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O-To-San Kushiyaki (and don’t forget the Ramen)

Grilled wagyu beef skewers at not just another noodle shop on Convoy

*Kushiyaki* skewers of wagyu beef and eggplant
*Kushiyaki* skewers of wagyu beef and eggplant

At some point, we had to stop talking about ramen. I mean, we’re not that many years removed from the days San Diego could count its number of reputable ramen shops on one hand. Then the ramen boom hit, and excitement came with every opening or expansion, and ramen heads all hastened to compare each next one to the last. Some ten years later, ramen counters are so woven into the metropolitan fabric that it’s less about where to find the best ramen in San Diego than it is about finding the best in your vicinity.

Place

O-To-San Kushiyaki And Ramen

4425 Convoy St., #217, San Diego

It's not that ramen stopped being delicious, it just stopped being novel. Perhaps nowhere more so than our most noodle-rich neighborhood, the Convoy District, where it may be easier to find a good ramen spot close to an open parking space, than the other way around. Writing about any one in particular would read like déjà vu.

Then along comes O-To-San Kushiyaki And Ramen, and just as I’m about to overlook it, I stop. What’s that, kushiyaki? Have we seen kushiyaki before?

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We have, actually, but we’ve called it yakitori. Which isn’t wrong, per se. The two words are often interchangeable. Strictly speaking, as I understand it, yakitori is meant to refer to skewers of grilled chicken parts, while kushiyaki implies other skewered meats and vegetables. But as any longtime fan of local yakitori institution Yakyudori knows, the place always balances its menu featuring chicken hearts and livers with beef, pork, vegetables, and the likes of bacon wrapped around asparagus. Come to think of it, Yakyudori serves ramen too. Plus sushi and a bunch of other things.

A(mother) taste of Japan on Convoy

Likewise, O-To-San serves a lot more than skewered meats and ramen, including donburi(rice bowls) and sukiyaki (hot pot). But if the word kushiyaki lends a fresh vibe to the shop, consider me here for it. The place looks fantastic, at least, with red brick elements to set off dark stained wood booth dividers.

When it comes to the kushiyaki (or whatever you prefer to call it), part of the joy is that it’s served hot, but what stands out to me first are the proportions. When I order the chicken thigh grilled with green onions ($4.50), for example, three thick pieces of chicken combine for what looks like half a pound of poultry.

A large chicken thigh skewer with green onions

My beef skewer looks a bit lighter at $8.50, but considering it’s wagyu, the four large bites that show up wind up feeling like a bargain. At our table, it winds up more like six large bites of beef, as each chunk is tender enough to cut in half with a chopstick — it’s truly sumptuous. A skewer of grilled eggplant looks meager next to it, but it only costs a satisfying $2.50, as do several of the other snackable, beer-friendly items.

The chicken is quite good, and the wagyu alone would be worth the visit even if the rest of a lengthy kushiyaki menu proves diverse enough to keep trying more, whether skewers of wine marinated pork belly, scallops, shishito peppers, smelt, and beef tongue. I suspect the list changes every so often, too, so easily a place to revisit.

Meanwhile, since we’re here, we might as well try the ramen, right? Except I can’t even get a clear picture, the kids tear into it. in a blur of thick noodles, creamy white tonkotsu broth, wood ear mushrooms, and succulent pork belly. The tonkotsu is an umami bomb, not oversalted like too many a pork bone broth. Miso, black garlic, and two seafood ramens are also available, each ranging from $13 to $18, depending which bowl and whether it’s lunch or dinner service.

I might be going out on a boring limb here, but it’s probably better than what’s in your neighborhood.

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*Kushiyaki* skewers of wagyu beef and eggplant
*Kushiyaki* skewers of wagyu beef and eggplant

At some point, we had to stop talking about ramen. I mean, we’re not that many years removed from the days San Diego could count its number of reputable ramen shops on one hand. Then the ramen boom hit, and excitement came with every opening or expansion, and ramen heads all hastened to compare each next one to the last. Some ten years later, ramen counters are so woven into the metropolitan fabric that it’s less about where to find the best ramen in San Diego than it is about finding the best in your vicinity.

Place

O-To-San Kushiyaki And Ramen

4425 Convoy St., #217, San Diego

It's not that ramen stopped being delicious, it just stopped being novel. Perhaps nowhere more so than our most noodle-rich neighborhood, the Convoy District, where it may be easier to find a good ramen spot close to an open parking space, than the other way around. Writing about any one in particular would read like déjà vu.

Then along comes O-To-San Kushiyaki And Ramen, and just as I’m about to overlook it, I stop. What’s that, kushiyaki? Have we seen kushiyaki before?

Sponsored
Sponsored

We have, actually, but we’ve called it yakitori. Which isn’t wrong, per se. The two words are often interchangeable. Strictly speaking, as I understand it, yakitori is meant to refer to skewers of grilled chicken parts, while kushiyaki implies other skewered meats and vegetables. But as any longtime fan of local yakitori institution Yakyudori knows, the place always balances its menu featuring chicken hearts and livers with beef, pork, vegetables, and the likes of bacon wrapped around asparagus. Come to think of it, Yakyudori serves ramen too. Plus sushi and a bunch of other things.

A(mother) taste of Japan on Convoy

Likewise, O-To-San serves a lot more than skewered meats and ramen, including donburi(rice bowls) and sukiyaki (hot pot). But if the word kushiyaki lends a fresh vibe to the shop, consider me here for it. The place looks fantastic, at least, with red brick elements to set off dark stained wood booth dividers.

When it comes to the kushiyaki (or whatever you prefer to call it), part of the joy is that it’s served hot, but what stands out to me first are the proportions. When I order the chicken thigh grilled with green onions ($4.50), for example, three thick pieces of chicken combine for what looks like half a pound of poultry.

A large chicken thigh skewer with green onions

My beef skewer looks a bit lighter at $8.50, but considering it’s wagyu, the four large bites that show up wind up feeling like a bargain. At our table, it winds up more like six large bites of beef, as each chunk is tender enough to cut in half with a chopstick — it’s truly sumptuous. A skewer of grilled eggplant looks meager next to it, but it only costs a satisfying $2.50, as do several of the other snackable, beer-friendly items.

The chicken is quite good, and the wagyu alone would be worth the visit even if the rest of a lengthy kushiyaki menu proves diverse enough to keep trying more, whether skewers of wine marinated pork belly, scallops, shishito peppers, smelt, and beef tongue. I suspect the list changes every so often, too, so easily a place to revisit.

Meanwhile, since we’re here, we might as well try the ramen, right? Except I can’t even get a clear picture, the kids tear into it. in a blur of thick noodles, creamy white tonkotsu broth, wood ear mushrooms, and succulent pork belly. The tonkotsu is an umami bomb, not oversalted like too many a pork bone broth. Miso, black garlic, and two seafood ramens are also available, each ranging from $13 to $18, depending which bowl and whether it’s lunch or dinner service.

I might be going out on a boring limb here, but it’s probably better than what’s in your neighborhood.

Comments
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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.

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