Sora

>> Sunday, November 4, 2012

Date of Dining: 11/3/2012
Price: $11-18 per appetizer, $15-30 per entree
Location: 655 West Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
website

The Quick Bit:

+ great aromas in the food
+ premium ingredients in the food
+ excellent service
+ free validated parking after 5pm
Δ construction in the front makes the restaurant hard to find
Δ some flavors are repeated

When Sora first opened two months ago, I was really interested in trying it. Unfortunately it opened while I was planning for my vacation, so I was unable to attend the opening. Perhaps that is for the better because the restaurant was much maligned in its initial reviews. Fast forward two months, and the owners are trying to re-invent the restaurant. I've seen no less than three separate coupon offers to try and get diners back into the restaurant. It was from the bloomspot deal that I got the opportunity to try a four course dinner for two.
Sora is headed by Chef Teruya Noriyoshi, who trained under renowned Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Chef Noriyoshi worked with the Nobu brand in the flagship restaurant before opening Nobu aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship, Nobu Milan, and Nobu San Diego. Sora, which means "sky" in Japanese, focuses on Japanese Italian style dishes that Noriyoshi featured at Nobu San Diego during tasting menus. While there currently is no sushi bar, the restaurant plans to add one in the coming months to supplement the Japanese-Italian fare.

First Course

wagyu tartare - onion, garlic, capers, soy sauce, olive oil ricotta foam
The wagyu tartare was a bit of a misnomer as the meat was torched to give it a smoky flavor. While I was initially perplexed, I liked the seared preparation as it melted the fats in the beef slightly to give the entire dish a great mouth feel. Some bread accompanied the tartare to enable creating a crostini type serving mechanism that worked really well. The olive oil foam added to the mouth feel of the entire dish.
mussels - miso sake broth, yuzu juice, garlic
The mussels were cooked perfectly. The miso sake broth was delicious, but the key ingredient was the yuzu juice; not only did it add the required acidity, it brought a nice freshness to the entire dish. As many of you have noticed, I tend to order mussels a lot because I enjoy them and it gives a good indication on the quality of cooking. In this preparation, I felt both the flavors and technique were among the best mussel preparations I've had.

Second Course

parmesan cheese block for the risotto
truffle and wild mushroom risotto - black truffle, wild mushroom puree
The black truffle risotto was the highlight of the night. First, the truffle aroma from the risotto was totally prevalent when it was initially brought to the table. Then the entertainment factor of the parmesan wheel for the risotto was an added benefit to the dish. Finally, the risotto had great flavor. While the parmesan wheel might be discounted as a parlor trick, it really did add some nicely melted cheese to the risotto and improve upon the flavor. While I worried that the cheese might make the dish too salty, the risotto was perfectly seasoned in the end.
I also felt that there was tremendous value to this dish. While a truffle risotto is likely to set you back $45-60 in most fine dining restaurants, it also includes shaved truffles on top. This particular preparation didn't include the shaved truffles but only cost $28. Moreover, the portion was equal if not greater than those other restaurants. I'd like to see a $5-10 supplement to add shaved truffles on top next time.
uni and crab pasta - garlic negi miso sauce, edamame puree, fusilli di gragnano
While the uni pasta was well-prepared, it was a bit of a letdown after the risotto. There were strong aromas of uni coming from the sauce, and the crab added a nice sweetness that complemented the uni. The pasta was handmade and prepared perfectly al dente. I really enjoyed how the pasta was able to capture the sauce. If I had one complaint about this dish, it's actually that the portion was too large. Because uni is a strong flavor, the extended version of it somewhat overwhelmed my palate. 

Third Course

(Note - while the deal allows ordering 2 entrees, we decided to get 1 so we could try both the risotto and uni pasta)
japanese new york sirloin - wasabi butter armagnac sauce, maitake, shiitake
I had very high hopes for this dish to finish out the night, and I ordered it over the filet because I was fascinated by the description of the wasabi butter armagnac sauce. Unfortunately, the sauce did not live up to my expectations. The meat was still cooked well and went very well with the mushrooms, but the dish seemed flat after the absolute hits of the risotto and the pasta.

Dessert

green tea tiramisu
I'm not exactly sure where the tiramisu came into this dish, but it was very enjoyable. I didn't really detect liquer, but this dish featured layers of green tea, chocolate cake, and marscapone which were very enjoyable. Best of all, it was not too sweet.

Conclusion

While Sora still has a few things to sort out, I really enjoyed my experience there. The food was well-prepared and well-executed, and the portion sizes were adequate. I would go as far to put Sora as a gaslamp destination for convention goers. I understand that while the restaurant had some initial hiccups, it has learned from those mistakes and is now generally back on the upswing.
I was also extremely impressed with our waiter and the service in general - I would put the service on one star michelin level. The ambiance was somewhat of a strange trendy vibe, but that is to be expected from gaslamp restaurants.
All of this is enough for Sora to get the megabyte award.

1 comments:

Vince November 4, 2012 at 10:46 PM  

Looks great!!! I've been waiting for an article about this place after reading about the chef's background

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
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