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Feb 20, 2008 08:03 PM

REVIEW: Maki-Zushi, Tustin

I had a professor in college, Weston Noble, who talked about the "aesthetic experience" of music, where you could literally have chills running down your spine from listening to a truly moving piece of music. Well, he was, as usual, right, and it isn't limited to music.

You know how sometimes you start eating in a new place, and you sit down and all of a sudden you're just swept away by this premonition that you're about to have a really, really great meal?

And you keep eating, and it just seems to fly by, and at the end of it you're in this happy haze that stays with you for hours.

That's the aesthetic experience manifested through food. Tonight was one of those nights.

We had Die Ubergeeklette with us, so sitting at the sushi bar was out of the question. When we arrived at six, there was hardly a soul in the place besides two itamae and a waitress.

After much deliberation we decided to split the small premium sushi platter (note: I have problems referring to "an omakase", because the grammar is weird). It's essentially 28 pieces of the catches of the day, chef's choice. In place of the standard miso soup (which Mrs Ubergeek pronounced quite good) I had miso soup with clams. The clams didn't add much to the flavour but I have to say they were cooked PERFECTLY in the broth -- I've never had such tender clams!

And oh, what choices! I didn't know half the fish on the plate -- but there were THREE (!) kinds of toro, octopus, shrimp, a live sweet shrimp (yes, you are supposed to suck on the head, and they will deep-fry it for you), giant clam, egg, razor clam, "kinmi dai" (I asked after this one), monkfish liver, Spanish mackerel, ahi tuna, yellowtail and salmon -- I know I've missed some.

The big hits: the toro was, as it is SUPPOSED to be, meltingly good. The sweet shrimp was delicious, and I got the honour of sucking the head, with its sweet, briny goodness. I absolutely hate monkfish liver, but Mrs Ubergeek loved it. The big, huge, massive winner, though, was the scallop. There were two pieces of this on an enormous scallop shell with sudachi citrus underneath and cucumber above. Un-bloody-believable. The very best scallop in the history of history.

The cuts are generous. When I say "generous" I mean that I, a six-foot-tall man, barely fit some of the bites in my mouth. They drape just ever so slightly over the meshi, enough so that you can see the texture. The meshi itself was appropriate temperature (I'm just not into warm rice a la Sasabune, I just can't deal).

With the meal came a large pile of gari, a large pile of real grated wasabi -- no powdery garbage allowed! -- and two small dishes of sunomono (pickled whatever). One was a slightly vinegary pickled celery, and one was cucumbers pickled with wasabi.

We were in heaven. They have tempting-sounding desserts, like green tea creme brulee, but honestly if we'd been able to fit another bite in our mouths we'd have ordered more scallop.

The place itself is very nicely decorated but not one of those dreaded "hallowed halls of sushi" places. The atmosphere, once more people came in, was lively, rather than hushed like a museum or a funeral for fish. And the staff all flirted with our (well-behaved, honest!) little baby, who spent the dinner eating edamame.

The price for all this bliss? $70 for the sushi platter (there's a larger platter with 35 pieces for $90) and $3 for the clam soup.

I can't recommend this place highly enough. We have been looking and looking and looking for sushi, and to find it in Tustin (the little suburb with the big chow credentials) is quite a joyous thing for us. It's not easy to find -- it's on Edinger, across from the back entrance to the Marine base, near the Santa Ana auto mall and the Irvine "no develop" zone. You would never, ever come to this area unless your commute took you to Tustin Metrolink, and even then...

Maki Zushi
1641 Edinger Ave # 101, Tustin, CA

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  1. Nice review; I'm eager to try it...and glad to read that Little Miss Ubergeeklette is a CH in training. =)

    1. Das, you had kinmedai aka "golden eye" snapper aka alfonsino. "Kin" is gold in japanese. It's deliciously fatty, tender, and a real treat. Sushi Zo also carries kinmedai. The presence of good kinmedai is usually a sign of a legit sushi establishment.

      1. hi das,

        i really rarely post, but tonight i took my wife there. we ordered the premium sashimi platter for THREE, and a side of the kumamoto oysters. THANKS for sharing. it was unbelievable. our plate had surf clam, mirugai, live scallop, a whole aji, razor clam, tuna, salmon, toro, kampachi, tamago, red snapper, uni, and the live amaebi. (my wife got a real surprise when i went to touch the sweet shrimp heads - and all three heads jerked and moved violently. talk about fresh.) both tables to our left and right took turns looking at our table! (of course, the fried shrimp heads and aji bones were a nice bonus, too.)

        $90 for the equivalent of 38 pieces of the freshest sashimi is a relative bargain. highly recommended.

        1. Great review, I'm glad to see you feel the same way about my favorite sushi restaurant in OC! It's kind of a hidden gem- rarely reviewed and hardly mentioned on chow. My fave is the big toro too. It is so fresh it just disintegrates the moment it hits your mouth. I recommend this place to everyone I know.

          1. thanks das. you may have just solved my birthday dinner dilemma.

            5 Replies
            1. re: aprmayjun

              Lol, me too. Yours isn't at the end of April by any chance is it?

              1. re: FoodieKat

                It's actually for a friend and it already passed so I gotta find a place in a jiffy!

                1. re: aprmayjun

                  Definitely try Maki Zushi then, if your friend's into sushi. I highly recommend it. It's nice but not too fancy, and the fish is excellent quality, but not too pricey.

                  1. re: FoodieKat

                    Excellent! Do they take reservations?

                    1. re: aprmayjun

                      Not sure. Always just walked in there and managed to get a table. It might be a good idea to call ahead though if it's a special occasion, especially if you want to sit at the sushi bar (it's always crowded there).