Cabo San Lucas Japanese Cuisine and Sushi - Review of Nicksan Japanese Restaurant

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SPECTACULAR SUSHI SOUTH OF THE BORDER IN LOS CABOS

Six thousand miles separate Japan and Cabo San Lucas. The two countries and cultures could not be more different. Yet, here in the coastal desert at the tip of Baja you'll find a little piece of Japan that even the Japanese would envy... Nicksan Japanese restaurant.

Nearly twenty years after its opening, Nicksan still remains the most popular Japanese restaurant in Los Cabos, with good reason. Owned by Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Nikura, the restaurant produces one of the most creative menus you're likely to find anywhere. From sushi to tempura, this place has it all when it comes to Japanese cuisine. But it's the special touches influenced by Angel's devotion to traditional Mexican cooking that makes it unique.

Sushi bar at Nick San, Cabo San Lucas
The sushi bar at Nicksan is usually a busy place so you might have to wait for a seat, but it's well worth it!

TRADITIONAL SUSHI MEETS MEXICAN INFLUENCES
The focal point of most Japanese restaurants is the Sushi Bar and that rule carries through to Nicksan. The sushi bar reinforces part of the cuisine's allure - the art that is its preparation. Razor sharp knives meet butter soft seafood, and when the two come together in Angel's masterful creations, taste buds cheer.

Nick San ownersChefs Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Niikura. Photo courtesy of Nick San.

While an accomplished chef, Angel didn't start out as a Sushi master. The journey from novice to his present status as a top chef in Mexico started with a chance meeting with his future partner, Masayuki Niikura. Masayuki ventured down to Cabo in 1986 with his wife Kasue and some friends. Angel was then working as chef at Senor Sushi; a then popular seafood restaurant in Cabo that was often so busy that finding an open table took timing and luck. That's how it was the night the two met. Masayuki asked Angel if he could return the following night and use the kitchen to prepare dinner for his wife and friends. Angel accommodated the unusual request.

The following night, Masayuki was in the kitchen prepping ingredients for a variety of sushi he planned on serving his group. Soon, early diners began to show up and before you could say mas Sake he was serving his creations to guests at the bar. After serving his wife and friends, Masayuki and Angel had the opportunity to escape and have a drink together. The conversation turned to Masayuki's sushi and with little formality, Angel was invited to Los Angeles to learn how to craft those delicacies at Masayuki's restaurant – a placed called Kushiyu in Tarzana, California.

What began as a casual relationship became a close friendship and business partnership. Several trips to visit with and learn from Masayuki led to a much longer journey... Japan. Twelve years after their first meeting, Angel made his way to the island nation where his education in all things Japanese continued. The two visited many fine restaurants where more concepts of Japanese cuisine formed in Angel's already creative mind. Trips to Japan's many fish markets exposed him to the great possibilities that spawn from the oceans.

Perhaps most influential was a dinner held at the home of Masayuki's brother, a commercial fisherman whose passion for the sea also extended to the dinner table. Angel was overwhelmed by a table set for fourteen loaded with all types of fresh seafood, most caught by Masyuki's brother, prepared in ways he had yet to see. Great food, great Sake and lots of cerveza made for an impressive meal that left a lasting impression on Angel. Armed with new ideas, Angel returned to Cabo and the two opened the first Nicksan, and like they say, the rest is history.


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Soft shell crab at Nick San, Cabo San Lucas
Soft Shell Crab at Nicksan was crisp and succulent with a touch of heat.

A SPECIAL NIGHT OF SUSHI WITH CHEF CARBAJAL
One hot and humid night in September found us sitting with Angel for a few moments before he advised that menus would not be necessary, he would prepare our dinner for us personally. While group after group entered the restaurant, we had the pleasure of watching Angel at work. For starters, Negi Maguro - a perfect tuna loin seared in a mixture of chives, garlic and miso butter sauce. Stacked high on a stark white plate, it is as beautiful as it is delicious. Next, Sashimi Serranito - half moon bay scallops from San Carlos in Baja served with Serrano Chile oil, soy sauce and drops of lemon. Spicy, sweet and presented with paper thin slices of chiles the dish is perfectly accompanied by Jyunmai Ginjo Sake served ice-cold as opposed to hot. Connoisseur grade Sake is always served cold, lower grade Sake's are served hot to improve the taste. Although I truly enjoy hot Sake, the flavor and finish of the Jyunmai was outstanding.

Scallops Serranito sashimi at Nicksan Cabo San Lucas
Scallops Serranito at Nicksan.


Dish after dish appeared including a version of spring rolls created by Angel and a wonderful Clear Lobster Roll – tempura lobster with sliced avocado, green mango, cilantro, sprouts, mixed organic greens, Tobico roe and a spicy Japanese mayonnaise sauce wrapped in soy paper and served atop Yuzu curry oil. A masterpiece to look at and a true gastronomic marvel, the melding of typical Japanese flavors with the fresh, aromatic qualities of cilantro and the sweetness of the mango was one of our personal favorites. Soft Shell Crab finished off the dinner as we had no room left in our very satisfied bellies.

THE STAFF MAKES THE MEAL EVEN BETTER
After dinner, a trip to the bar is always in order and who are we to fight traditions. Nicksan's bartenders are excellent mixoligists who have a flare for dressing up drinks with cosmopolitan style. Try one of many martinis served in truly unique stemmed glasses or ask the bartender to surprise you. Between their outgoing stage-like personalities and the lively libations poured, ending the night at the bar was just what the doctor ordered.

The success of Nick San has not gone unnoticed by the major players in the Cabo's resort business. Since we first wrote this review, Angel has opened new locations and now brings his talents to the Tiendas de Palmilla plaza off the corridor across from the One and Only Palmilla. He's also taken Nicksan to Mexico City and Nueva Vallarta.

VISIT NICKSAN RESTAURANT WEBSITE

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