Some San Diego food writer friends of mine pointed me in the direction of Toshi Toshi, an omakase speakeasy that’s located in Tijuana. This 15 seater is hidden away inside Mantequilla restaurant, and reservations are a must. A collaboration between chefs Pedro Valarde Padilla and Chef Toshiaki Tsutada (former Sushi Ota chef), Toshi Toshi aims to bring the best of sushi with Mexican ingredients and influences.
My friends and I arrive at 7pm for the first seating, and were led into a room with minimalist decor, and an L-shaped sushi counter. I love how we are able to watch Chef Toshi work his magic throughout the evening, be it slicing fish, or simply, adding little touches to each piece of nigiri he places in front of us.
Ceviche: yellowfin ceviche with sea urchin — the first course is a palate teaser playing on the leche de tigre preparation that’s typical of Peruvian cuisine. The use of lime juice “cooks” the fish, creating a milky appearance. The buttery yellowfin, paired with creamy uni is a gorgeous introduction of what’s to come.
Lobina Konbujime Nori — our first piece of sushi is striped bass topped with a dollop of seaweed paste. The umami on this is spectacular. The seaweed paste possesses natural brininess and lends the perfect mix of saltiness to the bite.
Red Snapper Salt Lime — the second piece of sushi is a red snapper. This fish is a little firm, which gives a nice textural contrast to the previous fish. Using only a little salt with a hint of lime, the natural flavor of the fish is allowed to shine through.
Hirame Ponzu — the third piece is hirame, or a type of halibut. The seasoning comes from marinated kelp which Toshi-san explains in detail, except I’ve forgotten most of it. I’ve never tasted something like this before.
Hiramasa Jalapeno — the fourth piece was super tasty. The hiramasa is a yellowtail, and topped with a concoction made with jalapenos. There is hint of heat, but never overpowers the delicate fish.
Iwashi Ginger — the fifth piece is a sardine topped with a sliver of paper thin vinegared kelp. Sardines are naturally fishier in taste, and therefore, requires an accompaniment that helps balance that aspect. Traditionally, these types of fish are pre-vinegared, before using on nigiri sushi. Here, the pickled kelp does the job without altering the natural essence of the sardine.
Sake Chimichurri — the sixth piece — perhaps my favorite thus far — is rich, fatty salmon topped with Japanese chimichurri. There is no parsley in sight, but rather, the chimichurri is made with negi (scallion), shiso, and nori. It is absolutely incredible and works in perfect unison with the salmon.
Chu Toro Soy — the seventh piece — in my opinion, should have been served before the salmon — is exactly what chu toro is supposed to be. This fatty tuna is melt-in-the-mouth in texture, and subtle. This is why I think it should have been served prior to the full-bodied sake chimichurri.
Cono: Zuke Yamaimo Handroll — we finish with an exceptionally satisfying handroll of akami (blue fin tuna) marinated in soy sauce. The yamaimo (mountain yam) is quick pickled in a vinegar and water bath for 10 minutes. Together, the culmination of salty, acidic, a hint of sweet, amalgamate into the most perfect three bites of the entire meal.
If you are looking for a fantastic meal down in Tijuana, look no further than Toshi Toshi. In Orange County, a meal like this would run you around $100, if not more. Across the border, the meal came to $44 before tip. I thought they had given us the wrong check, but after confirming with our server Rodolfo, it was indeed $44 per person. That alone should be reason to drive to Tijuana for sushi omakase.
Av Colima 2292
Col Madero (Cacho)
22040 Tijuana, Baja California