REVIEW: Matsu, Huntington Beach
I couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the sushi place everybody seems to like in Huntington Beach (is it Hashigo?), so we gambled and decided maybe it was Matsu.
It was definitely NOT Matsu.
I've had better sushi from Vons. Seriously. The rolls fell apart; the fish tasted old; absolutely all the American-style rolls (hey, I like them sometimes) were filled with old, tinned-tasting crab (not krab, oddly) and avocado, but no cucumber which would have at least made it a California roll. The nori was rubbery -- that was a first, it reminded me of when we used to leave dulse out in the humidity as kids -- and the rice was unevenly cooked so there were some crunchy bites.
The spider roll's crab had very obviously been fried some time earlier and was dropped back into not-quite-clean, not-quite-hot-enough oil. The spicy tuna had a strong aftertaste of aluminium and I cannot describe the horror that was the rainbow roll, with fishy fish and gummy not-quite-California rolls. The only vegetables were gari, a sprinkling of daikon sprouts (which were good and fresh) and the avocado that accompanied everything. I guess I could have ordered a cucumber roll...
The nigiri were well-formed but well-formed nigiri cannot hide the sin of old, sub-par fish, and I knew I was in trouble when I saw the massive smear of wasabi-flavoured paste peeking out. Ugh.
However, the waitresses in kimono and obi (some tied correctly, some not) were a nice touch, and I actually like the little private-booth style dining (like you used to find at Cantonese-American places and like you still find at places like Bahooka and Bahia Caporales) now and then.
I ate both pieces of tuna tataki (my wife did not object as strenuously as I did to the sushi, though she was clearly not very happy with it either, since we don't eat sushi so often and this was a "waste") and refused to eat anything else. After spending $39 on three large nouvelle-sushi rolls, a hand roll and three kinds of nigiri (yes, it's cheap, I didn't know it going in or it would have been a warning sign), I then threw in an extra $2.37 for two potato tacos (the best thing on the menu) at Chronic Tacos on 11th and Orange to fill the bellies.
It's possible that other items on the menu are better -- the two Asian patrons I saw in the restaurant both had steak -- but whatever the sushi-ya in Huntington Beach that has favour on this board, Matsu it ain't.
18035 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
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Matsu is my neighborhood sushi spot; I've eaten here 2-4 times a month for the past 5 or 6 years. Your mistake was eating sushi in the dining room, where you will receive sushi made by the "chefs" in the back of the house. I've eaten in the dining room twice, and had similar experiences (although not quite as unpleasant) as those you describe.
If you sit at the sushi bar, it is a far different experience. You get a higher quality of fish, prepared properly, and you also get better service. While you won't get top quality fish at Matsu's sushi bar (Shibucho and Bluefin being my points of reference as top quality in OC), you will get pretty good and fresh sushi for the price you pay. The bluefin, yellowtail belly, amaebi (live when in season), aji, pompano, and uni are my personal favorites for nigiri/sashimi at Matsu. Sit in front of Yuki and he will give you some good fish and a good laugh. Yugi, the former head sushi chef turned owner, is a great host and always looking to please the customers.
If you're in the area again and looking for sushi, you should give Matsu's SUSHI BAR a shot. There is usually a wait during peak hours, but they have a nice lounge where you can get a 5 oz. glass of Kubota Manjyu for only $12.
re: I got nothin
I've only had the sushi there one time, and it was in the dinning room and i remeber it being not too great as well, haven't been back since, even though the tempanyaki (sp?) bar is pretty good. The next best sushi bar I would recommend in HB would be "sushi on fire" on main. There are some pretty good sushi places in fountain valley, but I can remember what they were called.
I'm resurrecting this because I need to find a sushi bar in HB. No, I can't take the group to Shibucho because it's too big, and Bluefin is too expensive, and Maki-Zushi and Wasabi are too far inland.
FoodiePastor -- is "Sushi on Fire" better or worse than Matsu?
I'm hoping for decent at best, not sublime... my expectations are managed... but there has to be a better place in HB that will seat 9 people.
re: Das Ubergeek
Have you tried Funashin? It's at Brookhurst & Talbert (Fountain Valley) and the same center as the newlly opened Banh Mi & Che Cali. I'm not a sushi fan (except CA roll), but I think their food is good. My Taiwanese friend thinks their sushi is very good. They have a small bar and also tables.
re: Das Ubergeek
Gesshin is your answer for sushi. There is a good sized dining room (no teppanyaki), and the cooked stuff from the kitchen is good too.
I have not been in maybe 10 years (used to live in the neighborhood). But assuming the ownership is still the same, it's a Japanese chef that brings in a limited amount of premium "special items" for his more knowledgeable customers. If all you're ordering is the gringo rolls, you won't find out about the good stuff in the side fridge case. OTOH, if you're ordering sophisticatd items, then he'll probably offer you the good stuff (otoro, special fish flown in from Tsukiji, etc), and if your budget allows for it, ask him what he's got in the side case (the one to the chef's left).
Try the butsutako - the cubed octopus, which he cooks really well. It's some of the most tender delicious octopus anywhere. Or used to be years ago when I was a regular.
Also - I used to hit janet's recommendation, Funashin, around that same era. It's no contest - Gesshin's a much more traditional Japanese style of sushi with better choice of authentic Japanese ingredients. Based on your other candidates, Gesshin all the way.
EDIT: My other choice would be Shimura in Fountain Valley. Slightly smaller room, group of 9 might be tough on a busy night. Food's very traditional Japanese, not as much focus on the premium Tsukiji fish, but he does have a live tank where he keeps spot prawns and sculpin. Get a sculpin sashimi for your group and ask him to make you a miso soup with the fish head. Good good stuff.
16492 Beach Blvd, Westminster, CA 92683
re: Das Ubergeek
I would not recommend Sushi on Fire. It's a place known for their tourists and rolls. Although I'm not a sushi snob and I like rolls, Sushi on Fire is expensive and it may not have the unique and special fish that other traditional Japanese places would have.
If you're looking for decent, it may fit the bill, but I don't recommend it.