The first thing I noticed when I walked into HapiFish is the complete transformation the space has undergone. It’s clean, modern interior is a huge departure, and improvement over past tenants of this space on North Coast Highway, right across from Encinitas Surfboards. It’s still a big space but is broken up into several sushi bars, a regular bar, dedicated sushi room, and a very large dining area. Their objective is to offer different rooms that cater to different dining periods and needs. My advice is to park it at one of the sushi sbars as the chefs provide an interactive and entertaining experience.
HapiFish is billing itself as contemporary American cuisine and sushi served in a new and exciting way. I will say, there is an energy level among the staff that does make it exciting. Their individual sushi tables provide full interaction with chefs and they are very open to customize any sushi item or roll based on customer requests. They have put an original twist on sushi with the conceptual goal to recreate the vibe at the first sushi bars. Before refrigeration, global shipping, & the internet the only way to find out what was fresh was to ask the chef at the sushi bar. Their goal is to recreate that dialogue between guest and chef. They offer sushi tours for individuals or couples that put you in the hands of the chef.
Their impressive roster of chefs reads like an all-star team of San Diego sushi chefs including chef/owner Justin Masunaga who has worked at 9 sushi bars across the western U.S. and New Zealand. Executive chef Mitch DeMarco has worked at San Diego area for the past 14 years including Zenbu, Harney, Sushi on the Rocks, Taisho, and Hana Sushi. Sous chef Tad Reeder is the #2 sushi man and counts Station Sushi, Sushi on the Rocks, & Taisho as former employers. And finally, Jonathan Pearlman is the head kitchen chef and a CIA New York grad. So yes, the talent at HapiFish is formidable.
Mitch DeMarco was our chef on a recent visit and he immediately made it known that our wish was his command. Besides his skill with the knife, Mitch was entertaining and engaging and even fashioned a new roll for my companion which we coined the Pretty Lady Special. I’m expecting to see that on the menu next time Mitch. It was a delicious combination of cucumber, avocado, asparagus, mango, salmon, yellowtail, albacore, spicy tuna, spicy tuna and grilled shrimp wrapped in soy paper. Yes, all that fit in there and it was a delightful protein explosion and I’m assuming minimal carbohydrates per her request.
We sampled a variety of sashimi and nigiri and they all had that very fresh, melt-in-your-mouth quality to them. There is a wide selection of traditional and custom rolls to choose from as well and we went with the traditional California and spicy tuna which were solid. Hapi plates were next and we sampled the salmon citrus which was a salmon sashimi topped with marinated onions, micro greens, lemon squeeze and Asian pesto sauce. It was very nice indeed. We added some turf to our surf with the ribeye wraps which were thinly sliced ribeye wrapped around asparagus over an onion and mushroom reduction. The meat and asparagus were a great combination.
We finished things up with an original HapiFish creation called Hapi Endings. Yes, the jokes start flying as soon as this is mentioned. They roll ice cream and fruit in types of cake, cut and plate it like a roll, top it with fresh fruit & whipped cream, and drizzle it with chocolate, strawberry, and other dessert syrups. Try all of them as they are really, really good. The fudge fantasy is like a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie in a delectable roll. Leave room for dessert for sure.
There is a great selection of beer, wine and sake and they are quick to suggest a nice pairing with your order. HapiFish is a great new addition to the North County dining scene and I would suggest checking them out soon. Prices range from $4-$25 and they offer daily happy hour food and drink specials. More information can be found at www.hapifish.com