San Diego Goth Travels! Hotel Andaz review, Japanese restaurants Taka Sushi, Cloak & Petal, cannibalism museum.

andaz san diego giraffe gallery art hotel

Hail, San Diego! Since California is currently one of the safest US states (in terms of case count), I went west after Salem to hang with the animals.

I didn’t have time to visit the famous zoo… but still got to pet the giraffes, at the chic Andaz San Diego hotel.

andaz san diego stk rooftop bar restaurant

Read on for my SD travel diary that includes sushi restaurants and the Andaz’s STK Rooftop Bar, which overlooks downtown San Diego…

issei sagawa japanese famous cannibal magazine

… and a cannibalism exhibit at the Museum of Us, at the nearby Balboa Park! (It features famous flesh-eaters like Issei Sagawa, The Japanese Cannibal.)

rooftop by stk top roof san diego andaz

The Andaz San Diego, a concept by Hyatt, ticked off everything I look for in a hotel. It’s a design-focused boutique property, with a convenient central location (San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp district).

On the top floor, you’ll find The Rooftop by STK — the largest roof-top hangout in all of San Diego, with soaring views. I had fun sitting around the fire pit with cocktails and shared plates. (Dress by Sourpuss Clothing.)

andaz san diego hotel room bed design

The Andaz’s 159 rooms are decorated with sleek furnishings and local art, which capture the warm and laid-back vibe of San Diego. I was glad to find an enormous bathtub, and small touches such as free earplugs on the side table.

andaz hyatt rooftop san diego bars hotels

The Andaz is set in a historic building, which was originally built for the 1913 World’s Fair. Today, it’s a contemporary space with an open-air rooftop restaurant / bar for safe hangouts.

andaz rooftop menu roof food brunch breakfast

The Rooftop by STK serves food all day. I particularly enjoyed the breakfast / brunch menu: the avocado toast, oat milk lattes, and veggie frittata with goat cheese, spinach and tomato jam hit the spot.

andaz san diego pool rooftop swimming

There’s also a swimming pool on the Andaz rooftop. Take a swim at sunset, to watch the sky turn pink.

giant giraffe statue lobby andaz san diego hotel

The Andaz’s lobby is filled with surprises, including this art gallery / lounge space inhabited by a giraffe and her baby!

art design boutique hotel san diego andaz

When I checked in at Andaz San Diego, the staff offered me complimentary coffee, beer, or wine. There was also cold brew coffee available on-tap at all times — and I sure took advantage of that.

andaz san diego zoo animals art sculptures

The hotel’s common areas are well tended (Plexiglass separators, hand sanitizer stations, masks required), and filled with art that pay homage to San Diego’s sights, such as the Zoo. The Andaz has special designer suites too (see photos of the rooms.)

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My favorite art piece: a 12-foot tall giraffe sculpture.

the andaz san diego gaslamp downtown hotel review

The funky design draws from the Gaslamp Quarter’s artistic culture. Local works are displayed throughout the Andaz, including large-scale paintings.

andaz stk rooftop poolside drinks cocktails

Cheers to the Andaz San Diego — I’d love to come back for a strawberry cocktail at the rooftop pool!

taka sushi san diego downtown japanese restaurant

San Diego is known for its excellent sushi, so I went to investigate the best Japanese restaurants nearby. Locals rave about Taka Sushi; located in the Gaslamp dining district, it was only a short walk from the hotel.

best san diego sushi bar taka menu

Chefs Maru and Makoto greet all guests with enthusiasm. Taka Sushi​’s intimate wood interiors and long sushi bar add to the friendly feel — and made me nostalgic for sushi restaurants in Japan.

sashimi omakase taka sushi san diego

At Taka, the skilled chefs combine a creative modern approach with traditional techniques. They select the freshest ingredients, including seasonal fish from Japan, and put together phenomenal omakase sashimi platters. Above, we were speechless at the melt-in-your-mouth salmon from New Zealand, amberjack, uni (sea urchin), squid, tuna, hamachi and more.

taka restaurant japanese sushi appetizer tartar

Taka Sushi also offers cooked Japanese dishes, and one-of-a-kind creations — like this spicy tuna tartar, flecked with gold and caviar! The combination of avocado, quail egg, and spicy sesame oil soy sauce was remarkable.

eating small red crab japanese cuisine

I strongly recommend going for the omakase at Taka, meaning that you leave the selection to the chef (the Japanese word comes from “makaseru,” or “to entrust.”) You’ll get to try unusual and seasonal offerings, such as these small crunchy red crabs.

san diego authentic japanese sushi taka gaslamp rolls

Next came a sushi and nigiri selection… isn’t the presentation lovely? The battera “box” sushi stood out, and the ikura salmon roe gunkan, tamago egg, and ebi shrimp were among the best I’ve had in a while (a well-executed tamagoyaki is a sure sign that a sushi restaurant knows its stuff).

fried fish taka sushi menu japanese

The server came back to take this fish and the still-moving prawn, which were then fried.

taka sushi restaurant san diego dishes food

Don’t leave without trying the original zucchini flowers starter with wasabi salt, and black sesame creme brulee. Arigato Taka Sushi for the outstanding omakase — I’ve had a lot of sushi around the world, and this experience ranks among my favorites.

cloak and petal cherry blossom tree sakura inside restaurant

For a chic Japanese fusion experience, there’s no better spot in San Diego than Cloak and Petal. Located in Little Italy, “cloak” suggests a hidden spot, while “petal” references the gorgeous cherry blossoms trees that decorate the restaurant. Year-round, anyone can come here to eat under the pink and white sakura flowers, similar to “hanami” picnics in Japan.

fusion creative japanese sushi san diego

Start with hot sake, and then choose from Cloak & Petal’s imaginative menu. The sushi creations have catchy names like “Go Go Ohime Sama” on the right (asparagus, avocado, krab, salmon, yuzu gel, smoked salt, strawberry compote, lemon oil, micro greens), and “Cezar Chavez & Main” on the left (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado, black pepper, tuna, charred jalapeño ponzu, cilantro, habanero).

art design restaurant cloak petal san diego gaslamp

The restaurant decor has a Japanese street art vibe, inspired by the Tokyo subway and graffiti art.

cloak and petal hamachi carpaccio menu food fish

I loved this spicy and textured spin on hamachi (yellowtail): prepared carpaccio-style with ponzu, jalapeno, black garlic sauce, chives, and garlic.

cloak and petal interior cool hip restaurants san diego

Thank you Cloak and Petal for a lovely Japanese meal under the sakura blooms, with excellent service and ambiance.

(SD sushi restaurants and Andaz rooftop photos by Kym LaRoux.)

museum of man balboa park cannibalism exhibit

Speaking of eating raw foods… I stumbled upon an intriguing cannibalism exhibit. “Cannibals: Myth & Reality” is currently on display at the Museum of Us (formerly known as the Museum of Man). It’s located in San Diego’s Balboa Park, an enormous green space and the site of many museums, art galleries and the world-famous zoo.

Cannibals: Myth and Reality - Museum of Us san diego

The thoughtful and gore-free exhibition dives into cannibalism from all perspectives, from historical incidences to pop culture perspectives, Quite a few horror movies have humans-eating-humans; above is the Japanese poster for the “Cannibal Holocaust” film.

jeffrey dahmer skeletons article cannibalism exhibition

Here’s a newspaper article that sensationalizes Jeffrey Dahmer, “The Milwaukee Cannibal.” He stored body parts in his freezer, and admitted to feasting on the flesh of his victims.

Cannibalism is considered taboo and associated with evil — yet the exhibit points to instances where people turned to it as a last resort for survival. I saw photos from the famine during the Nazi siege of Leningrad, and heard stories from the Uruguayan rugby players trapped high in the Andes Mountains, who resorted to eating the dead to survive.

michael rockefeller eaten by cannibals cannibalism

Cannibalism is also shrouded in myth and mystery. We still don’t know what happened to Michael Rockefeller, the heir who disappeared in New Guinea in 1961. The natives of that region were known for headhunting and cannibalism, and rumors spread that he was eaten by them.

cannibalism eating human flesh exhibit san diego museum of us

Our judgments of “right” and “wrong” change with the times. Here’s a scene depicting ritualistic Aztec cannibalism. (You can read more about pre-Columbian civilizations in my Mexico City stories.)

cannibals museum exhibit balboa park san diego

The Museum of Us has interactive displays that make us ponder the nuances of eating “long pig” around the world. (Is it acceptable to eat hair or nails? Or one’s own flesh? And under what circumstances – where do we draw the lines?)

monsters exhibition museum of us man

The museum has other fascinating exhibits centered on anthropology and cultures worldwide, I enjoyed the “Monsters!” section, which has a hell of an entrance.

japanese monsters artifacts art sculptures

It dives into fantastical art and legends of monsters worldwide. These Asian depictions got my attention.

chinese dragon mythology sculpture scary

From the manticore to Godzilla to fierce Chinese dragons, monsters have long had a hold on our imaginations.

green face egyptian sarcophagus coffin zombie mummy

The San Diego Museum of Us also had some visitors from ancient Egypt. This sarcophagus is looking a little green. (See more mummies, Sphinxes and Egyptian artifacts in my report about the Cairo museum.)

museum of us building sculptures exterior facade

The building itself is a beauty. It was constructed for the 1915 Exposition, and the exterior sculptures were by the Piccirilli Brothers.

devil art san diego satanism satanic temple

I leave you with a devilish figure from inside the Museum of Us…

miffy bunny mural rabbit dick bruna wall painting art

… and the true ruler of the underworld (if you ask me) — Miffy the bunny! (I came across this mural on the walk from the hotel to Balboa Park.)

Boutique Hotel Near Gaslamp Quarter San Diego hyatt andaz sd

Is San Diego on your list of places to visit, now that travel is re-emerging? Thank you to the Andaz San Diego for the terrific stay, and I’m keen to be back soon.

Until that day, as Ron Burgandy would say… “You stay classy, San Diego!”

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