* Click here for rating key
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House Restaurant Review: Chef Antonio Friscia, chef de cuisine Fern Tran and cocktail maestro Lucien Connor are the culinary trio behind this progressive eatery in the Gaslamp. Exposed brick, high ceilings, a big-bellied Buddha, dragon art and a giant communal table set the vibrant stage. Chef Friscia navigates Japanese fusion with skill, and we suggest his omakase menu. A fun start appears as "bao bao" --- steamy Chinese buns stuffed with carnitas pork and the soft crunch of pickled Persian cucumbers. Among Friscia’s medley of tapas is green papaya salad and the Gaijin dirty rice with Jidori chicken. Yellowtail poke mingles sweet mango with the heat of the serrano chilies. Try the yakitori, cooked on the white binchotan charcoal grill --- skewers of Nueske bacon-wrapped asparagus, Kurobuta pork sausage or plump Mexican white shrimp. Another highlight is the braised oxtail on buttery noodles. End the meal with a green tea tiramisu. Creative drinks are artful and potent, like the garden-to-glass "Ricky Snap" with gin, lime and sweet peas; the green tea-lychee sangría; and the playful "Kakigori," a Japanese shaved ice spiked with saké. Gaijin’s scene rolls on after midnight, as food and drink continue to flow.