j / wata TEMAKI BAR is the latest food venture from Chef Junya Watanabe, the brain behind Pokirrito, Raki Raki Ramen, and Angels and Hearts on Convoy in Kearny Mesa, San Diego. You can find all of these eateries in a nice little row in the strip mall anchored by O'Brien's Pub and many other fast casual restaurants.
The concept behind this 24-seat bar are premium handrolls! The menu is small but that is because each handroll is made right in front of you and served personally by the chef. The chef waits until you have finished eating your current roll before making the next one.
My husband and I were able to dine in on one of the Grand Opening weekends. They have been opened for about a month and the word has gotten out. We came right at 11 am and had no problem getting a seat. When we left 55 minutes later, there was a line. All of the staff we interacted with were very friendly, made us feel welcome and answered any questions I had.
This is the menu:
One novelty of this place is that they roast each seaweed on top of a charcoal open flame to get it toasty. You can hear the crunch when you take a bite. I really enjoyed the texture of the nori!
The rolls are about five inches long packed with simple ingredients. We started with the Maine Lobster roll.You can see how much lobster meat was in there!
The third roll was a Bay Scallop roll. This was one of my favorites! You can taste the freshness of the seafood and the mayo ratio was just right!
Here are some other items that j / wata offers.
Ok, I mainly gave some positives right? So here's some negatives:
- Parking in this strip mall can be like the Hunger Games so be prepared! I don't really count this against the restaurant though. Maybe Chef Watanabe can invest in a parking garage nearby since he owns a lot of the places?
- The water came with no ice. I like ice. We had to request for some ice when it came time to refill. But again, our server was very nice (and nice-looking too, hehehe).
- Here's the one thing that was off-putting. The Chefs are gloved up making the rolls but then they are also touching tablets with the same hands checking on what to make next. Does this only bother me thinking about yucky germs being spread? Not sure how to fix that. Chef Brian was using his pinky finger to swipe on his device, but I'm certain his pinky also touches the mound of rice whenever he grabs some for his next roll and so on. Whatever. I guess I've seen worse.
Overall for the taste, friendly staff and concept, 4 stars! If you've tried it, what did you think?