Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar is recorded closed at this location! Everybody likes options, especially when it comes to food. At Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar in downtown La Jolla, Asian fusion prepared with a French flair gives diners plenty of choices. Twenty-four different tapas like Ahi Poke, Mint Curried Lamb, Hamachi Tacos, and vast amounts of soups, salads, entrees, sushi rolls, sashimi, and steaks provide any patron an alternative to the mundane. Executive Chef Stephen Window takes tremendous pride in using local, seasonal, ingredients when creating his menu items. His passion for fresh fare has garnered a “World’s Top Restaurant” award from Zagat for his creative cuisine. Roppongi is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. every day and serves both lunch and dinner offering gluten free menus for both menus. There is also a stellar happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a plethora of wines, sakes, beers, and craft cocktails. Roppongi even offers sushi classes for those wanting to learn on the first Saturday of every month. If you’re looking for great food in La Jolla, you’re first option should be Roppongi.Read More ...
It’s 5 p.m. on a warm day in the middle of July. I am near enough to the shores of the Pacific to smell the salty sea air, and the late afternoon Southern California sun shines down brightly on the dark grey paint of my vintage BMW. The seaside resort community of La Jolla is one of San Diego’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and is affectionately referred to by locals as “The Jewel City”. The Village of La Jolla, where Roppongi is located, is the downtown district of the sleepy upscale beach town. I time my arrival well, and I am fortunate enough to secure a parking spot in the cool shade just around the corner not 100 feet from the door of Roppongi.
With 30 minutes to burn before Matt, my editor and dinner guest arrives; I decide to head to San Diego’s only Brooks Brothers. Walking through the streets of the Village, I enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back as I walk through the avenues of downtown La Jolla as I step passed tourist choked cafes and souvenir shops.
Having satiated my sartorial appetite with a few small items, I leave the clothier and head back to the restaurant, ready to satisfy my hunger with their renowned Japanese fusion cuisine. I see Matt circling the block in search of a parking space, and I smile to myself as I enter the restaurant wondering why he doesn’t take advantage of the parking structure next door, or even the valet out front.
I step inside, and the warm earthy colors of the mahogany and walnut toned interior greet me. The host stand backs against a dividing wall that houses a breathtakingly large salt water aquarium containing colorful tropical fish and coral. On the right side, the elegant, low-lit dining room is equipped with cushioned rattan chairs and tables the color of teak. The textured walls include recesses displaying Asian pottery and statues. The main dining room seems like the perfect setting for a romantic evening or a quiet dinner. To the left is the sushi bar and lounge. Well lit and lively, seating options include booths that line the windows, a dozen or so chairs at the bar, as well as seating for half a dozen guests at the sushi bar. There is also a private “Buddha Room”, which comfortably seats up to 36 guests and mirrors the décor of the main dining area.
Opened in 1998 and inspired by the colorful nightlife district in Tokyo, Roppongi fuses Old World European culinary techniques with modern flavors, to create its signature New Asian cuisine. Blending traditional Asian fare with French-style execution, Executive Chef Stephen Window imbues Roppongi’s cuisine with the flavors of Asia and Europe.
I check in with the pretty, dark haired hostess, Bernadette Deleon, and she offers me a choice of seating options. I choose to sit outside on the covered patio in order to enjoy an open-air meal on a nice summer evening. As I take my seat on the south end of the booth, I observe the uncovered seating area just outside from where I sit. The open air space is warmed by heaters and a gas fire pit. This looks like a fine place to spend an evening with friends while enjoying a cocktail and meal under the starlit sky. Our server, Mariah Mulcahy, greets us with a smile. I order a Voss mineral water to buy me a moment to browse the menu, and Matt orders the same, only in still, with the same intention.
Looking around at the busy restaurant, I realize that our reservation is on the tail end of Roppongi’s Happy Hour. It is no wonder there are so many people here. Every afternoon between three and six Roppongi offers half-priced Tapas. The Tapas menu includes numerous tasty plates to snack on while enjoying a post work cocktail, such as the Vietnamese Lobster Wrap, Pan Seared Diver Scallops, and Duck Quesadilla. Before Happy Hour, Roppongi is open for lunch with a menu of lighter offerings. Sandwiches and salads are the centerpiece of the lunch menu. The Mint Curried Lamb Wrap, Maine Lobster BLT Sandwich, and Kobe Beef Sliders are just a sample of the bevy of sandwich choices. The Scallop Spinach Salad, Fresh Strawberry & Almond Salad, Thai Steak Salad, and Chinese Chicken Salad are examples of the lighter side of the lunch menu.
While Mariah departs to retrieve our refreshments, we discuss the drink menu. Roppongi’s Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winning wine list has selections from across the globe. Domestic vineyards include a wide range of California wineries as well as a number of offerings from Oregon and Washington Wines from Australia, Argentina Chile, France, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand round out the list, and include every type of wine one could wish for, from Champagne to Pinot Noir. Roppongi’s sake list is just as impressive and aims to please everyone from the uninitiated to the connoisseur. The list highlights domestic, reserve list, Honjozo/Junmai, Sparkling, Ginjo/Junmai Ginjo, Nigori Sake, Ginjo and Daiginjo. For those who have no idea what any of this means, the staff at Roppongi are well versed in all offerings and can help with any choice, be it a single glass, or a food pairing. Bottled beers are available and include the gluten-free Bard’s Tail, Racer 5 IPA, and Ballast Point “Calico” Amber Ale, to Japanese beers such as Asahi Kuronama “Black”, Sapporo, and Kirin.
Having established the depth of options available, the specialty cocktail list is where my interests lie. I decide on the Thin Thai Chili Margarita, crafted with light agave nectar, Hornitos Reposado Tequila, limes, shiso infused salt rim, and a Thai chili garnish as I have a taste for spicy fare. Matt goes for something smooth and sweet, and orders the Roppongi Martini. The restaurant’s namesake drink contains lychee infused Nada Red vodka, Soho lychee liquor, sake, and fresh lime.
When the drinks arrive, I am pleased with my cocktail selection. The Thin Thai Chili Margarita tastes just as I had envisioned, smooth yet savory with a slight sweetness and a bite of heat. Matt, who generally enjoys the bitter strength of an extra dry gin martini, expresses that the Roppongi Martini is, “a lady drink.” While admittedly more than a bit chauvinistic, I can confirm this assessment. The Roppongi Martini is sweet and succulent, perfect for someone who would like to enjoy a cocktail that doesn’t twist the tongue with bitter alcohol. We ask Mariah what she recommends to get the meal started, and she suggests we begin with a few items from the fore mentioned Tapas menu. After reviewing our options, we settle on the Signature Crab Stack, Japanese Hot Rock, and Big Eye Tuna & Sweet Corn.
As we wait for our Tapas, I peruse the options for dinner. The depth of the menu is expansive. There are soups such as the Summer Sweet Corn Soup with Maine lobster, the Tomato Soup with bacon, and a traditional Miso soup. A trio of salads includes Organic Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon, Arugula Pear, and Organic Beet, all of which could make a great first course. Other menu offerings include two dozen Sushi and Sashimi rolls, of which five are Specialty Rolls exclusive to Roppongi. And as if this wasn’t enough, there are also Steaks & Chops from the kitchen such as a 12oz Double Cut Lamb Chop, 14oz Rib Eye, 12oz New York, and a 6oz Petite Filet. Matt and I decide on a Specialty Roll, a Noodle dish, and a selection from the Entrée listings.
The first dish to arrive is the Signature Crab Stack. Pea shoots, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, mango, avocado, crabmeat, peanuts, and cilantro are layered in a cylindrical mold, and the resulting tower of ingredients is placed on a bed of spicy ginger lime dressing and served with grilled baguette slices drizzled with olive oil. The presentation is superb, and it is clear why this menu item is so popular with patrons. When our server asks if we would like the dish tossed, we reluctantly agree. Although it seems a sin to destroy such a piece of culinary art, that is the intended purpose after all. Once the tower falls, I offer Matt first stab at the colorful mixture of ingredients by jabbing him according to his description of his martini, “Ladies first, Matt” I say with a wry grin. The taste and texture is light and refreshing. The rich sweetness of the crab blends with the mango and avocado, as the acidity of the tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro cuts through the sweetness. However, the cucumber adds a cool texture to the overall flavors. Coupled with the cocktails, our meal is off to a promising start.
A food runner approaches our table with The Japanese Hot Rock in hand, and warns that the stone that rests upon a bed of coarse sea salt is a scalding 500 degrees Fahrenheit. I joke that the rock clearly isn’t red and therefore not hot, but the food runner is adamant in my understanding that touching the stone will result in a terribly unpleasant burn. I assure him that I will not touch the rock with anything other than the provided strips of New York Steak, and he leaves giving me a “seriously, don’t touch it” look. Plated in a chili ponzu and topped with sesame seeds, the New York Steak comes with a side of sesame goma sauce and cucumber sunomono garnish. Laying the strips of beef on the rock produces a plume of sweet smoke and a satisfying sizzle. It only takes a few seconds to cook the beef, four to five seconds for medium rare and ten to eleven seconds for well done. As a fan of the traditional “black and blue” method of cooking beef, I remove my serving quickly and am pleased with the rich and smooth taste of the beef. The sesame goma sauce provides a nutty sweetness and the cucumber sunomono lends a crisp crunch to the texture when coupled with the beef.
Matt and I finish our drinks, and for the second round of cocktails, I decide to keep the spicy drink train rolling. The Bangkok Salty Dog, made with Purity vodka, fresh ruby grapefruit, and a Sriracha salted rim is my second choice. Matt decides to change his pace and has a Skinny Ginny, a mix of Bombay Dry gin, orange juice, Aperol, and ginger. I am just as impressed with the second round as the first. The bitter, salty, and spicy Bangkok Salty Dog is a perfect follow up to the smooth, savory, and sweet heat of the Skinny Thai Chili Margarita. Matt is also enjoying his new gin drink, stating that the Skinny Ginny is a bit more to his taste in comparison to the candy-like flavor of the Roppongi Martini.
Our final Tapas plate, the Big Eye Tuna & Sweet Corn plate arrives after a couple of sips of our fresh round of drinks. Presented in a symmetric row arranged on a rectangular plate, the sweet corn fritters are topped with the perfect amount of chipotle aioli, a generous slice of big eye sashimi, and a crown of micro cilantro. The corn kernels yield a crisp bite and sweetness, while the light taste and soft texture of the tuna blends with the freshness of the micro cilantro. The creamy chipotle aioli lends a smoky overtone to the flavor profile of the dish. After enjoying this trio of starters, we are ready for the main course.
Our main course begins with the Albacore Jalapeno Specialty Roll. A thick slice of fresh albacore sits atop the perfect balance of rice, avocado, cucumber, kiaware sprouts, and yama gobo. The rolls are lightly sprinkled with a garlic ponzu vinaigrette, and a thin slice of jalapeno topped with a pinch of micro cilantro rounds out the specialty roll. The Albacore Jalapeno Roll is one of the finer albacore sushi rolls I have had the pleasure of enjoying. This is no diminutive declaration, as I have had the good fortune of dining on sushi at fine restaurants in Japan. The tartness of the garlic ponzu coupled with the spicy kick of the jalapeno and the crisp freshness of the micro cilantro add a depth to the expertly prepared roll, despite the mildness of the cucumber and earthy tone of the kiaware sprouts and yama gobo lend layer upon layer to complexity of the dish. Matt declared his keenness for this dish, announcing that this as his favorite dish of the evening.
The Hong Kong Duck & Broccolini is our first hearty offering of the evening. The dish comes in a deep bowl full of noodles and vegetables, and the first taste reveals that this is not your typical lo mein entree. Thick fresh egg noodles are soft and flavorful. Cooked to perfection, the duck is tender and juicy. Onions add a hint of sweetness as the organic broccolini offers a crunch and a pleasant hint of bitterness. All the while, the mint, Thai basil, and oyster sauce gives the dish a complexity of flavor only found in Asian fusion dishes.
Our final entrée of the evening is the Jindori chicken. The Jindori chicken is a simple and straightforward dish, with a rich complexity of flavors. The chicken breast is prepared with an Airline cut. When I say Airline cut, I’m not talking about some flavorless, dry, airplane food chicken. An Airline cut is a boneless breast with the skin left on, and features the first wing joint of the drumette still attached. The chicken has a spectacular blend of herbs and spices that enhance the flavor of the crispy skin and white meat. The Airline cut provides a bit of juicy dark meat the closer we get to the bone of the drumette in which Matt declares to stake claim of the area before I could. The sautéed organic corn is bright and sweet and the crispy fingerling potatoes are smooth and mild. The asparagus gives a deep sweetness, and slight firm crunch. The whole dish is accented with a rich red wine reduction with hints of smoky hickory.
Matt and I have a hard time deciding on dessert. As much as I want to try the Warm Melting Chocolate Decadence, the preparation time of 20 minutes means I should have already put my order in. Food runners with the Chocolate Sundae have pasted our table on multiple occasions making it an intriguing choice, but Mariah’s insists we choose the Sticky English Toffee Pudding. In spite of Mariah’s accurate description, I cannot help myself and submit to Mariah’s suggested dish. When I hear the word pudding, I think custard. I am pleasantly surprised when the finale of our meal arrives. No custard here, this is pudding in the English sense. Featuring a rich toffee cake, smooth toffee gelato, fresh raspberries, fresh whipped cream, and a raspberry sauce, the Sticky English Toffee Pudding is one of the better desserts I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. The cake is light and fluffy, and combined with the toffee gelato, berries and whipped cream, this dessert is simply fantastic.
We sip water and recount the stories of the previous weekend after finishing off our dessert. The street lights flicker on as we sit, enjoying the early evening dusk. A warm summer breeze gently sways the palm fronds that line the sidewalk outside Roppongi. The sun is setting over the pacific, and the sky shifts to a vivid violet as purple clouds glow an under lit orange. The deep rumble of a black Ford GT driving by catches my attention. The rare supercar is the kind of thing you see on a daily basis in La Jolla. On our way out, we enter the restaurant one last time to thank the staff for great service and an even better meal. I survey the main dining room and see that it is full of people enjoying a quiet evening out. I look to the lounge and sushi bar and observe the aforementioned livelier crowd. It’s clear that Roppongi successfully offers comfortable ambience for a range of temperaments. As we step outside into the dwindling light, restaurant manager and house sommelier Stephen Rhodes bids us adieu. I make my way home, reflecting on yet another beautiful day in paradise.
For the gluten sensitive, Roppongi offers a gluten free menu for both lunch and dinner.
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Went hear a friends suggestion...WOW! It was fun and delicious.... On Sunday and Monday nights it is 1/2 price on all the Tapas.. and they were gooood! The wine list was also excellent. Have fun and sit outside..there is no view but with the food being sooo good we were just fine!
This is one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. The appetizers (tapas) are amazing and you can easily make a meal of these alone. There is a great cocktail on the menu ... I don't recall the name but it has muddled cucumbers and a bit of heat. If you can make it for happy hour, you get a great deal.
An extremely creative menu and exquisitely prepared. The flavours, combinations and presentation are out of this world! The atmosphere is very inviting, comfortable and relaxing highlighted by a well trained and attentive staff. Great dining experience!
We were in town, and met some friends at Roppongi for dinner. We loved the food, and the small plates were perfect to share. The ambience was great, too- hip and nice, not at all stuffy.
We had a great time the room, staff, food quality and the ambiance is exelent we had a great time best part the banana desser is wonderfull i am sure i will be back for another one
This is my fist time at Roppongi. I ordered the sushi roll "La Jolla Sunset", it was mouthwatering and delicious (Sweet, mild lemon-flavored, soft and oh so yummy) I cannot wait to go back and try others dishes.
Great service and ambiance.....mediocre food.