Sushi Bars in Orange County
Okay, I have been to many Sushi restaurants all over California, New York, and more. I am starting this thread to discuss good places in OC. I have been to a bunch and I will be posting the reviews here to help anyone in search of yummy Sushi! I can eat it 24-7! I hope people recommend some good new places to try. But PLEASE... No americanized places. I only ask for fresh fish. It is all about the Sushi Bar for me. Please feel free to discuss anywhere you like here, even Americanized ones, becaue everyone has different tastes. Please check my website for all the pictures and full reviews and please suggest any wonderful Sushi Bars here. Thanks! Itadakimasu! ^_~
Sushi Wasabi on Newport Blvd. in Tustin. Sit @ the bar and take what he gives you. :)
TEN on Macarthur in Newport Beach (ask to sit @ Dash's bar and don't let the scene-y vibe dissuade you. Dash is truly talented - not to mention supercute.)
Hamamori in what used to be the Bangkok Four space in what used to be called Crystal Court. I know it's not sushi, but you must try the foie gras with ponzu thingy they do. TDF.
Any survey of serious sushi bars in Orange County has to include a visit to Shibucho in Costa Mesa. Shibuya-san, one of the earliest of practicing sushi chefs in the country, has been serving sushi for decades. He has trained many of the sushi chefs now operating in the Los Angeles area and is a "sushi chef's sushi chef", quite known amongst fellow itamaes.
Now back in the United States after spending years in Japan to train his son, the father and son team now work side by side serving traditional sushi in their compact Costa Mesa shop. (His original location in L.A. was sold before he left for Japan and is no longer his operation.)
590 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Shibucho is my favorite. Great sushi, reasonable prices, and the family is super-nice. Speaking of, sorry to nitpick but their family name is Shibutani, not Shibuya. They actually had two restaurants in LA, but from what I hear, Shibutani-san wanted just a modest operation for him and his family, rather than the additional headaches of having multiple restaurants and employees.
I was there last week, and they were serving two types of scallop nigirizushi: slices of giant kaibashira, and whole hotate (meaning everything but the shell, not just the adductor muscle) with some kind of sauce. Both were delicious, possibly the best scallop sushi I've ever had.
The only downer to the place is that certain things they either get only very occasionally, such as amaebi (they make soup with the heads BTW) or mirugai, or they never get at all, such as ankimo or some of the less common species of fish. One of my favorites, shako, Naga-san said they've probably had twice ever. The only thing I've ever had there that I wasn't fond of, no fault of theirs, was a mentai roll. I don't think regular mentai is the same thing as the mentaiko one can get in Hakata ramen, heh.
mrhooks: Thank you for the correction - I feel so bad for having forgotten his name. Actually my very first experience in front of an itamae-san was with Shibutani-san, which must have been way back in the late 70's! It's been a long time and only about a year ago I decided to seek him out for old times sake.
My story is somewhat similar. My first real sushi experience was with Shibutani-san as well, back in the 80s at his restaurant in Little Tokyo. I was young at the time, and I had completely forgotten about him until I read a thread about his current restaurant here a few years ago. You go back way further than I do though. That's pretty awesome.
That's a fantastic story, mrhooks, and indeed incredibly similar!
In my case I didn't even go to his shop as some family friends of ours used to have him cater their parties in their home. I can still clearly remember being awed by the live clams being prepared right before my eyes...
In my relative youth at the time I couldn't have ever realized that I was witnessing the dawn of sushi in the States.
(And that's also why I never really caught his name. While all of the "adults" were in conversation with him at the bar, I was just playing around with my friends and only occasionally stopping at the bar to get a nigiri or two to eat!)
For pictures, please go to http://www.kats9lives.com/
I have been to this place twice already. I am going to combine the reviews since they were within a week. My first time was a very pleasant experience. The fish was fresh and the flavors were wonderful. Alas, my second visit was much more disappointing. It was the same Sushi Chef, but I don't think he remembered who I was. He didn't flavor any of the fishes this time around and wasn't as friendly, which made it not as enjoyable. My first visit was lunch on a Saturday and the second time I took my sister for an early dinner. I don't think that should make a difference in experience when it was the same chef, but I guess it does.
Both times I sat at the Sushi Bar and they served a tasty pickled cucumber, cooked salmon, & sesame salad.
I always start off my meals with Hamachi, Yellowtail. Then he recommended Hamachi Belly and Kanpachi, which I of course ordered. The first time I visited this place, he flavored all the nigiri so that all you have to do is add some wasabi and eat it. One thing I loved about this place is they have FRESH wasabi! If you have never had it, you really need to try it! Much better than that paste you normally get. Be forewarned, wasabi is like garlic because their spiciness varies from each piece.
On my second trip I got Hamachi, Hamachi Belly & Kanpachi first. They were not flavored so you have to put the soy sauce and wasabi on for yourself.
Every time I go to a sushi bar I HAVE to have some Toro, Fatty Tuna, regardless of price. I LOVE TORO! At first I thought that their Toro didn't look fresh because it was pale & discolored, but don't let appearances fool you. I ordered it and it was delicious! On my first visit everything would come sauced, but on the second time it came as regular nigiri. Personally I like to spice up my food, so I asked him to put some Yuzu on the Toro. Believe me, it was a great combo! If you like Yuzu, you should definitely try it out.
They also have menu specials written on the chalkboard. I ordered the Seafood Croquette because it sounded delicious and it was, so I got it the second time too. The filling melts in your mouth and it is full of seafood. On my second trip they messed up on it and the center was cold, so they made a new order. The only thing was they try to pass on some lame excuse that it is cooked so you don't have to worry about it being cold. There is no excuse that it should come out ice cold in the center and they shouldn't have made an excuse, hence I will less likely come back.
My sister ordered the Poke off the specials on my second trip. She just loves Poke but personally I hate Maguro, Tuna. Surprisingly, this dish was full of flavor. You can smell the sesame oil a mile away. The marinade for the Poke came together really well with the onion, avocado, & octopus. I'd recommend trying this dish.
On my first trip, my friends ordered two specials. They got the Black Cod with Wild Mushrooms & Daikon. This dish was bland and disappointing. The fish should have been prepared in a better way and take in more flavor because Black Cod is extremely tender and delicious if it prepared correctly. They also got Salmon with Scallops, Mushrooms, & Radish baked in foil. This was much tastier than the other dish, but that doesn't say too much. The fish was at least tender and better seasoned, but I personally think these dishes are nothing special and I would not recommend people to order it.
The first time I was here I ordered the Hotate, Scallop, and it was prepared heavenly! He brushed it with soy sauce, lime, and Yuzu. How can you go wrong! So when I came the second time I thought he would do the same thing again. To my disappointment, he just served it on top of rice. Both times it was fresh, but tasted very different.
My friend ordered the Sake, Salmon, nigiri and the fish looked so fresh that I had to order some for myself. They asked how I would like it prepared and I said to do one of each. The one on the right was prepared with fresh radish, onions, & ponzu. The one on the left was prepared traditionaly with soy sauce & wasabi. Both pieces were wonderful, but this was only on my first visit. If it had been my second visit, I am sure it wouldn't be the same.
I am not a big Maki, rolls, fan because my motto is that if they are masking the flavor then that means the fish is not fresh. We decided to give their rolls a try since the prices were very reasonable. My first trip someone ordered a California Roll with real Kani, Crab. It was only okay in my opinion. On my second trip we ordered on accident the Scallop Cut Roll and it was only mediocre. Then we ordered the Negi Toro Maki, Fatty Tuna with Green Onions Cut Roll. Can we say TINY!?! It really isn't worth it at all. I also ordered the Lobster Cut Roll because it was super cheap, but it wasn't anything special.
Towards the end of my second meal, I ordered the Ama-Ebi, Sweet Shrimp. Of course I had the heads fried and asked for extra ponzu sauce. I always like to add lemon to my Ama-Ebi after I put soy sauce and wasabi on, to bring out the flavor. You will also see my favorite thing next to the Ama-Ebi, my beloved Toro.
When I had lunch here the first time, he gave us the traditional peeled orange complimentary. For some odd reason we didn't even get that when we went for an early dinner! Even though we spent about $160 on food the second time around. I thought service was really lacking and disappointing.
All in all the food is good and very fresh. It isn't anything new or special like all the new Fusion/Modern sushi places. It is simply fresh fish at a reasonable price, EXCEPT the Toro. For some odd reason it is priced on the higher side when the rest of the menu is very reasonable. If I wrote this review on my first visit I would be raving about this place, but my second visit was much worse. I might not even come back because I feel that they really aren't that special and there are plenty of places for good Sushi.