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.
Nick San Japanese restaurant.Eleven years after it's opening, Nick San still remains the most popular Japanese restaurant in Los Cabos, and 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 make it unique.
When was the last time you saw a Jalapeno Chile at a Japanese restaurant?.Located in Cabo San Lucas, Nick San faces Marina Blvd. from Plaza de la Danza next to Costa Real Cabo Hotel. The décor is light and bright yet elegant. The walls are adorned with numerous photos from famed Cabo photographer, Thomas Spangler. The focal point of most Japanese restaurants is the Sushi Bar and the rule carries through at Nick San.
Long and lively, Nick San's Sushi bar reinforces part of the allure of Sushi - the art of its preparation. Razor sharp knives meet butter soft fresh seafood and when the two come together in Angel's masterful creations, taste buds cheer.Angel has spent the majority of his life either catching fish or finding new ways to prepare and present it to hungry diners. If you're looking for Angel during daylight hours, look to the sea. Angel spends his days aboard his boat - aptly named "Spicy Tuna" - chasing down fresh catch for use in the restaurant. The hallmark of great Sushi is freshness and it doesn't get any fresher than just caught.
While an accomplished chef, Angel didn't start out as a Sushi master. The journey from Sushi novice to his present status as Sushimeister started with a chance meeting with his partner, Masayuki Nikura. Masayuki ventured down to Cabo in 1986 with his wife Kasue and some friends. Angel was working as chef at Senor Sushi; a then popular seafood restaurant in Cabo that was often so busy that finding an open table was difficult. Such was the situation that night in 1986. 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 evening found Masayuki in the kitchen prepping the 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 finally 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 create the Japanese delicacies at Masayuki's restaurant, Kushiyu.What began as a casual relationship became a close friendship and new 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 the site of a table set for fourteen loaded with myriad seafood dishes, most caught by Masayuki's brother the previous night. Great food, great Sake and lots of cerveza made for an impressive meal and left a lasting impression on Angel. Armed with new ideas, Angel returned to Cabo where Nick San benefited from his experiences.
Nick San, started as a pet project by two new friends, but has become a true family affair. Angel's sister Carmen is the manager of the restaurant handling the daily business. His brothers also joined the show. George is in charge of creating the wide variety of tantalizing sauces, Edy runs the kitchen and Sam handles the suppliers. Angel fishes nearly everyday and in the evening, he develops and prepares the many specials featured at Nick San. There is no mistaking the pride he takes in creating unique dishes for his guests and we have firsthand experience of just how special his specials are.
One hot and humid August night found us sitting with Angel for a few moments before he advised that menus would not be necessary, he would prepare dinner for us personally. While group after group entered the restaurant, we had the pleasure of watching Angel at work. For starters, Negi Maguro - fresh caught Pacific Yellowfin Tuna 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 Chile 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.
Dish after dish appeared including a version of Spring Rolls created by Angel and a wonderful Lobster roll. Tempura lobster with sliced avocado, green mango, cilantro, sprouts, mixed organic greens, Tobico roe and a spicy Japanese mayonnaise sauce all 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. A soft shell crab dish finished off the dinner as we had no room left in our very satisfied bellies.
After dinner, a trip to the bar is always in order and who are we to go against tradition. Nick San'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 resort business. A new Nick San is due to open very soon at none other than the ultra-exclusive One and Only Palmilla. Tentatively scheduled for an October 2005 opening, we have no doubt that more success and rave reviews are on tap for Angel and Masayuki.For more information, visit Nick San online at http://www.NickSan.
com.Richard Chudy is the author and President of Cabo's Best, a travel website dedicated to Los Cabos. To learn more about Cabo, visit http://www.CabosBest.
For more information about Cabo, visit http://www.CabosBest.com.
com or email Richard at cabo firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Richard P Chudy