North County locals mourning the closure of beloved neighborhood gem, Sake House Yu Me Ya, late last year can once more enjoy homestyle Japanese comfort food and endless pours of sake at the recently-opened Umi Restaurant. Cardiff resident and owner Kazuhiro Funato, who took over the space along Highway 101 previously owned and operated by the Nakai family, is staying true to restaurant’s original roots with a culinary focus that remains firmly centered on tradtional Japanese tapas, ramen, small plates and sushi rolls.
Highlights from Umi’s debut menu range from beef and kitsune (tofu) udon or soba noodles, with optional add-ons like wakame seaweed and tempura shrimp, to pork bone broth ramen. For hot and cold tapas there’s Kurobuta pork sausages with Dijon mustard, fried yams with ume mayonnaise, takoyaki, and silken tofu with sauce. Ochazuke bowl (hot tea over rice with toppings) options include a soy marinated hamachi and salmon flakes with wild vegetables. You’ll also find sushi roll favorites like salmon skin, California, eel, and veggie, while sashimi comes in the form of albacore tataki and hamachi carpaccio.
Behind the bar there are 20+ styles of sake in a range of price points and flavor profiles - from earthy, clean and fruity to reserve - plus a good selection of imported Japanese sochu and beers. Design-wise the intimate restaurant remains much the same, a handful of simple wooden tables and seating around the bar. Umi Restaurant is currently open nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.