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
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
For more information, visit Nick San online at http://www.NickSan.com
For more information about Cabo, visit http://www.CabosBest.com