Shimbashi Izakaya is a seasonal Japanese Tapas and Sake Bar located in the Del Mar Plaza shopping center in picturesque Del Mar. While they do offer both indoor and outdoor seating, most seem to prefer eating outside on the patio to enjoy the gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. With its chic location, Shimbashi Izakaya offers a sophisticated but family-friendly setting to dine. The restaurant offers fine dining fare without the formality that usually accompanies it--fitting to stop by for a quick meal or to have a casual date night. The Del Mar Plaza is a hub for fine dining in the area upholding the standards for culinary excellence that Shimbashi Izakya embodies.
As I approach the restaurant, the facade itself is simply adorned by the bold, black lettering spelling out “Shimbashi Izakaya” above the rich wood-framed glass door. A friendly hostess, who stands by her podium inside, menus in hand, offers a bright smile to us as she welcomes us to Shimbashi Izakaya. As we step inside, the hostess greets my guests and I, directing to one of the few rustic wooden tables. The restaurant has a simple layout wrapped in wood décor with tables fit for two and four, a bar in the middle, and a sushi bar towards the left side of the restaurant. The low lighting and warmly lit shoji-screen backdrop and quietness of the restaurant due to the early dining hour creates a relaxing and cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy your food. Upon viewing the menu, I notice that the restaurant offers pictures of almost every dish served along with the general description of each dish.
As we continue to look over the menu, Hideko, the general manager, comes over to see how we are doing and tell us about Shimbashi’s drink selection. Cheery and upbeat, Hideko sits down with us and answers all of our questions regarding the food, drink, and the restaurant itself. Hideko informs us that the cocktails can also be made without alcohol for the younger guests to enjoy. Drink selections such as their sake change seasonally based upon demand and quantity available. Some of their cocktails even use fresh herbs such as mint and Shiso leaves, which can be found in their Shimbashi Mojito; and even their refreshing Strawberry Lemonade had actual pieces of fresh strawberry in the drink. Hideko informs us that she is the person who hand picks the sake for the restaurant and tells us that the best Sake (and personal favorite) is Shinzui, remarking that it is simply “incomparable.”
Shimbashi has a wide array of drinks available including sake, champagne, shochu, teas, cocktails, and cold drinks such as soda. They have a range of beer including the Asahi, which is the only draft beer brewed in Japan, or enjoy their Sapporo and Kirin selections. Their wine selection comes from a variety of regions including France, Italy, Germany, New Zealand and California--try a glass of their Sleepy Hollow wine from nearby Fallbrook.
We are all still unsure as to what to order as it all looks so good. The Dinner menu offers a selection of Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Stir Frys, Fried Foods, Grilled Dishes, Sushi, and Desserts. Notable dishes include the Grilled Ataka Mackerel, Silverio Specialty Sushi Roll, and the Chef’s Pear Pie with Ice Cream. They also serve Noodles, and Specialty Sushi Rolls as well as Hand Rolls. Guests can also try their winter or summer seasonal favorites, or the Omakase Course, where the food you get is picked by the chef.
Their lunch menu offers many traditional Japanese noodle plates and bowls, and features such items as their two layer Bento Box that comes with Miso Soup or try the Yakiniku Teishoku, Japanese style BBQ beef with vegetables, rice, miso soup, kobachi and salad.
Hideko recommends we try their award-winning sushi roll known as the La Fresca Roll, as well as their fried chicken and grilled fish. As we agree on this and place in those orders, our waitress also recommends we try the Seared Kobe Beef and the Shrimp Ceviche.
Our first dish is the La Fresca Roll, a favorite Specialty Sushi Roll. This sushi roll is filled with avocado, spicy tuna (with mayo), cilantro topped with yellow tail, homemade pico de gallo, garlic oil, sesame seeds and ponzu. It is brought out neatly stacked like dominos; the colorful appearance makes me even more eager to try one of these rolls. The sushi comes with the traditional garnish of ginger and wasabi, and also a pickled radish mixture brought to us each in small individual white porcelain bowls. The smooth texture and tangy taste of the radish mixture pairs well with the smooth, slippery texture of the yellowtail that sits atop the sushi roll. The pico de gallo gives it a nice Latin flair and spicy flavor that makes the dish just that more scrumptious.
Next comes the Chicken Karaage, Japanese fried boneless chicken. The large pieces of breaded and fried chicken lay flat on the shallow plate surrounded by a few subtly sweet, lime green Shishito Japanese peppers. The bright green color of the peppers and the golden yellow of the lemon garnish add a bright playful look to the dish. It reminds me of chicken fingers, but the taste is even better. The lightly breaded texture combined with the tender meat, brings an explosion of buttery flavor as my taste buds savor every bite.
The Thin Sliced Seared Kobe-Style Beef with Yazu Ponzu soon appears before us on a small shallow porcelain plate. The bright orange masago and green seaweed garnishes are placed on each piece of beef, bringing out the light pink coloring of the meat itself. Each thinly sliced piece is placed side by side. I reach over with my chopsticks and gently place the thin, delicate meat into my mouth, as both the texture and the taste overwhelm the palate. The slight chewy texture and tangy taste create a cohesive duo that pleases the palate.
Following the Kobe-Beef is the Gindara Saikyo Yaki, their popular grilled fish dish. It is a petite but thick piece of Black Cod lying atop a single banana leaf, grilled and marinated in miso paste, and served with a handful of mushrooms cooked to a deep mahogany brown. Also, a creative white and rose pink garnish lies atop the fish giving it an artful appearance. No sauce is added or sided with the fish when it is brought out; I soon realize that this fish doesn’t need any extra sauce or additive because the taste is already sublime, thanks to the miso paste. The light, moist, and silky texture melts in my mouth as my taste buds enjoy the buttery sweet flavor that the fish exudes. We learn from Hideko that the Sakiyo miso paste, found in the Western part of Japan, is what gives the fish that sweet flavor.
Our last dish comes out in luxurious style. The Ceviche Shimbashi is served in a martini glass surrounded by thin wafers of light and crispy wonton chips. It is a mixture of small pieces of shrimp and mango, with a few sliced pieces of avocado delicately hanging on the side of the glass. The texture goes well with the flavor as the slight chewiness of the shrimp and the silky feel of the mango create a mixture of pleasure within my mouth. The shrimp and mangos are mixed together creating a tangy yet sweet flavor, where the mango and citrus juices give it a tropical and refreshing taste and aroma. It’s a great summer treat!
As I say goodbye to Hideko and thank her for time, I leave the restaurant fully satisfied-. Shimbashi Izakaya offers a wide array of food and drinks as well as an ocean view to enjoy. With a friendly staff and cozy atmosphere, it is great for dates or to have a small gathering with friends or family. With the option to book the outside patio, it is a great spot to celebrate a special occasion or event and enjoy some tasty food.
Shimbashi Izakaya restaurant is rather compact so if you are eating at peak dining hours and would rather sit inside than outside, try to get there early or call to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table inside. They also have happy hour seven days a week, so make sure to check their happy hour specials. With their “Roll your Own Sushi” kids and adults will enjoy great food and get the chance to make their own sushi. Its’ casual and laid-back atmosphere makes it a great spot for all ages.