The Yasai gets underway in Kearny Mesa this weekend, bringing Japanese sensibilities and ingredients to vegan cuisine. The eatery replaces Pokirrito on Convoy Street where it was previously paired with popular noodle shop RakiRaki Ramen + Tsukemen and is the latest offering from owner and executive chef Junya Watanabe, who has partnered with chef Eduardo Fierro, formerly of vegan spot NoW Sushi in Mission Beach, on this meatless mission. The 50-seat restaurant, which will also offer beer, wine, and sake, is serving lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.
Fierro’s experience with vegan sushi translates into an extensive sushi menu, which ranges from nigiri sushi topped with fermented eggplant, roasted red pepper, and pickled pineapple with marinated konjac to specialty rolls that include the King of the Clouds filled with tempura kabocha squash, cucumber, and asparagus with avocado mousse and lotus root. Daily-made fresh tofu features in warm chawanmushi, one of the small plate options that also includes crispy gyoza, Brussels sprouts with wasabi mayo, and Japanese-spiced pretzel sliders made with Impossible Meat.
The meat alternative provides the base for a vegan version of tantanmen, made with a from-scratch dashi and a spicy, creamy sesame broth. Each ramen can be customized with a choice of handmade noodles, from classic and gluten-free to strands enriched and colored with kale or beets.
The shuttered Pokirrito next to Rakiraki in Little Italy will also be turning into The Yasai, likely early next year.