Off the Eaten Path
Jun 10, 2016 09:59AM ● Published by Jim Kempton
If you like your seafood fresh, your prices low and your sauces Asian, you are in for a treat here. You couldn’t get a more out of the way location than the west side of Avenida Estrella - down a ways on the opposite side of the street from the new Sprouts center. But that hasn’t stopped seafood aficionados from making the trek to this totally unpretentious little spot - which is a huge hit with the local clients too. Hapa J’s is known for the’ go to’ spot when it comes to the surf crowd and Hawaiian style fare but Kawamata is a different take with a real ethnic flair. Yusuke Kawamata is a Japanese surfer and world traveler who makes one of the best poke bowls this side of Osaka - which is where he hails from. There is Ahi, Octopus and Salmon; plenty of good sauce along with seaweed salad and other authentic fare. You are bound to meet someone who has driven a distance because it’s their favorite spot too. It’s a walk up cash only venue, but the few little umbrella tables out front make the place feel like the neighborhood hot spot that it is.
Almost unseen from El Camino Real, right behind Auto Zone across from Rite Aid, this little spot reminds anyone of a dozen places in Mexico. The unpretentious exterior with the flickering neon beer signs, the assorted interior décor, and the mix of local neighborhood folks, surfers, savvy visitors and Latino workers, all provide more of a south-of-the-border feel than your average Mexican restaurant. It takes casual to a whole new down home level - but the service and food quality remains high. Everybody seems to like the tacos - a debate always ensues about whether it’s the chicken, carnitas, carne asada or potato that is the best. The Fish & Chips is the secret deal though - in fact the fish, shrimp or scallops - any seafood combo is both a less than expected price and a more than expected value. Owner Juan Gomez presides over this mom & pop taqueria that offers just about anything a busy Baja eatery would serve including a fine fish and shrimp soup. Beer and wine is available too. There is one lament: almost everyone seems to long for a good frothy tequila margarita to wash down the good grub.