San Diego is chock-a-block with cheapo sushi places. There are two right near each other in our neighborhood, one of which is pretty good (Riki Sushi), and one of which is unspeakably terrible (North Park Sushi). There are several such places within lunching distance of my office, so I decided to try them out in my quest for decent lunch near Mission Valley.
Now, I know that cheap strip mall sushi is not gonna be transcendentally amazing by its very nature. I love authentic, fresh, crazy-expensive sushi as much as the next person. However, I also believe that there is room in the world for not-amazing sushi, especially of the "special roll" variety. This is what we ordered, on back-to-back day, to judge who reigns supreme in the battle of...
Jump Tokyo vs. Chiba Japanese (Mission Gorge/Grantville)
The first place we hit up was Jump Tokyo, located near Kaiser Hospital. If this was a battle based strictly on name-awesomeness, Jump Tokyo would win hands down.
The interior is plain and unassuming. It reminded me a bit of the low end sushi places we hit up when we were in Tokyo (appropriately). This photo makes it look completely empty, but they had a decent lunch crowd going. Most people were seated in the comfy booths around the perimeter.
Jason and I ordered one roll each and shared.
Sake Roll: Spicy Tuna, Green Onions, Eel Sauce, Carrots, Cream Cheese
Does it look like a hastily-assembled blob? Because it did in person. Not a lot of love and TLC went into it, and the pieces were cut in widely varying sizes. It was a mouthful of mush. However, it did not have the "unfresh" feel that cheap sushi can have, so it wasn't terrible.
Energy Roll: Eel, Salmon, Avocado, Spicy Tuna, Cucumber, Shrimp Tempura, Eel Sauce, Spicy Mayo
This one was sad-looking too. Look at the wacky piece size and cut placement! Where is the love? However, it too was not "unfresh". I can't recall having eel sauce and spicy mayo together on a roll before and it was a surprisingly nice spicy-sweet combo.
Chiba is located closer to Qualcomm Stadium, in the same strip mall that holds McGregor's Grill & Ale House. It's a smaller place with only a few tables.
The vibe is a bit warmer and more friendly, perhaps because there's more of a "we're all packed in here together" feel (you can't tell from this picture, but every table in the place was occupied). The staff is a bit more smiley and less brusque, but the food still arrived much faster. There were 3-4 guys making sushi at any given time, in contrast to just one guy behind the counter in the much bigger Jump Tokyo.
Hawaiian Roll: Spicy Tuna, Avocado, Tempura Flakes, Eel Sauce, Tempura Shrimp, Krab, and Cucumber
They suffer from a similar piece-size problem here. Look at that big butt on the end, and that skinny little piece in the middle! Also, the tempura flakes were not a good addition. They had a very dry, sawdusty quality to them that was not balanced by the small amount of eel sauce. However, I noticed that it was easier to taste the individual elements in this roll and how they came together nicely as a whole. Not so much of a mush situation.
Mission Roll: Tuna, Ebi, Krab, Mayo, Tempura Flakes, Tempura Shrimp, Cream Cheese, Avocado, Hot Sauce
The waitress told us that this was her favorite roll. It was remarkably similar to the Hawaiian, but edged it out in terms of flavor with the addition of the hot sauce. The flakes were still sawdusty.
Pizza Roll: Red Snapper, Krab, Salmon, baked in Spicy Mayo
We ordered this one because it was highly rated on Yelp. It's the first I've had of this kind, where it is how but not deep fried. I wasn't really sure what to think of it. It wasn't gross, but it wasn't exactly good either. The entirety of the top is spicy mayo, which is something that I'm not used to eating hot. Because this is an outlier and we didn't order something similar at Jump Tokyo, I'm not going to let this factor into the final decision.
So, whose strip mall cuisine reigns supreme? Both were cheap. Both were alright. However, due to faster service and tastier ingredients...
Winner: Chiba Japanese by a tiny margin!
Jump Tokyo still wins the name contest though.