The Cool Vibe of Ototo Sushi Co.
Affordable and Creative Sushi Rolls, Ramen and Craft Beers
On an otherwise sluggish midweek evening, a stop at Ototo Sushi Co. is anything but slow. On a recent Wednesday evening, this Chowhound trotted in to sample their sushi and other options and, to my surprise, the place was bustling with activity. Located on the East side of the Balboa Mesa Shopping Center, Ototo Sushi joins other newcomers in this mall including 85 Degrees, Chicken Charlie’s FryBQ, The Hamburger Habit and Luna Grill.
From the outside, the restaurant’s sleek logo and modern wooden patio entice you in for a closer look. Once inside, ambient lighting, warm wood tables and hip waiters add to the restaurant’s overall cool vibe. While there is ample seating both inside and outside on the patio, we requested an indoor seat so that we could enjoy a beer with our meal. (Chowhound Note: no alcohol is served on the patio!) Despite the number of seats, we encountered a brief wait. Ultimately, we sat along the sushi bar giving us a closer look at the array of colorful sushi rolls being cranked out by the four sushi chefs.
We began with a large bowl of edamame ($3) and some fried shrimp tempura ($4). With just four tiny pieces of shrimp, this appetizer was fried to a golden-crispy, tasty perfection. Among the impressive selection of 38 creative sushi rolls (not including the nigiri, sashimi and hand rolls), we ordered the “Chuck,” the “Uncle Phil,” and the “Murica” rolls. The “Chuck” ($8.50) was filled with shrimp, crab and cucumber, and topped with spicy tuna, avocado, tempura flakes, eel sauce and spicy mayo. This roll was hearty and filled with a nice combination of shrimp, crab and avocado. The creamy goodness of this roll finished with a crunchy zest from the tempura flakes and spicy mayo. The “Uncle Phil” ($6.50) was stuffed with cream cheese and fried golden on the outside and topped with a slice of jalapeno. Served on its side, this was a creative option to say the least and very rich with a spicy ending. Interesting indeed, but not my personal favorite. Lastly, we finished with one of Ototo’s signature rolls, the “Murica” ($8.95). This roll was stuffed with crab, asparagus and bacon (yes, bacon!) and topped with more crunchy bacon, aioli, eel sauce and green onions. Not surprisingly, the key taste was bacon, but the asparagus and green onion balanced out the flavor with a fresh finish. If you are adventurous and don’t mind bucking sushi tradition, this roll is worth a try. We paired our meal with a Sapporo on draught ($3.50) and we had way more food than two people could (or should!) eat.
Overall, the sushi was inventive, interesting and a semi-affordable option. Daily lunch specials are available Monday through Friday from noon until 3pm. Likewise, happy hour from 3-6pm is a happening time with all draught beer, sake and cocktails/wine for $3 and select small plates also just $3. Reservations are not required.
Ototo Sushi Co.
5651 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92111