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Sushi Wasabi vs Shibucho vs Kasen - which one?

  • l

I hate starting the old "best sushi" argument, but which of these 3 is the best? I plan on hitting one of them up b/c my GF wants some good sushi

Fyi, I'm staying at home in OC, don't have time for LA b/c this is a short trip home, trying to pack everything into a busy few days

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  1. btw what about Kingyo? thats probably the most convienent for me, but they are all close

    ive heard great things, but the people who told me are much less foodie than most chowhounders

    1 Reply
    1. I haven't been to Shibucho, but definitely Wasabi over Kasen. Wasabi is a contender for the best sushi in OC in my opinion, while Kasen was just ok.

      Here's my omakase experience at Sushi Wasabi: http://www.kevineats.com/2007/02/sush...

      My omakase at Kasen was far less successful: http://www.kevineats.com/2007/03/kase...

      1. Hi Lau,

        Glad to see you're still in So Cal for a bit. :) For Orange County, my old favorite used to be Shibucho (still enjoy seeing Shibutani-san from time-to-time), but I've found Maki Zushi to be my new favorite in the area. Here's my review for the place:


        1 Reply
        1. re: exilekiss

          ahh thx dagrassroots, kevin h and exilekiss

          hmm maki looks very good, i made reservations at wasabi and kingyo last night, but maybe ill switch to maki....i'm debating between the proven maki / wasabi or whether i should be a chowhounder and try something new (kingyo) and report back

        2. Having been to all of them several times. It really depends on your Style? If you want the Calif Fusion experience then Maki is not bad but not even close to Taiko when it comes to quality Fusion. I use Maki for Take out Platters for novices.

          Stay away from Frenzy, just awful.
          Our style is more Traditional which would make Wasabi and Shubicho the obvious choices, Kasen is fantastic if you let the Chef go loose, not cheap either.
          Wasabi is our normal go to spot when in OC but like I said earlier we go to all of these Sushi Bars plus most of the others. Blue Fin OMAKASE is always good but not as good as Wasabi.
          Get in your car and drive to Sushi Zo (w.l.a) and have the best. If not on a budget then Urasawa for the overall Japanese experience.

          7 Replies
          1. re: russkar

            Regarding Kasen, how do you make the chef "go loose?" Was merely ordering "omakase" not enough?

            1. re: kevin h


              If Zasen knows you and receives some notice he'll make some of the best Omakase available in So Cal. The problem is most Americans aren't fans of Authentic Japanese Sushi. ie: Fluke Fin, Sperm Sack (fugu & monkfish), Abalone Liver, etc. Kasen has a large amount of Japanese customers.
              Shubicho in CM is also very capable. The Shubicho in LA is really great.

              1. re: russkar

                russkar - as far as style is concerned, i like authentic, i am not a fan of fusion generally and ill eat just about anything...if uve ever been to NY my general spots are yasuda and 15 east (throw in kuruma every once in a while, but price can get kind of ridiculous)

                is there a big price differential between wasabi and maki? im debating between those two (i kind of feel like i should try kingyo, but my gf is here, so im sorta of leaning toward the proven places right now)

                also re: Bluefin, i posted a reply a while back on exilekiss's post, but i've found that place to be pretty disappointing....ive tried it several times on the recs of some of my non-foodie type friends and consistently walked out feeling ehh about it

                1. re: Lau

                  Hi Lau,

                  I actually visited Wasabi as well a while back. Total cost-wise, it was the same at both restaurants for our visits, so given the choice, I enjoyed Sakamoto-san at Maki for their great variety and rare items.


                  Here's a second visit to Maki with more thoughts from Chowhounders:


            2. re: russkar

              Hi russkar,

              Definitely agree if Lau wants to get the best, then Lau should head up to L.A. for Urasawa or Zo. :)

              Just curious if you've ever had traditional Omakase with Chef Sakamoto at Maki Zushi? I was at first taken aback on my first visit because of its huge Fusion Menu (and I don't eat Fusion, so I can't comment on that quality), but Chef-Owner Sakamoto only handles the traditional Omakase orders, while he leaves most of the fusion prep to his other Sushi Chef. Sakamoto-san's traditional Omakase is definitely on par if not better than Sushi Wasabi and Shibucho (OC), IMHO.

              1. re: exilekiss

                I'd def go up to LA if I had time, but this is a short trip and I've got to take care of a bunch of stuff to take care of down here...Urasawa is among the top of my lists of LA restaurants that I haven't been to

                1. re: exilekiss

                  I went to Make for the second time for omakase this Weds. I was again totally blown away by the unique variety of fish from all over the world. with the I had some of the best toro ever (from Italy) and live Uni!!!

                  One should not judge this place as a fusion only place. Maki Zushi is like two restaurants in one.

              2. Just went to Shibucho for the first time this week while in OC, and it's excellent, but very serious. Your every move is watched and evaluated before it is decided what is served next. As anyone who regularly reads these boards knows, there is much debate on this type of sushi experience. The best part of this is, after watching how we eat, order, pour soy sauce, et al, we were treated to some special fish not in the main sushi case. The downside is, the formality coupled with some too bright lights and complete silence (no music or other customers) made the dinner a bit taxing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cls

                  I never felt like Shibucho was that serious or austere, even my first time there, and I'm pretty easily intimidated by that sort of thing. Then again, maybe my memory is skewed because the Shibutani family knows me well now. No music doesn't bother me, and the lights make taking photos easier. ;-) Shibutani-san even arranges the sushi on my plate for better composition.

                  I was just there again last night. Good to see Naga-san back, though he was obviously hurting. The toro seemed lower-grade than usual, but the uni was fresher, and they had some very nice salmon, hotate, mirugai, and ika.

                2. Had lunch with a customer at Wasabe yesterday. It was terrific, as usual. My favorite place in OC.

                  1. Been to Maki, found the place really disappointing. I didn't get a chance to sit at the sushi bar since it was full. Service was beyond slow, food came out in wrong order, wrong food came out, and horrid attitude from one of the waitresses. She never apologized for anything.

                    The food was ok, but not good enough to overcome the service issues. My friends were pissed. Needless to say, I doubt I'll ever go back.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: martiniman

                      I've been to Maki too. While I still favour my neighbourhood sushi-ya, Maki wins hands-down for best variety in OC. And like my neighbourhood sushi-ya, sitting anywhere else BUT the counter begets bad service (if I can't get a counter seat within a reasonable wait, I usually go elsewhere). I have mixed feelings on this...while I want the restaurants to succeed, less patrons usually means that I have a better chance scoring the counter seat.

                      Usually service THAT bad won't have me returning anywhere either; it's too bad when both the restaurant & patron loses.

                      And responding to the OP, I've been to Shibucho & Maki (but not to the other two), go to Maki for variety and a lighter atmosphere. Shibucho is quiet, serene though a bit austere. I think the key to any sushi-ya is to sit at the counter in front of the best or head itamae and create a great rapport.

                      1. re: OCAnn

                        i ended up hitting maki...ill write a full report when i get back to NY

                        my basic feeling was that it is a very good place with a really excellent selection (among the best ive seen selection wise, never eaten in japan though)....prob the best place ive been to in the OC, but ive only recently started looking for serious sushi places in the OC; normally when i'm home from NY, i just go to LA

                        re: sitting at the bar - we sat at the bar and i always think if ure actually going for serious sushi (not just to drink or something), its a MUST to sit at the bar b/c getting the sushi piece by piece is very important (shelf life), plus talking with the chef is always helpful...in fact ive noticed such a drop off when ive sat at a table at some places that i basically never go unless i can sit at the bar

                        re: the service - i agree that they're servers are not very good...i saw yoshi getting annoyed b/c they kept screwing stuff up

                        1. re: Lau

                          Hi Lau,

                          Glad to hear you enjoyed it. :) Can't wait to read your report and sad to see you leaving L.A. again so soon!

                          1. re: Lau

                            To be honest, I really wanted to like this place because I've read so many positive things about it, including the review from Exilekiss. Also considering the fact that the owner is from Osaka (My dad used to live in Osaka). But the service was that bad....the waitress had such a poor attitude, didn't apologize, and made it seem like it was our fault. A total no no in the service biz. My friend's wife felt like slapping her.

                            Sad thing is I wrote the owner a note on the receipt about this. If he can't improve the quality of the service, he shouldn't bother even having tables and make the place strictly sushi bar only.

                            1. re: martiniman

                              Hi martiniman,

                              I read about your unfortunate experience in the previous thread (my condolences :(. I can't speak about the waitress / service at the table because all my visits have been directly in front of Sakamoto-san at the Sushi Bar. I've had my fair share of bad service at various places around town, and I can only imagine what you felt like (and it's understandable if you don't want to return).

                              1. re: exilekiss

                                Thanks for the condolences. Yeah, it's unfortunate that the place is flawed in terms of service. There were a couple of Japanese guys sitting at the next table, they weren't exactly happy either. There is a good variety of fish there and has potential. Even though Sakamoto-san may be a good chef, I don't think he has good management skills. He should hire somebody to help him or just get rid of some of the tables. Keep up the informative reviews.

                                1. re: exilekiss

                                  exilekiss, how many sushi chef do they have at Maki? I drive on Edinger to get on 55 everyday from work to head back home. That one night I stopped by Maki, the bar was full (there was a party celebrating birthday I think)... so I ended up on the table. I wasn't impressed by the food at all. I order my usual hamachi kama... blah. Ordered 2 of their rolls... blah. I wanna order Uni but they were out. The Amaebi... I've had better.

                                  So... I wonder... maybe I was just unlucky. That night there was only 1 sushi chef behind the bar. So... hmm. I have yet to gain enough courage for a 2nd run to Maki Zushi yet ... =P

                                  1. re: kelvlam

                                    There is Chef Yoshi and his assistant.

                                    his assistant does all the rolls, yoshi does all the real stuff.

                                    1. re: kelvlam

                                      Hi kelvlam,

                                      As ns1 stated, it's Yoshi-san (the heftier fellow w/ glasses) who mainly does the traditional Sushi at the Sushi Bar, and his assistant Robert(?) who does all the Fusion Rolls, and helps out from time-to-time w/ Table Orders.

                                      I can't vouch for their Rolls because when it comes to Sushi, I enjoy traditional over fusion. I just went back for another visit and everything was great (except the Uni). It's worth giving them a try again (call ahead and ask to save you a seat in front of Yoshi-san at the bar) and order the Omakase and let him wow you. :)

                                      1. re: exilekiss

                                        since so many people vouch for Maki... I ought to give it a 2nd chance :-)

                                        I just tried AngoTei last night.... disappointed. Tonight I'm gonna try Oki Doki in Garden Grove after movie screening. I think I probably will pass by Maki next week and try it~

                                        and then tell Yoshi-san, many chowhounder told me to come visit you :-p

                                        1. re: kelvlam

                                          Ango Tei hasn't been good for years but Ikko around the corner is very good. I don' t understand the Maki Zushi hype I've not been impressed and Yoshi has made everything I've ever eaten there. Decent but not serious traditional.

                                          1. re: kelvlam

                                            is oki doki in costa mesa any good? ive been meaning to try it since its pretty close to my parent's house

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              Hi Lau,

                                              I wouldn't go to Oki Doki for Sushi. It's a "Pan-Asian" type of eatery, informal, serving stuff like Pho, but also Chinese Pan-Fried Noodles, and Japanese Small Plates / Dishes as well. I met up with a friend at the Costa Mesa location and it was decent, but nothing amazing.

                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                ah thx for the heads up...i hate wasting meals when im at home haha

                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                  anyone been to the oki doki Garden Grove location? as LA Times said, that particular one is more izakaya style. I'm really curious...

                                                  From the tustin location and costa mesa location, the review wasn't so tempting to me... but... a Izakaya style/theme one? now that trigger my desire to give it a try =P

                                1. Finally, a friend and I hit Sushi Wasabi last night. Why have I not gone here before?!!! It was so wonderful. I often want to order sashimi, but I hate that it is a huge plate of only one type or a mixed plate of pieces that I don't really want. I mention this because the rice to fish ratio here is the say 4 to 1 with the winner being the fish. Sorry, I can't remember all that I had, but one standout was the crab hand roll (I have never had this before, sushi-wise) which was so creamy and well, heck, how can you not like fresh crab! But my favorite was the uni, it was so fresh and sweet and had the best texture. I swear it looked like it was moving b/c it was so fresh. It was explained to us that there are various grades of uni and that the highest grade is always sent to Japan because they can get big $$$ for it. Well, that is the quality they serve at Sushi Wasabi! Incredible!! We were the last ones in there last night and the owners were so tired, but ever so gracious. They explained that they are up at 5 am to get to the fish market and then to work. Now, that is a long day! My friend mentioned that I was getting married in a week and (sorry, I didn't get her name) the wife (sushi chef's/owner) was so excited for me. She gave me some lovely chopsticks as a gift and then hugged me as I left. I can't wait to go back....today?