A tiny, tiny omakase sushi spot is coming to Barrio Logan. It will be in the kinda-secret rafters of one of the great little arrivals in San Diego—the sustainable seafood fish sandwich-and-taco shop, Fish Guts. You’ll have to climb a ladder to get to it. And there, one of Austin’s rising star sushi chefs—Ambrely Ouimette, who made her name in Texas at Sushi Bar ATX—will serve sustainable sushi, piece after piece. To six guests. That’s it. Max capacity.
The return of Pablo Becker to San Diego has been fruitful. A San Diego native, born to a family of very accomplished chefs (including famed Mexican chef Richard Sandoval), he’s opened some massive Mexican restaurants over the years. Most recently, he took a break and spent five years line cooking in Chicago—head down. Earlier this year, he came back to open Fish Guts. And now this. Welcome Hasekura to the neighborhood.
Once you know the history, a Mexican-Japanese mash-up makes more sense. The restaurant’s namesake is a 17th-century Japanese samurai, Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga, who was the first Japanese ambassador to the Americas. After spending years politicking in New Spain (modern day Mexico), he was re-Christened Felipe Francisco. This diplomat paved the way for epicurean worlds to collide. Chopsticks, meet Chapulines (okay, we can’t confirm or deny the existence of crickets on the menu, but you get the idea).
“I just kept on hearing that more and more people were kind of into the whole omakase, sushi style of eating. So, to me, it was just kind of a no-brainer,” says Becker. Another no-brainer was selecting the chef to helm this small-but-mighty vessel of sustainable seafood. He landed on San Diego-by-way-of-Austin chef Ambrely Ouimette. A veteran of Ironside, she heads back to San Diego as Hasekura’s head chef.
“I just said, ‘Shoot, why don’t we just partner up and… do a little collab?’ Because I do Mexican, and she’s done Japanese and omakase pretty much her whole career. I was like, ‘I’m just gonna let you do what you do—but I’m getting that little Mexican twist in there,’” says Becker. What’s the taste of that Mexican take? Think accoutrements and sauces utilizing the best of Mexican flavors. Becker promises, “it’s not gonna be your traditional Japanese.”
His inspiration came from the grimy, basement-level omakase spots in New York, who also had non-Japanese chefs, opening the realm of cross-cultural creativity. The décor will also speak to Hasekura’s Japanese roots.
With only six seats, Becker notes, “it’s gonna be super personal and chef Ambrely has a really good attitude, and she knows what she’s talking about.” In selecting Ouimette, Becker says, “she had the same vision that I had when it came to local sustainable fish.” That same vision is to have the majority of the menu feature local seafood, peppered in with Japanese staples that don’t swim in our local waters.
In true omakase style, there will be two tiers of tasting menus, one with seven courses and the other between thirteen-to-fourteen (tentatively priced at $55 and $125, respectively). A sake program is in the works and there will be two, agave wine-based cocktails available, as well. Hasekura will be open Wednesday-Saturday starting at 4:30 and closing at 9:30 with two seatings each night.
Reservations will be available through Tock.