I will admit up front that I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me this long to experience this Oceanside gem. I was not alone in this neglect though as it was Troy Johnson’s recent blog in San Diego Magazine where he admitted to the same that triggered my visit. That and their fine PR firm of Plain Clarity giving me a nudge finally got me to make the move and get there.
It was certainly not their reputation as many of my prior guests on Lick the Plate whose judgement I totally trust have been singing their praises for years including Tommy Gomes from Catalina Offshore and Julie Darling from Just Call Us Catering. These two are as in-the-know on all topics pertaining to the San Diego food scene as anyone. Heck, on top of that, Thrillist just called it one of the “best sushi joints in the entire country” and that’s just one of dozens of accolades from very well-respected culinary publications.
Another true confession, when Wrench & Rodent hit the scene a few years back, there was an influx of restaurants and cocktail lounges that sounded like they came straight out of the hipster handbook. That may have contributed to my attitude at the time but had I actually looked into the name and found out that the parents of chef/owner Davin Waite actually came from England where funky pub names are commonplace, I might have been a bit more accepting. And really, one of my favorite movies of all time is “Ratatouille” that features a rat as a chef and I accepted that randomness just fine as the movie is a work of art. If you have a problem with the name, get over it, trust me on this one.
I’ll use that as a segue to liken Wrench & Rodent to a work of art, as the whole experience, including the funky, whimsical interior, the eclectic soundtrack and their almost compulsive attention to sourcing the freshest, most sustainable ingredients available makes for an experience you won’t forget. It’s a very cool place to have a unique dining experience.
Davin Waite, along with his wife Jessica, and are co-owners of Wrench & Rodent along with the Whet Noodle, basically a Ramen joint attached next door. His brother Loren is also involved as the chef de cuisine. Davin grew up in Oceanside and given that his parents were English, there was a lot of curry going on. His sushi thing began in 1996 as college student rolling California Rolls at a local sushi restaurant in Santa Barbara. College did not agree with him so much so he moved on to become a full-time apprentice to a Japanese sushi chef. Next up was Cafe Japengo in La Jolla, which at the time was the definition of a place to see and be seen. I’d still like to hear some of his stories from that experience.
As with most chefs, there is always a dream to have their own place and have it be a direct reflection of their style. Davin made it happen and The Fish Joint in Oceanside was born, on the forefront of the Oceanside culinary explosion. His wife Jessica was a server there at the time and after they connected became very immersed in the development of Wrench & Rodent that opened in 2013. Jessica is now involved in almost all aspects of their multiple shared businesses. Just a side note on Jessica, she declared herself vegetarian at 7, and vegan at 15. She now maintains a plant-based diet with the help of her husband’s vegan ramen and veggie rolls and there are plenty of options at their restaurants for those of you with similar culinary leanings. I should also note that a big chunk of their produce is grown locally or in their garden. After recording the radio version of Lick the Plate with Davin and Jessica, it became clear to me that a mutual passion for their shared vision drives both Wrench & Rodent and Whet Noodle and that shows in every aspect of the dining experience. Plus, they have killer taste in music and are just real, unpretentious folks.
Wrench & Rodent is a sushi restaurant at heart, and there are plenty of traditional Nigiri, Sashimi, rolls and bowls to appease the less adventurous. They do have somewhat untraditional sauces but give you the option to go without. As mentioned, vegan options are plentiful as well along with unique salads, oysters and an ever-changing ceviche flight. That all said, it’s their unique seafood selections and what Chef Waite creates with them that steal the show. Adventurous foodies should definitely go the Omakase route, which translates loosely into “let the chef guide your meal.” That was my experience and it was fun anticipating what was coming next. I loved every bite.
Beer, wine and Sake are available along with dessert options yet when I’m presented with seafood of this quality, I tend to indulge to the point of that not even crossing my mind. I’d suggest a reservation or get there early as they tend to fill up every night. I’ll report more on the Whet Noodle in a future column, hopefully this time it will be less than four years from now.
Check them out at www.seabasstropub.com or 1815 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside or call (760) 271-0531.
Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. David Boylan can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com