Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar – Tapas, Sushi, and An Unsuspected Upscale Happy Hour Heaven

June 20, 2012

Located along the fashionable Prospect Street in downtown La Jolla, Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar is a trendy, upscale, lounge-y restaurant that happens to have one of the best happy hours in all of San Diego, offering an array of high quality, extravagant dishes that are unique to the area and are an excellent value.   And we’re talking a classy and refined daily happy hour – not two-dollar tacos and beers.

Chef Stephen Window combines traditional Asian fare with French-style execution, infusing dishes with the tastes of Asia and Europe, making Roppongi sort of a tapas bar meets sushi lounge.  Choose from one of the six uniquely diverse seating areas, including the sleek sushi bar, outdoor fire pit, ornate dining room, lounge, or, my personal favorite, the contemporary covered patio with modern designs.

With the advent of laws illegalizing tall sugary drinks, and with bikini season upon us, who wants an overload of sugar in their cocktail?  Roppongi is looking out for us, and has added four new skinny cocktails to their menu (each $8 during happy hour; usually $12).  To start we sampled the well-made slim mango jalapeno martini made with super sweet Absolut Mandarin, fresh mango, slightly spicy jalapenos and just a touch of agave nectar.

The ginger mojito was a definitive favorite: a light and refreshing combination of Zaya rum, ginger elixir, fresh lime, mint, and a touch of soda.

The thin chai chili maragarita is made with light agave nectar, Hornitos Reposado tequila, and limes.  Even as a lover of spice, this margarita had me coughing from the spice scratching my throat, and by all means, don’t eat the peppers!  Due to the harsh spice, the heavy soda, and the uber-saltiness of the Shiso infused salt rim, I moved my focus to Roppongi's lengthy wine list and switched to a bold and beautiful Mt. Veeder cabernet sauvignon ($17) to soothe my throat and calm my palate in preparation for indulging.

To whet our appetites, Chef Window sent an amuse bouche of sweet corn soup, a creamy yet light and sweet sip of sweet summer.  Then came edamame, a simple palate-pleaser, served with sea salt, and a favored addition of savory sesame seeds ($8/$4).

Of the 23 tapas being offered for half price on the happy hour menu, the crispy quinoa cakes were a highlight.  These light and delicious panko-crusted cakes of quinoa are flavored with coconut curry, topped with finely chopped Windrose Farms apples, celery, raisins, and mango chutney, and sit atop a smear of  Greek yogurt with yuzu and honey – fluffy with a touch of sweetness and a delectable crunch – a perfect complement to this layered dish ($11/$5.50 on HH).

Speaking of highlights, Roppongi’s crispy potstickers come stuffed with Tiger shrimp, sea scallops, mint, ginger, garlic, tobiko caviar and chive oil ($17/$8.50 on HH).  I feel like I finally know what umami means – I think! The shrimp alone were packed with flavor, then wrapped in a delicate dumpling, topped with Tobiko, and dredged through the vibrant chive oil, to put this dish over the top.

And the scallops! Oh, the scallops.  If you’ve been following us, you know we’re not big fans of scallops.  Maybe it’s because on Chef Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen where they are the source of infinite frustration and failure.  Or maybe we just haven’t learned to appreciate the delicate sweetness of this coveted shellfish.  I don’t know.  But Chef Window won me over, and I declare his pan-seared diver scallops the best in all the land!  These delicious little creatures are cooked medium rare and served atop an adorable and perfectly crunchy mini potato pancake with Thai basil and other microgreens, sundried tomatoes, and a creamy chive hollandaise made with scallions and ginger oil ($18/$9 on HH).  #lifechanger.

Chef Window has mastered the art of combining lightly fried starches with super fresh greens to highlight and showcase a protein, and succeeded again with the big eye tuna and sweet corn tapa ($16/$8 on HH).  This dish comes with big chunks of clean ahi tuna atop crispy corn fritters flavored with barbecu-esque chipotle aioli and topped with micro cilantro.

Of the five specialty rolls on the daily happy hour menu we sampled the beautifully designed Prospect roll with spicy Dungeness crab, yamagobo (Japanese pickled burdock root), creamy avocado, hirame (fluke), tuna, green onion, jalapeno, habanero masago and tiny slices of fresh lime – a creative touch of tangy citrus ($15/$7.50).

The famous signature crab stack is a mosaic of colors, fruits and vegetables.  This dish comes piled high with sweet and succulent crab, pea shoots, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, mango, avocado, peanuts and cilantro, dressed with a light and spicy ginger lime dressing ($20/$10) – one hell of a happy hour bargain!

Granted we shared each of these appetizers, so we were not left feeling overly full and lethargic as we would after consuming such an array of food, but rather given a comfortable fullness which we accredit to Chef Window’s overriding theme – crisp, fresh, and light.  Feeling confident in my unmatched ability to indulge, we ended the meal with the warm melting chocolate decadence ($9): a house made lava cake, goo-ing with extremely (but not overly) rich fudge, served with homemade vanilla gelato, and complemented by artfully designed hearts of strawberry and vanilla coolies.  The outer cake was crisp and moist at the same time, and the gooey center was just heavenly!

Save room for dessert!
Whether you’re just strolling through downtown La Jolla, looking for a romantic date destination, or simply in search of a refreshing and exciting happy hour, Roppongi’s diverse atmospheres ensure the perfect setting for any occasion, with food and drink to satisfy every craving.  We will definitely be back for happy hour!

875 Prospect Street, La Jolla


Lunch: 11:30 am – 5:00 pm daily
Happy Hour: Half-Priced Tapas and Select Sushi Rolls & $8 handcrafted cocktails
Sunday – Monday: 3:00pm – Close & Tuesday – Saturday: 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Dinner: 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm Sunday through Thursday
5:00 pm – 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday

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