspring of another University Heights restaurant, the Michelin-starred Soichi Sushi. Hatsuzakura translates as “first cherry blossom,” and one of its operators is first-time restaurateur Sakura Kadoya, a young daughter of the sushi restaurant’s namesake chef, Soichi Kadoya. You needn’t look far to find Hatsuzakura, either: the younger chef’s restaurant has recently bloomed right next door to her dad’s place.


A small "kissaten" style Japanese restaurant


It’s a similarly intimate shop, with a smattering of small tables set up around a main dining counter. Hatsuzakura is modeled after kissaten, a Japanese café tradition that puts an emphasis on coffee, tea, and snacks. Meaning, really, I should have started with a matcha latte, or better yet, an hojicha latte: likewise whisked from green tea powder, albeit a darker hue, ground from more mature tea leaves.


Instead, I spend my entire budget on two meals’ worth of more familiar items. Not because Hatsuzakura is expensive — quite the opposite, really. Everything on the menu is under $20 (though it’s easy to spend more should you embrace each dish’s suggested wine pairing). However, I load up on “the boring stuff,” because I can’t resist any of it.


Let’s start with the fried chicken, Chef Soishi’s karaage ($12). One of the elder Kadoya’s contributions to the menu, this popular item doesn’t seem like something I can ignore, despite its bland at best phot-op. The panko-crusted nuggets are practically a lesson in subtlety. 

Sponsored
Sponsored


Che Soichi's karaage


After several years allowing Nashville hot chicken to assail my palate, it’s tough to pinpoint what makes these so appealing. They’re not spicy, not too salty — they don’t taste like any one thing, so while they’re made for sharing, I finish an entire plate by myself before I can figure out why I like them so much.


Next, I do order one of those crustless, Japanese sandwiches, a.k.a. sandos, bypassing the more onventional egg salad ($10) for the “hamu sando,” ($12) made with Swiss cheese, cucumber, and lettuce. But most important are the thick, fluffy slices of crust-free milk bread. It’s a simple and fairly boring sandwich that’s otherwise perfect.


Chicken yakisoba


I will not apologize that I spend my next $14 on the chicken yakisoba. Even in San Diego, yakisoba is far too easily found to be considered interesting. Yet I order it from just about every Japanese restaurant I visit, hoping to conjure memories of the stir-fried noodles I devoured on weekly basis while living in Japan. Tangy, savory, slightly sweet, this one finally nails it, automatically making it my favorite yakisoba in San Diego.


Finally, with a last chance to find excitement in the little nostalgia trip Hatsuzakura provides, I tackle the onigiri. The snackiest of the shop’s snacks at $6 apiece, onigiri are seaweed-wrapped rice balls stuffed with the likes of fish, curry, or pickled plum. We used to pick up the triangular morsels from convivence stores, often after a night out clubbing. Here, they’re a little heftier, and a little more upscale than what I recall. 


Salmon onigiri


And though pickled plum is available, I err on the side of fish: a tuna and mayo onigiri that almost eats like a tuna salad sandwich, and a salmon onigiri that feels a little more grown-up.


Whether you consider grown-up food boring and unphotogenic, or a source of comfort, I’d consider Hatsuzakura a welcome addition to University Heights. And if you prefer to veer into unconventional territory of Japanese spaghetti with bacon, an ice cream parfait made with cornflakes, or a melon soda ice cream float, definitely make a date to bring your inner child.

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

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

Shorebirds active in local tidal zones, full buck moon on Sunday

Extreme high tides this weekend, perfect for grunion grabbing
A "hamu sando" and other Japanese snacks
A "hamu sando" and other Japanese snacks

Considering the array of idiosyncratic treats on the menu of Hatsuzakura, I’ve ordered the boring stuff.


Place

Hatsuzakura

2123 Adams Ave., San Diego


This occurs to me as I watch a batch of emerald-green matcha tea being hand-whisked to life across the counter from my barstool. Again, as I spot an unfamiliar small appliance dispensing finely shaved ice, the base of a syrup-sweetened dessert called kakigōri. And not for the last time when the customer sitting next to me receives her order: dubbed an omurice: it’s an omelet, stuffed with fried rice, and topped with a tomato-based sauce.


It's a youthful, more fun side of Japanese cuisine than we’re used to seeing in San Diego restaurants, balanced between comfort food and the sort of things Japanese schoolkids might eat at home. Think mochi ice cream, macaroni casseroles, and white bread sandwiches, cut into triangles and trimmed of their crusts.


That it feels so youthful makes sense, given it’s an offspring of another University Heights restaurant, the Michelin-starred Soichi Sushi. Hatsuzakura translates as “first cherry blossom,” and one of its operators is first-time restaurateur Sakura Kadoya, a young daughter of the sushi restaurant’s namesake chef, Soichi Kadoya. You needn’t look far to find Hatsuzakura, either: the younger chef’s restaurant has recently bloomed right next door to her dad’s place.


A small "kissaten" style Japanese restaurant


It’s a similarly intimate shop, with a smattering of small tables set up around a main dining counter. Hatsuzakura is modeled after kissaten, a Japanese café tradition that puts an emphasis on coffee, tea, and snacks. Meaning, really, I should have started with a matcha latte, or better yet, an hojicha latte: likewise whisked from green tea powder, albeit a darker hue, ground from more mature tea leaves.


Instead, I spend my entire budget on two meals’ worth of more familiar items. Not because Hatsuzakura is expensive — quite the opposite, really. Everything on the menu is under $20 (though it’s easy to spend more should you embrace each dish’s suggested wine pairing). However, I load up on “the boring stuff,” because I can’t resist any of it.


Let’s start with the fried chicken, Chef Soishi’s karaage ($12). One of the elder Kadoya’s contributions to the menu, this popular item doesn’t seem like something I can ignore, despite its bland at best phot-op. The panko-crusted nuggets are practically a lesson in subtlety. 

Sponsored
Sponsored


Che Soichi's karaage


After several years allowing Nashville hot chicken to assail my palate, it’s tough to pinpoint what makes these so appealing. They’re not spicy, not too salty — they don’t taste like any one thing, so while they’re made for sharing, I finish an entire plate by myself before I can figure out why I like them so much.


Next, I do order one of those crustless, Japanese sandwiches, a.k.a. sandos, bypassing the more onventional egg salad ($10) for the “hamu sando,” ($12) made with Swiss cheese, cucumber, and lettuce. But most important are the thick, fluffy slices of crust-free milk bread. It’s a simple and fairly boring sandwich that’s otherwise perfect.


Chicken yakisoba


I will not apologize that I spend my next $14 on the chicken yakisoba. Even in San Diego, yakisoba is far too easily found to be considered interesting. Yet I order it from just about every Japanese restaurant I visit, hoping to conjure memories of the stir-fried noodles I devoured on weekly basis while living in Japan. Tangy, savory, slightly sweet, this one finally nails it, automatically making it my favorite yakisoba in San Diego.


Finally, with a last chance to find excitement in the little nostalgia trip Hatsuzakura provides, I tackle the onigiri. The snackiest of the shop’s snacks at $6 apiece, onigiri are seaweed-wrapped rice balls stuffed with the likes of fish, curry, or pickled plum. We used to pick up the triangular morsels from convivence stores, often after a night out clubbing. Here, they’re a little heftier, and a little more upscale than what I recall. 


Salmon onigiri


And though pickled plum is available, I err on the side of fish: a tuna and mayo onigiri that almost eats like a tuna salad sandwich, and a salmon onigiri that feels a little more grown-up.


Whether you consider grown-up food boring and unphotogenic, or a source of comfort, I’d consider Hatsuzakura a welcome addition to University Heights. And if you prefer to veer into unconventional territory of Japanese spaghetti with bacon, an ice cream parfait made with cornflakes, or a melon soda ice cream float, definitely make a date to bring your inner child.

Comments
Sponsored

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

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

A taste of America on the other side of the world

Diner’s owners once drove Route 66
Next Article

Tesla drivers denounce Caltrans plans for road tax

"It's really unfair to the people who bought the EVs."
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox Movies@Home — 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 Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new 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 Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week 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 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

Anchor ads are not supported on this page.