Zensei in North Park is a favorite among the locals. Here you can sit at the sushi bar and listen to the chefs speak Spanish as they create nouveau fusion rolls (many with cream cheese–too over-the-top fusion for me). This restaurant, in 2005, was a finalist (along with winner Café Japengo) in the First Annual California State Sushi Competition where fusion reigns in the presentation and ingredients.
At this comfortable corner restaurant two of us found a menu with everything from oysters on the half shell and tempura jalapenos filled with crab and cream cheese to standard nigiri and quirky rolls such as pizza (baked smoked salmon, avocado and dynamite sauce) and yellow submarine (eel, crab, cream cheese, avocado, golden tempura and eel sauce, with a slice of jalapeno if you desire). Imitation crab is used, though the real thing can be substituted. Not your purist place.
We enjoyed crunchy roll with shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber, cream cheese (avocado substitutes for the cream cheese). Also pleasant was the crunchy salmon roll with cucumber, gobo and bonito flakes. These rolls run $ 9 to $11. If fish isn’t your thing, the kitchen produces a multitude of noodle, chicken and meat dishes with unusual twists. Service is attentive and the room is hopping most of the night. Monday through Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. is happy hour. 3396 30th St. at Upas, North Park, 619-546-6171. www.zenseisushi.com