Our authentic Japanese Omakase dining features artistically presented Japanese delicacies with proper balance, texture, temperature and taste. Enjoy an exquisite meal customized for you by Chef Soichi served with superb hospitality in an authentic atmosphere that appeals to all the senses.
Sitting before Chef Soichi is a truly sensual experience.
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NEW OMAKASE-STYLE SUSHI RESTAURANT OFFERS
JAPANESE HOSPITALITY IN UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS
By Ron Donoho
If Chef Soichi Kadoya’s life story were made into a movie it might bear a passing resemblance to the well-reviewed, 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Like Tokyo-based chef Jiro, Soichi is a perfectionist, and laser- focused on his authentic, omakase-style sushi restaurant in University Heights.
Avid filmgoers will recall that Jiro is a taciturn taskmaster—and that’s where the comparison ends. Soichi is outgoing and personable. Serious about well-sourced fish and premium sake, he’s also quick to smile and laugh.
In fact, Soichi is an artist/musician who might just get out his guitar and sing you “Happy Birthday” if that’s the occasion you’re celebrating at his eponymous new restaurant.
When we visited, Soichi Sushi was still taking shape in its new Normal Heights home (2121 Adams Avenue). The chef was busy remodel- ing to the cozy, 950-square-foot location that had been neighborhood eatery Circa for the past five years; before that it was the long- standing site of Farm House Café.
This is the first solo restaurant effort by Soichi, who’s been in the food-and-beverage industry for 25 years. He was a team member in the kitchen of Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town. Previously, he worked at Surfside Sushi in Pacific Beach.
Along with his wife, Raechel, Soichi has been busy converting Circa’s former wine bar into a 10-seat sushi bar. The restaurant will also include a 6 seat community table for dining.
Unlike the edomae-style fare Soichi helped prepare at Tadokoro, the new restaurant will offer omakase dining.
Edomae sushi is the combination of raw fish and rice that are commonly made into rolls at most sushi restaurants around the United States. Omakase is different. Soichi’s food service will be done in the more traditional Japanese style, where the chef predominantly customizes a multi-course meal—mostly consisting of nigiri sushi and sashimi.
Soichi Sushi will also serve appetizers and hand rolls—but don’t expect oversized California rolls. Period.
“I’ll make the choices in all the dishes, and the seasonal fish that we will be using,” Soichi says. “Customers can sit down and order some drinks, and see what I’m making today. We’ll do omakase service in two ways. One is our 8 course meal. The other is a 4 course nigiri meal. We will have a la carte available, too.”
Raechel adds that high-quality service will be the main calling card at the restaurant.
“There’s a word in Japanese—omotenashi — and that describes a deep-rooted, heart-felt, sincere hospitality,” she says. “We want our guests to feel welcome and to stay a while and enjoy the food and enjoy the company and the interaction with the chef. And we will provide this in an atmosphere that feels authentic.”
Along with an authentic experience, Raechel says Soichi Sushi can also be “an educa- tional experience as well as a pleasurable and sensual experience. We want to match the Japanese spirit and heart that exists in places of business there.”
The Kayodas—who now have three girls (19, 16 and 13) met and married in Japan. Soichi was born there; Raechel grew up in Chula Vista and was a Navy brat who moved to Ja- pan when her father was stationed at the U.S. base in Yokosuka.
Soichi was bartending at a “secret” speakeasy- type bar behind a storefront in a mall that was near the military base. (Soichi actually helped build the bar.) Raechel went there one night with friends. Soichi asked her what she wanted to drink, and Raechel noted that her liquor of choice was tequila.
“Soichi comes out with this drink and I re- ally liked it,” she recalls. “I asked what it was called, so I could order it next time. He was like, ‘What’s your name?’ I told him it was Raechel, and he said, well, this drink is called the Raechel Special.”
The Raechel Special went on to be one of the most popular drinks served at the bar. And Soichi’s quick-thinking, smooth bar move landed him a wife.
“Soichi’s always had that quality about him— that ability to make the customer feel special,” Raechel says. “People really like that about him, and are drawn to that.”
The newlyweds moved to San Diego in 1999, and then back to Japan in 2004. They were likely to have stayed in Soichi’s homeland— except for a tragedy that created worldwide headlines: the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Both worried about radiation levels in the Japanese food supply. Raechel became an activist, especially regarding contaminated food in school lunches, protecting the ocean, and clean energy. Now a family of five, the Kadoyas chose to return to San Diego—primarily because of the tsunami and its after- effects.
Having gone through that experience has made Soichi and Raechel even more sensitive to sourcing fish and all the ingredients that go into their kitchen and onto the sushi bar from small businesses and trusted vendors.
“We really believe in high quality and sustainability, ” Raechel says. “We’re careful about what vendors we use and we care about this issue immensely. In fact much of our Japanese fish is shipped to us same-day directly from village fisherman with whom our local vendor works. We know who the fisherman are and where the fish was caught. For our customers to know about
our history with this I think will build a trust factor. I can’t stress enough how much food safety means to us.”
By supporting trusted local and small businesses, creating an atmosphere featuring artisans and craftsmen, with safety and caution as the backbone of the business, the Kadoyas are ready to treat customers to authentic food service for special occasions. Soichi Sushi is open for dinner-only (5-10 p.m.,closed on Sundays and every other Monday).
After putting his own sweat equity into the conversion, Soichi is excited about the new restaurant’s location. “I love this community, I wasn’t interested in being in a shopping mall, or a super fancy, busy area like down- town,” he says.
The goal is to be a destination spot—some- thing off-the-beaten-path. There’ll be no pressure to turn tables or eat quickly within a short period of time. If you want to linger and savor the food and ambiance for two hours, that’ll be par for the course.
“It’s all about communication with the chef, don’t be shy.” notes Raechel. “Soichi wants you to enjoy your experience. If you have allergies or food preferences—let Soichi know. He’ll take care of everybody and can customize anything. He makes it special.”
Take that from someone who has a popular drink in Japan named after her.