Talk about a less than noticeable little place in a easy to forget strip mall! That is exactly what Niban is except for the fact that this extremely affordable Japanese joint has decent fare and even surprised me a little.
As usual my trips to San Diego are rather hectic and often I don’t get a chance to really have the luxury to have several 3-hour meals in a day. I try to catch up with people and go where it is convenient for them.
On this occasion, Niban was the place and so, in my mind, it sufficed! The restaurant isn’t a full-service one, you order at the cashier, find a table and when your food is ready they bring it out to you. The portions are large for what you pay for to say the least and although service isn’t always swift, it is passable for a higher-end fast food place.
We ordered the sushi platter ($9.95) which was surprisingly generous. There were nigiri sushi as well as spicy tuna roll and California roll. Some were obviously better than others, but for $10 I really wasn’t expecting much and I got more than I expected.
Chicken Katsu Don ($5.95) was a good-sized portion but some of the egg white wasn’t cooked all the way through and the breading on the katsu was thicker than I’d have liked, but hey, for $6 I’m certainly not complaining.
But then, you also get a bowl of miso soup which tasted like the ones you buy at the Japanese grocery store and add water — meh, I can take it or leave it.
But wait, there’s more! It also comes with six pieces of your regular nori-wrapped cut California roll which I suggest you pass up on. The nori was stale and unpalatable and I had to spit it out.
The most surprising dish came in the form of the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl ($6.95). I hate teriyaki with a passion but when I saw this particular version, I was quite excited in trying it. You may ask why, and I’ll tell you why — the sauce was not thick and it didn’t not look like the chicken was just smothered with the teriyaki sauce.
These chicken pieces looked so deliciously marinated with a great sear and were served with mushrooms and zucchini. I was right in that this is one of the better teriyakis I’ve had in a very long time! Bravo to that! Of course this comes with a side salad — don’t bother! — and miso soup.
I wish there were cheap Japanese places in Orange County I can stop by for a quick lunch that tastes good. Unfortunately there aren’t many of those places around here.
7081 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111