San Diego is a Great Town for Sushi.. and Dessert

The Gaslamp district of San Diego is great, lots of things to do, it can be fun. But though there are tons of restaurants, the point of those restaurants is something to do (and of course, like the Checkers commercials say, ‘Ya Gotta Eat!’). On the one hand it means there’s competition – but it’s mostly competition for fun and a scene. So if you want to eat well, you need to choose carefully.

I much enjoyed Taka for sushi. Online reviews were good, and it turned out to be better than expected though not at all inexpensive (you’ll pay extra for something to be good in the Gaslamp area, I think, the rents are relatively high).

There’s a menu of specials and their list of sushi and sashimi

I decided to add their live shrimp special to my order, raw shrimp served with the head separately. After finishing the rest of the food served they’ll then either batter and deep fry the head (recommended!) or use it for a miso soup.

A bit more food, but not too much for two people, because dessert was in the plan that evening.

Down the street I was reminded I was in a laid back party section of town, and definitely in California.

One thing San Diego broadly does well is dessert. Over the course of a few days I visited two restaurants that literally specialize in dessert. The first one was Swoon Dessert Bar.

They offer a three dessert course tasting menu.

Or you can order whatever items you wish.

They have an extensive menu of teas as well.

I’m not sure how they’re going to make money. They aren’t in a walking area, this isn’t a place that will attract passers by. It’s a destination that folks have to drive to. There was only one other group in the place while I was there (admittedly early) on a Friday evening.

But it’s an interesting place, and the desserts are both creative and good. I had wanted to try the smoked salmon eclair, but they were out. But I did get to sample three things.

Basil Tres Leche, Strawberry Ice Cream, Basil Granite, Marscapone

Speedway Stout Mousse with Marshmallow, Toffee, and Roasted Almonds

White Peach Crisp with Bacon Gelato

I’m not usually big on sweets, but these were excellent. I loved the bacon gelato that accompanied the white peach crisp. Actually, it was all good. The basil made the first dish. The mouse with toffee was sooo good. It’s a trip, but worth it.

But it also wasn’t the only dessert restaurant I went to. Four years ago I visited Extraordinary Desserts (it came highly recommended by Carol H.). I went after lunch time and the place was deserted (hah) but it was quite good.

This time I went in the evening after dinner, at another place that doesn’t really warrant a review (a local version of Fogo de Chao or Texas de Brazil). So it was busy. in fact, there was about a 20 minute wait to be seated. They hand you a clipboard and a slip of paper so you can browse their offerings and select what you want before you even sit down, and can just hand the paper to your server. That way they can turn those tables much more quickly!

The place was loud. Moving around was tough as people were there waiting and browsing and also in line to pick up desserts to go.

After about 20 minutes I was buzzed to come get seated. A waiter came by, took my order slip, and also took drink orders. Several dessert wines were on offer by the glass, and I had a fairly good though non-descript sauterne.

The desserts, unsurprisingly were excellent — as I remembered them to be back in 2009.

All were quite good, though the first was my favorite, they had me with chocolate and frangipane.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Are there any good east coast dessert restaurants? When ever we eat out my wife always checks the desserts before ordering dinner, love to surprise her with a good dessert place.

  2. We visited Extraordinary Desserts last week, we hit it about 8pm on a weeknight and it was PACKED. We were all set to wait for tables on the patio when the hostess told us that for parties of 10 or more they have a mandatory $10 per person plus 18% gratuity. The tip I could handle but $10 per person was extreme since we were planning on sharing plates. We ordered way too much dessert and our party of 19 paid less than $70. Even though it meant finding another place to eat it sure was nice to save $120!

    The desserts were good, not sure it was worth the cost though.

  3. Hi Gary,
    Let me preface by stating that I have high standards for food. My bf took me to Taka a few weeks ago. I was really excited to try the food due to the high reviews. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed. The fish did not taste fresh and it was well over-priced. The best seafood I’ve ever had was in Maui when the fish had only been out of the water for a few hours. Of course, one cannot expect that from San Diego. But given all the high reviews that Take has and its prices, I expected a better meal.
    I also tried the gelato place across the street. They had nutella gelato, and it was pretty good!

  4. While there are many sushi places in San Diego that serve good sushi, there is one that absolutely stands out: Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach. Mr. Ota is a consummate artist and a demanding buyer of only the freshest fish. The high percentage of Japanese businessmen who go there speaks highly of the quality and authenticity of the sushi. Hane, a sushi restaurant much closer to the Gaslamp, is owned by Mr. Ota’s “first lieutenant” who studied under him for years. It is also excellent. Having lived in Japan for four years, I can say that both places carry me back.

  5. I was on a business trip when I saw this posting, I didn’t get to read it until now, I’m was horrified that my favorite and best Sushi bar in San Diego was being published to the mass’s. I then read the article and was able to breath again…. I grew up in San Diego, and get back once a month to check on the parental units and get to get to the best Sushi bar in San Diego, and no I will not post it’s name. Its really a local hang out, prices are incredible and the amount of food is more then others in San Diego. Some of the best places to eat are in the Gaslamp Quarter and most are not.

    When it comes to dessert try Heaven Sent Desserts in North Park…

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