uni pizza at Sora in downtown San Diego

Sora recently opened downtown, in the vacated Crescent Heights space, at 655 W. Broadway.

Tokyo-born chef Noriyoshi Teryua has spent the last 12 years working at various Nobu locations, most recently as the head sushi chef at Nobu San Diego… but there’s no sushi at Sora. Instead, the restaurant specializes in Italian food with a Japanese influence. Think wagyu tartare with wasabi mousse, mussels steamed with sake, and uni risotto.

Though it’s cozy enough for date night, this is the type of spot you’ll want to enlist the services of a few adventurous eaters to try, because with a party of two, you won’t begin to put a dent in the menus. Yep, that’s plural. There is a list of hot and cold tapas, a charcuterie list, and two prix fixe menus, all in addition to several entrees, ranging from pizza and risotto to pasta and proteins, many of which sound tempting. After 20 solid minutes of deliberation with my +1, we decided to try the $30 prix fixe dinner, the uni pizza, and a pasta dish, figuring between the 5 different items, we’d get a good representation of the menu.

The uni pizza was the most memorable item. The thin crust pie is spread with a light tomato sauce, then topped with ricotta and burrata, sweet corn kernels, uni, and fried sage leaves.

It’s a good option if you’re still not sure how you feel about eating the gonads of a sea creature. The uni is present mostly as a textural element: a creamy topping that slips over your tongue like warm custard. What really stands out about this pie is the craftmanship of the crust, which is light and crisp, with a snappy cornicione, and the cheese, which is among some of the sweetest and most buttery burrata I’ve ever tasted. I could eat it by the (pint) glass. The finishing note is a subtle ping of truffle.

lobster ravioli at Sora in downtown San Diego

I couldn’t get into the edamame ravioli. The mousse-like sauce struck me as bracingly grassy, and my +1 reported that the lobster on top was chewy. This is the type of dish I could see splitting among a table of four so that everyone could get a taste, but it wasn’t good enough that you’d want to horde the whole plate for yourself.

The $30 prix fixe menu is an ongoing special that’s not affiliated with Restaurant Week. It’s a good introduction to the menu, and includes three courses: an appetizer (fish carpaccio, caprese, or wagyu meatballs); a medium-sized entree (ragu pasta, asparagus risotto, or jidori chicken with eggplant caponata); and dessert (green tea tiramisu, creme brulee, or gelato). There’s also a $40 prix fixe, with an additional course and heartier entree options.

Waygu meatballs at Sora in downtown San Diego

For the starter, I went with the wagyu menchi, breaded and fried waygu meatballs with mozzarella in the center, and a glossy sauce on top, which tasted like BBQ sauce with an Asian backbone. Like the pasta dish, I enjoyed the first one I ate, but the beef was a bit gummy. The best part of the dish was the salty brussels sprout leaves under the balls.

asparagus risotto at Sora in downtown San Diego

My second course was the asparagus risotto, which is prepared table-side, in a giant wheel of parmesan. I think the rice could have gone for another swirl or two in the cheese wheel, to impart a bit more creaminess. It was also a touch too al dente.

Japanese pumpkin creme brulee at Sora in downtown San Diego

Green tea tiramisu sounds tempting, but I went with the kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) creme brulee for dessert. The crispy caramel on top tasted like a perfectly roasted marshmallow, but underneath, the custard was grainy and more like a pudding than a rich, eggy custard. I also tried the chocolate ganache macaroons, which were like a macaron/macaroon hybrid. Coconut cookies were spread with a thin layer of chocolate ganache, with a few drops of raspberry sauce and a berry or two on the side. This dessert missed the mark. The cookies were dry and mealy and the chocolate was bland.

Based on my experience, I’d suggest the $40 prix fixe, since the $30 version left me wanting another course. Or, if you’re ordering individual items, definitely try one of the pizzas. Sora is also a great spot to go all-out on uni, since it’s represented in nearly every section of the menu, including the cold tapas (uni crudo and uni apricot jam), the hot tapas (uni zabaione), pizza, risotto, and pasta (uni and dungeness crab).

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