Seafood enthusiasts flock to Onami-TORA’s all-you-can-eat Japanese seafood buffet stocked with fresh salads, a vast spread of sushi, gourmet hot food, fresh baked goods, and more. With so many tasty offerings to choose from, diners revisit their buffet favorites again and again. And lucky for everyone, Onami-TORA’s reasonable prices make the prospect of coming back a definite reality. Fresh produce and seafood is delivered daily for Onami-TORA’s staff of professional chefs to work their magic on—new dishes are always finding their way to the forefront for guests to enjoy. Known for having a light, relaxed, and clean atmosphere, Onami-TORA is ideal for lunch, dinner, special occasions, and an excuse to indulge.Read More ...
Nestled in a quiet corner of the Mission Valley Shopping Mall sits Onami-TORA, a buffet-style restaurant with a modern take on traditional Japanese cuisine. While the word “buffet” conjures images of heat lamps and lack of service, Onami-TORA provides an experience far from the stereotype. The various sushi rolls, salads, soups, hot dishes, and desserts are each prepared fresh behind each counter by chefs, so diners can see exactly where their food is coming from.
The contemporary exoticism begins at the front door, where the first diners are greeted by the entire hostess and management staff with a polite bow and words of welcome into a well-lit, large dining room with wood paneling and brightly colored walls covered by subtle lights. Leafy plants decorate the waiting area and popular music fills the restaurant at a perfect volume: loud enough to be heard but quiet enough to allow conversation. In addition to an extensive dining room that wraps around the buffet stations, there is a shaded outdoor patio with a certain feel of privacy from the rest of the restaurant.
The menu features both raw and cooked options which range from adventurous for those daring eaters to simple for those looking for a more straightforward meal. Along with the wide selection that changes daily, Onami-TORA offers a large catering menu with options from all parts of the buffet to please all palates, young and old alike. The buffet is available for both lunch and dinner, with a slightly wider selection at dinner. Though they do not currently serve cocktails, they offer a menu which will be implemented in the near future.
My guest and I are warmly welcomed by the hostess who seats us in the center of the dining room and bring us glasses of water. They explain the different sections of the buffet: sushi and salads on the left, hot plates and soups on the right, desserts in the middle, and plates located beneath each station. From a cursory glance we have to restrain ourselves from heading straight for the desserts, as their central location catches our eyes immediately. But we exercise some self-restraint and head for the salads and appetizers.
I decide to start with the Beef Tartare Salad and Fried Spring Roll. The beef is lightly seared all around the outside and perfectly red in the middle, creating the soft yet slightly chewy texture of tartare without too much of a raw taste. It is covered in chopped red onion and scallions, served over a light pepper cream sauce that adds a slightly spicy note to balance the creaminess of the sauce. It almost seems a shame to mess up the beautiful overlapping layers placed delicately on the platter, but the wonderfully cool flavor was well worth it.
The Fried Spring Roll immediately catches my attention from the other dishes as it is covered not with the traditional wonton wrapper, but instead with crispy rice noodles, which add a perfect crunch to each bite instead of the sogginess that can result with the usual wrapper. With my first bite I am hit with a slightly creamy burst of rice, vegetables, and various shellfish like shrimp and scallops. The mixture has a slightly creamy texture that feels light and pleasant rather than too filling.
Pleased with the light appetizers, I walk over to the sushi section, which, in addition to classic favorites like the California Roll and Rainbow Roll, offers a huge selection of specialty rolls. I first decide to sample the Ahi Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, as to me these raw slices of fish often determine the quality of the rest of the sushi. I am greatly rewarded by the fresh, slightly lemony taste of the salmon. The tuna is free of added flavors, allowing me to experience the subtle, melt-in-your-mouth feel of the fish. Both are served over a bed of shaved jicama, and neither one tastes overly fishy or slimy, a sure sign of freshness.
While perusing the sushi line I notice several vegetarian options, including a Tofu Roll and Cucumber Roll, but decide to sample the Snowy Tuna Roll as my raw sushi choice. Inside is a small amount of spicy tuna paired with fresh cucumber whose crunchiness balances the smooth, delicate texture of the fresh slice of tuna balanced on top. The title “snowy” comes from a light dusting of a spicy powder on top of the tuna. Finally the roll is finished with a light coating of a tangy eel sauce on the bottom to compliment the slightly spicy flavor of the rest of the roll.
Although I am usually a fan of raw sushi, I cannot pass up two of the most unique looking rolls I have ever seen, which are both cooked. The first is the Spicy Beef Guacamole Roll, which consists of seaweed and rice wrapped around a small dab of creamy guacamole and crunchy cucumber, topped with a thin slice of tender beef that melts with the smoothness of the rest of the ingredients. It is so unlike any sushi roll that I have ever tried that it almost seems appropriate for a tailgate before the big game.
The next cooked roll I decide to sample is the Wild Sweet Rice Roll-- the vibrant purple shade of the rice really grabs my attention as I put it on my plate. Inside the rice is a complementary blend of crab and cucumber that adds just the right amount of crunch and flavor to enhance the unique, nutty flavor of the rice.
Before I move to the dessert table, my companion and I decide to try the made-to-order fried rice station. We approach the chef, a very friendly young man, who fires up the teppan-style cook top. He adds a small amount of oil and we select several vegetables, including carrots, spring onion, and mushrooms, in addition to some egg and chicken. In just minutes he has created our personalized dish and we cannot wait to try it. The rice is expertly seasoned and soft but not mushy, while the veggies and chicken are tender and exude the flavor I associate only with fresh fried rice from teppan-style cooking.
Finally, it is time to sample the dessert table. We gather what little room we have left in our stomachs and browse the options. Along with several types of ice cream, like Mango and Green Tea, there is fresh cut fruit and an assortment of small desserts to choose from, perfect for sampling multiple dishes. There are several kid-friendly options for finicky eaters, like the Almond Chocolate Chip cookies and Brownies with sprinkles. However, we decide to try the Tartlet, Cheesecake, and Chocolate Mousse.
The Tartlet is served in a small aluminum tin and comes with several fillings, and I pick one filled with fluffy whipped cream, crunchy chocolate crumbles, and sweet apricot jam. The combination of light, sweet, and crunchy is all jammed into one well-proportioned bite within a flaky, buttery crust. The Cheesecake is of a similar size, made of a traditional, creamy cheesecake filling and topped with a crunchy cookie garnish to offset the smooth texture and graham cracker crust. It tastes lighter than a typical restaurant cheesecake without sacrificing the rich sweetness of the filling and crumbly crust. Finally I turn to the Chocolate Mousse, served in a small plastic cup so I can see every layer inside. The mousse itself is light and gently whipped, almost like whipped cream. It is topped with white chocolate shavings and sliced almonds for crunch, and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce to add another dimension to the chocolate flavor of the mousse.
As we finish our meal, we leave feeling content and pleasantly full of delicate sushi, freshly made fried rice and hot plates, and perfectly portioned desserts. As we walk out through the wood-paneled, brightly lit lobby, the hostess team and managers say goodbye with a friendly smile and wish us a nice evening, which is what we experienced during our meal. The welcoming, modern atmosphere and satisfying food made our experience at Onami-TORA one to remember.
Onami-TORA is located inside the Mission Valley Shopping Mall and is perfect for dinner after a long day of shopping. It’s extensive, always changing menu is great at the end of a long (or short) shopping trip, especially for those with an adventurous palate, and those with picky children.
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