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Sushi In OC: Found! Kasen.

Since moving to the OC over a year ago, I had to give up Mori and was forced to find a closer alternative for weeknight sushi cravings. After trying Maki Zushi (fleeced), Bluefin (expensive Morimoto style), Murasaki (better for udon at lunch), and Shibucho, I had decided that Shibucho was the best sushi in town and very well priced at ~$60pp for legit omakase. However after 10-12 visits, I was still treated second rate (always served last if you're not Japanese) and after pretty horrendous event #3-4 (being relocated midway through my meal due to a reservation error on their part), I decided that I needed desperately to find another sushi spot. Shibucho was a place that does not need my business and it showed.

I tried Kasen Sushi tonight and left kicking myself for putting up with poor treatment at Shibucho over the past 15 months. The rice at Kasen was better seasoned. The wasabi was fresh, unlike the powdered stuff used at Shibucho. The fish was every bit as fresh tonight and as good as the best I've ever had at Shibucho: the bluefin toro was just as amazing in quality as Shibucho's best, the kohada and saba just as well marinated, the tai no konbu jime (snapper cured between dried kelp) just as well prepared. In addition the scallop and abalone was served with a thin sliver of nori to impart a hint of smokiness (not done at Shibucho). The head of the amaebi was offered fried or in soup instead of baked in a toaster oven. The sake list was superior containing both kubota manju and kubota hekiyu. Kasen offered the same rare herring roe on my first visit tonight which took me over 10 visits to "earn" at Shibucho. The chef took greater care in each slice and in trimming the blood lines. The total cost was $15pp more for the omakase and may have been due to the fact that we got a serving of abalone sushi and o-toro/takuan roll at the end which I don't usually get at Shibucho. Dinner ended with a nice brown miso soup.

Long time patrons of Shibucho will probably not be swayed. However, for those who are consistently treated in a rude fashion at Shibucho...as it turns out, it is not the only high quality traditional sushi in town. You can actually get better sushi with nicer ambiance, and a nicer itame at Kasen.

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  1. Porthos, interesting that you compare Kasen to Shibucho as the head chef told me once he was trained by Shibucho-san years ago. My wife and I also love Kasen, although we usually end up spending $30-40 pp more compared to a Shibucho omakase session. The first thing he ever served us was small bowls with maybe a dozen tiny live fish swimming around in a bit of briny water. Once he saw we could handle that, he gave us the real deal omakase.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Youndo

      It's an easy comparison as they are very similar in style and offerings down to the battera sushi. I'll have to ask about the training after several more visits. There are some key differences: I do prefer the fresh wasabi, the nicer ambiance, the superior sake selection, and the more pleasant chef's demeanor at Kasen. Last night, I felt the rice was even better than the rice at Shibucho. If the training is true (ie. that was the only training he ever had) then this is a clear case of the student surpassing the master.

      Youndo, do you know of any other sushi places here in OC as good or even better than these two places for traditional sushi?

      1. re: Porthos

        I do not know of any other places better. However that is sadly more a reflection of my not trying more new places than I do! I would ask the chef about his training; he seemed to enjoy talking about his life/training. Coming from a non-Japanese speaker, I find he is more friendly than Shibucho-san, more like his son Glen actually. And yes, the ambiance at Kasen is much better. Sometimes when I'm at Shibucho and someone opens the door, I get a big whiff of In n' Out from next door!

        1. re: Youndo

          I find he is more friendly than Shibucho-san,
          It would be hard to find someone less friendly than that guy. He makes Keizo from Sushi Zo look like a chatty greeter at Disneyland. I left out the two incidences where he outright made fun of my friend and I in Japanese, much to the delight and laughter of his Japanese patrons. Before I had to grin and bear it because I thought I had to...where else are you going to get $60 traditional omakase I thought? Thank the sushi gods for Kasen.

    2. I note that degustateur recommended Kasen (and another place) in his post back in 2010 but evidently he was a lone voice in the wilderness then: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7074...

      11 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        i think i went to kasen about almost a decade ago, if it's the joint in fountain valley and wasn't too impressed. but i was obviously impressed by shibucho.

        1. re: kevin

          Degustateur recommended another place over Kasen. Have you been to Hamamori? That was his rec that he liked better than Kasen.

          3333 Bear St., Suite 320
          Costa Mesa, CA, 92626
          (714) 850-0880

          1. re: Servorg

            The Hamamori rec came to satisfy the op wanting "snob appeal" and "don’t want a strip mall". I don't care about snob appeal or it being in a strip mall and I don't want to pay South Coast Plaza prices. Degustateur's original recs were Shibucho, Sushi Wasabi, and Kasen for OC with Sushi Wasabi being firmly in the Nozawa/Sasabune school which is not my bag...unfortunately that still leaves just Shibucho and Kasen.

            1. re: Porthos

              Does that mean you have or haven't tried Hamamori?

              1. re: Servorg

                Correct, I have not tried Hamamori. Don't plan to either based on current information provided in relation to Shibucho and Kasen.

                1. re: Porthos

                  I haven't tried Hamamori, but I believe it's an extension of the WaSa tiny chainlet. And I really liked WaSa and the WaSa treasures that I have there about a decade or slightly less there too. But I don't think WaSa is a traditional joint at all, though once the chef realized that I wanted the goods beyond the usual stuff, he started serving me more exotic, interesting stuff that you would get at a Shibucho or Kasen.

                  Haveing said that I really did like the WaSa treasures at the time. Great stuff. Also, I believe the chef's name is James Hamamori, hence the name of his newest restaurant. And he had a restaurant after the original WaSa on Jamboree entitled WaSa in (or on) the Bluffs in Newport Beach.

                  Just for the fun of it, I do want to try Bluefin one night though. (I believe it's a Matsuhisa-inspired type joint).

                  1. re: kevin

                    I've been to Bluefin once and I thought it was quite good. I'd go again in a heartbeat if I was down that way and wanted sushi +

                    1. re: Porthos

                      I did not find Hamamori all that amazing. A step above Wasa to be sure, but Wasa is in my middle tier of sushi spots, decent fish, good rolls, but rarely am I going to get something I gush over. Since it is close to home, the Wasa on Jamboree is probably the sushi bar I frequent the most.

                      The restaurant itself is pretty, and You will have a nice, albeit expensive, meal there should you go.

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        That's what I suspected based on location and yelp photos. I like the 60-70pp legit omakase including pristine bluefin otoro that I get at Shibucho and Kasen. If I want to drop more than $100pp I'm taking it up to Mori.

                2. re: Servorg

                  Hamamori is quite good--but definitely non-traditional (more in the Bluefin vein but I like it a tad better than Bluefin). A pretty restaurant with good service but a bit pricey. It is the place in OC where I take clients who want sushi but also would enjoy other menu options.

            2. My recollection of Kasen was delicious, traditional, and expensive.

              I think we ended up ~120pp.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ns1

                Is that omakase only or does that include the sake? My omakase was $153 for 2 vs the very consistent $120-130 for 2 at Shibucho. The sake added significantly to the tab.

                1. re: Porthos

                  Pretty sure it was omakase with 1 asahi. I remember going over my budget when I visited, found a post I made in 2007:

                  "Had a great meal at Kasen in Fountain Valley. Very traditional, very sushi gen like. They even give you what I would amount to as Japanese amuse bouche's.

                  200 for 2 people after tax/tip omakase."

                  1. re: ns1

                    Sounds like pricing hasn't changed. Hard to make it under $100pp these days AFTER tax and tip for a good omakase that includes premium bluefin otoro, abalone, live santa barbara prawns, etc. I find it way more refined and higher quality on all counts than Sushi Gen though. Cheaper too according to your previous Sushi Gen rants ;)

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Agreed there, it was a much, much better experience then Gen. I actually felt like a customer, not a number with $$$ above my head.

              2. Have you tried Ikko? I know it's not just traditional sushi in the same sense but wondering how you'd compare to Kasen and Shibucho. I haven't had a chance to try either but both places have been on my to do list. The sushi at Ikko was very good. The prepared food was excellent and I would go back just for the home made tofu and chawanmushi.

                1. Anyone here ever tried Murasaki in Santa Ana? I like it quite a bit, though I've never done omakase there.

                  It reminds me a little of Echigo.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jaykayen

                    Yes. I had omakase once with some traditional cooked items. It was decent but added up quickly and I didn't find the quality as good as Shibucho or Kasen. I really like their udon at lunch though.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      oops, just now saw you mentioned that.

                  2. Was Maki sushi good? but just very very very very expensive in that you were fleeced?

                    Or was it terrible sushi quality at terribly high prices?


                    9 Replies
                    1. re: kevin

                      Has Maki sushi gone terribly downhill?

                      Live uni + amaebi = win when I was there some 5 years ago.

                      1. re: kevin

                        You can read about my fleecing there about a year ago including my 2 first visits to Shibucho in this thread:


                        It was a $225pp fleecing.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Yeah, my experience there also was like $200/pp. I took a friend there not knowing, and I was really embarrassed at the price.

                          1. re: jaykayen

                            which place was about 200 per person jaykayen, ??? you mean Maki Sushi, right?

                            1. re: kevin

                              im suprised i never tried maki zushi, was it around about 10 years ago in the OC, or recently opened???

                              1. re: kevin

                                Yes, I mean Maki Zushi. I go for happy hour, half off rolls/regular sushi, if I'm in the area, though. Bento box combos are pretty good.

                                I did see some Japanese businessmen order a large platter of sushi, it was something like $250.

                                1. re: jaykayen

                                  I also have not been to Sushi Iki in Tarzana, but they both sound very similar.

                              2. re: jaykayen

                                i only go there bc i like the live uni, but it is very overpriced although he is a pretty nice guy

                            2. Wow, just took at look at Maki Zushi's website and it not have a lot of fish beyond the usual sushi suspects as well as different kinds of live sashimi, but the prices do sound like they add up very fast if you are ordering the traditional sushi here.

                              but then the question becomes does he just have a great amount of variety and the sushi is still not so good???

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: kevin

                                Here is the post that spawned the maki zushi craze (imho):


                                Has the experience fallen that far?

                                1. re: ns1

                                  Wow, just based on exilekiss's review alone i would want to go there now. it sounds a little like urasawa light, what with the ice sculptures and all and the mix of sushi and cooked dishes, like the whole fish dishes as part of the omakase. does he always serve that kahlua ice cream with coffee jelly dessert? sounds great. though i don't want to get fleeced and highly ripped off.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    That's exactly what I'm wondering. When I went there 4 years ago it was fantastic - just like exilekiss' review, and definitely NOT 200pp. I remember Kasen being more expensive than Maki at the time (we wanted to go to Maki that day but ended up at Kasen instead)

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      You two should both go and report back :)

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        too poor for omakase now. I have to settle for sushi don sasabune lol

                                      2. re: ns1

                                        I went to Maki a couple of times last year. They basically have 2 menus, the regular menu with the usual suspects and rolls, and the specials board. I don't even bother with the regular menu. I spend about $100 pp for the specials menu and have consistently an excellent variety of fresh and diverse fish choices. I don't find it really all that much more expensive than any other high end sushi bar. It is #2 on my list, above Bluefin and well above the mid-range sushi bars like Wasa. I have not been to Kasen or Shibucho, so I don't have a basis of comparison there.

                                        1. re: ocshooter

                                          The times I've gone, it's been almost twice as expensive as Shibucho. However, that's Shibucho's Omakase (not the $35 table omakase, the real one at the counter that's usually in the $60-70 range) versus a la carte at Maki Zushi, so it isn't the most accurate comparison. However, the variety is greater. Quality is very high. Overall, I still prefer Shibucho, but sometimes the variety at Maki Zushi calls to me.

                                          As for demeanor, the Shibutanis recognize me, and they always treat me very well. However, they always have, right from my first visit, and I am not Japanese. I am not a regular at Maki Zushi, so there is no reason for the itamae there to recognize me; his treatment is never rude, but it isn't very cordial either.

                                          The only time I've ever seen Shibutani-san treat anyone unkindly was when three spoiled south OC kids came in, sat at the counter, asked for stuff like spicy tuna rolls, took forever to make up their minds, and talked very loudly with each other and on their phones.

                                          The whole relocation because of a reservation error thing doesn't bother me too much, unless you were moved from the counter to a table.

                                          1. re: mrhooks

                                            Yep. Moved from counter to table. Midway through meal.

                                            A first for me in all my years of dining and pretty much unheard of.

                                            Just curious, Mr. Hooks, as a non Japanese regular do you get battera sushi to take home or the fish bone broth to end your meal?

                                            For me, I'm glad I no longer have to put up with him. For you, I'm one less person at the bar to wait for :)

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              Yeah, I have to agree, that's bad form. It's probably one of those things that restauranteurs can get away with in Japan, but not here.

                                              I've had the fish bone broth before, but only a few times. I've never had battera to take home, but I have had it as part of my meal before (but only twice). I got some shrimp to take home before - he gets them for New Year's to serve at the restaurant, whole shrimp marinated and served chilled, really good. Occasionally he'll do some other things that are rarely seen there, like cooking anago on a skewer over an open flame and serving it hot with a little bit of sea salt, or pulling out a whole kanpachi and offering me a belly cut. He also took one of those big leaves he decorates his sushi platters with and, using his yanagiba, cut it into a crane with Mt. Fuji on its back, for me on my birthday.

                                              My meals there usually end with a few pieces of Japanese cucumber, daikon, etc., or occasionally with his "vegetarian sushi" - a roll with radish sprouts, seaweed, and some other things in it. He seems to be inconsistent about giving out the tamago.

                                              I have my visits timed, so I'm there either just before they're about to open, or a couple hours later, when his friends are about to leave. :) The former being better of course, because he usually runs out of amaebi very quickly, when he even has it. (And I actually prefer his method of preparing the heads. The best though, was when Naga-san extracted the meat while keeping the entire shrimp carcass intact, including roe, and put it in the oven. That was a shrimp dish that, for me, rivalled the shrimp dishes I had at Urasawa.)

                                              1. re: mrhooks

                                                So how many years have you been going? It doesn't bother you that after all these years you only got the fish bone soup a few times and never get the battera sushi to go? Sounds like as well as you're treated it's no where near as good as his Japanese patrons. Obviously, it doesn't bother you but it irks me a bit. I have to always ask for the ayoyagi scallop and himo, otherwise I'll just get the tail portion... that philosophy just permeates every aspect of the meal. I gave it a good 10-12 visits and always tip 25% but to no avail. Time to see what 10-12 visits at Kasen gets me.

                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                  I'm not sure, 7-8 years maybe, not counting his Little Tokyo sushiya back in the 80s when I was a teenager and didn't know anything about sushi. My consistency about going depends on how much money I have - right now, it's only a few times per year, but a year or two ago it was about once per month. So I'm not nearly as frequent a visitor as he or I would like (I know there are people who go every week), and maybe I'm not seeing the really good stuff as often because of that. But I don't really know.

                                                  The two times he's had sayori when I was there, the second time I had to request it. I was lucky enough to get shako without asking for it, the one time he had it. From what I remember, he doesn't even bother getting it anymore - he feels it's too expensive. Shame, I would devour his entire supply if he'd get it. Same with kama toro.

                                                  Battera is one of those things that I'm happy to have if offered, but I don't love it so much that I go out of my way to request it, so that doesn't bother me. I don't see him serve the fish bone soup even to his friends every time I'm there - I'm not positive it's something he has every day.

                                                  There are certain things in the cooler that he never seems to offer as part of omakase, like hokkigai and tako, even though he always has them. I don't know why that is. I seem to get aoyagi when he has it, but that isn't too often. I like the flavor of aoyagi, but I prefer the texture of mirugai, and texture is something that I am strangely picky about. So while it's nice to get both side-by-side, honestly I'd probably be just as happy getting two pieces of mirugai.

                                                  1. re: mrhooks

                                                    Very impressive history with the Shibutanis!

                                                    I agree with you completely about aoyagi vs mirigai if we're talking the regular body portion of ayoyagi. The scallop portion however is sweeter and and the himo portion is both sweeter and crunchier than mirugai which is why I always make it a point to request it. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend requesting it the next time you're there.

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      Aah, himo sounds like heaven. I'll have to remember that. Thanks for the tip!

                                2. I think I was there the night that happened to you. Were you dining solo? A guy was seated at the bar and was already enjoying his glass of beer when the lady with the actual reservation showed up. When they realized their mix-up, Shibutani quite unapologetically said to the man, "you go to table, this is for reservations only." I really felt embarassed for the guy, who then just got up and left. Shibucho can be a really a tough joint to dine at. If you look at all the negative reviews on yelp, most of them are service-related. And, FWIW, quite a few of them are actually from Japanese people. It's gotten to the point where I now hesitate to recommend Shibucho to friends (unless I take them there personally).

                                  It's true that regulars do get better treatment. After all, regulars are the lifeblood of any business. But the differences are very minor. The fishbone soup is just a small gesture on their part to thank the regulars for their loyalty. And even then, it's only when they make it. On most days, the regulars get miso soup like everyone else.

                                  The battera is listed for $9.50 on the wall in front of the sushi bar. I've ordered it many times to have for breakfast the next day. I don't think the Japanese patrons are being given this for free though. Can you confirm if this is the case? Maybe it is because the mom wraps the to-go orders delicately in gift-wrapping paper that made you think that it really was a gift? I've only been gifted the battera only once, and that was when an older drunk Japanese man got a little too friendly with us. He was immediately scolded by Shibutani and told to move his chair away. Later, when we got up to leave for the night, Naga handed us a battera to take home without any further explanation.

                                  It sounds like you feel that you are not receiving what's due to you after putting in the time and effort at Shibucho to become a "regular." I hope you have better luck at Kasen. The few times that I've been to Kasen, I found him to be humble and accomodating and he may very well treat you much better than Shibucho. My approach to eating at a sushi bar (any sushi bar) is to order omakase, enjoy what the chef serves me and not worry about what others are getting. Once in a while, I get treated to something special that I've never had before. But I never go in expecting or demanding such things.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Tkn

                                    I was treated great when Shibucho first opened, in fact it was one of my most memorable sushi dinner stateside. Business was a lot slower back then, there were only two other diners on that first visit. Extras I received were fish soup, shiokara, vegetable cleanser sushi and a few other items I can't remember in addition to a long list of sashimi and nigiri sushi.

                                    Fast forward 3 years later after I moved to LA, during my 5 visits I was basically relegated to Naga each time. Don't get me wrong he is competent but no extra treats, just basic nigiri. Less compelled to make the trek for vanilla dinners.

                                    1. re: Tkn

                                      Yes, that was I. I had already finished my complimentary braised fish and asked for omakase when asked to relocate. I asked for my tab and paid for what I had consumed before leaving. It's his right to move me and it's my right to refuse second rate sushi at the table. I would never have sat down in the first place if I knew the counter was full. But I didn't walk out on my tab.

                                      As for your comment that I feel that I am not getting my "due"...I just want to clarify that it's not the bone soup or the battera as that is minor. It's the better and fresher cuts of fish, the more rare parts of ayoygi, etc. The soup and battera are gifts and his right as owner to give. Using my portion of the bill to supplement his "friend's" higher quality meals at my expense is what I have issue with. You could argue that 10-12 visits over 15 months isn't enough to constitute a "regular" and that explains why I don't get the better cuts without asking or the better quality fish on a given night. However, Mr. Hooks after his 7-8 years of patronage, was never offered the more choice parts of the ayoyagi. It's probably safe to say that certain patrons, no matter how regular, will always get the inferior cuts at Shibucho. Thank goodness Yasuda and Mori never practiced this way or I would never have enjoyed the many wonderful types of sushi available including kama toro, buri belly, raw scallop roe at the peak of season, baby kohada, Hokkaido crab brain sushi, etc.

                                      The question is: is this the kind of itame you want to experience sushi from? One that holds out his higher quality and rarer cuts for his Japanese regulars only...once in a while throwing you a bone so to speak? For me, it's an easy no.

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        The situation was handled poorly and I don't blame you for writing Shibucho off.

                                    2. Visit #2 at Kasen tonight. Started with a perfect plate of sashimi of kinki, amaebi, perfect large tongues of uni, abalone, kanpachi belly, and again the highest grade of bluefin o-toro. Afterwards, a serving of utterly luxurious ankimo. Sushi consisted of snapper marinated in kelp, mirugai, maguro, saba, aji, hamachi belly, more uni. I noticed pen shell clam (tairagi) which was stellar. Never had that once at Shibucho. I also noticed he had nice looking ayoyagi himo and asked for that. Instead of giving me the portion he had already prepared, the chef opened up a new clam and harvested the himo from that clam. After that, anago. He then took out a monster chunk of amazing looking toro and started to prepare it for his Japanese patrons. Noticing my voracious stare, he smiled and pointed at the perfect piece of toro. I nodded and we were served another pristine piece of o-toro. The same as his Japanese speaking patrons. And with those gestures, he now has a regular customer in me for as long as I'm around. Cost was again $75pp for omakase and a lot of toro. Considering the extra uni, fresh wasabi, extra toro, and the tairagi, it was well worth the $15pp extra over Shibucho. This is my kind of itame and my kind of sushi spot.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        Porthos, have you gone to Kasen on a weekend? Just wondering if I need to make a reservation, if there would be a wait, or if I can walk right in for omakase on a Friday/Saturday night.

                                        Edit: Just noticed that your original post was also on a weeknight. Anyone else know about weekends at Kasen?

                                        1. re: I got nothin

                                          Funny you should ask. I have friends in town next weekend and made res for Friday. They informed me that it is busy on weekends and even with a res, it depends on when the first seating finishes and apologized in advance if we had to wait a little for our seating. Very nice of them to give me a heads up. Courteous and friendly all around.

                                          From the sound of things, weekend reservations sound highly recommended.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            Thanks for the info. Guess I'll have to plan ahead for the weekend, or try to swing by on a weeknight or maybe lunch

                                      2. I agree about Kasen, and have been going there for years, though far from me, and only when in the area.

                                        1. Went back to Kasen for visit #4 last night. Omakase jumped to $120pp after 1 asahi. Mostly because we got 2 slabs of the highest quality fattiest mostly white, very little pink o-toro as sashimi. Also got another piece for sushi, then again in a toro scallion handroll. Also adding to the cost was a delicious hokkaido sea welk. Again, I like the fact on visit #4, I'm getting offered the same interesting imported stuff offered to his regular Japanese patrons...which would never be offered to you at Shibucho after 15 visits or 7 years or more.

                                          The $120 line up was:

                                          -Sashimi plate (2 pieces each): tai, bluefin tuna, blue fin otoro, abalone, uni, amaebi. No exaggeration, as pristine, thick, and as high in quality as what I had at Urasawa. The toro here is idential
                                          -Toro sushi
                                          -Tai no konbu jime sushi- snapper cured in kelp
                                          -Dish of cooked scallop in ankimo-delicious, creamy with a cooked scallop treat in the middle
                                          -maguro sushi
                                          -fried amaebi head
                                          -mirugai sushi
                                          -ayogai sushi
                                          -ayogai himo sushi
                                          -aji sushi
                                          -anago sushi
                                          -hokkaido sea welk sushi- crisp and sweet. like a cross between abalone and mirugai
                                          -toro scallion roll
                                          -red miso soup
                                          -housemade fresh wasabi ice cream. The spicinnes and sweetness of the freshly grated wasabi and the sweetness of the cream made it delicious.

                                          To control your costs, I recommend getting sushi only omakase, no sashimi and maybe letting him know your cost limit in advance. Not a "true" omakase way of doing things but he's so friendly and willing to work with his customers, I don't see it being an issue.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            Can I just order a la carte and still get that primo o-toro sushi and blue fin tuna and bluefin tuna roll?

                                            Sounds great.

                                            It would be my first visit there in years.

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              Yes. the o-toro has been pristine and ultra fatty be it a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday night. Actually a touch too fatty for me since I prefer chu-toro. But if you like your o-toro fatty and rich, this is it.

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              Just remembered the hokkaido sea welk was called tsubugai in Japanese. It had escaped me during the write-up.

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                The thing about Shibucho is, sometimes you just have to ask for it, and they'll give it to you. I went for lunch today (I hadn't been there in almost 10 months I think, not for lack of wanting). I mentioned I hadn't had battera in a long time, so Naga-san gave me a piece. I also asked if he had himo (he had already given me aoyagi), and he did, so he gave me a piece. I loved the flavor and liked the texture better, but the fact that it's such a narrow strip of meat...because of that, I didn't necessarily like it more than aoyagi, let alone mirugai. Yeah, I'm nitpicky. I wasn't surprised at the narrowness, just surprised it made me like it less.

                                                They also had engawa butchered right before my eyes, and baby eel two ways, both of which I got without asking. Also had tairagai, but again, it's one of those things that they don't always serve without asking for it. Unfortunately, I was full by the time I realized I should ask for it, plus I needed to be somewhere, so I didn't ask for it.

                                                The rest of the meal included maguro, toro, kohada, tai, aji, kanpachi, uni, kani, ebi...that might be it. I'm having trouble remembering. Some were one piece, some were two pieces. And of course, the hot appetizer, miso soup, and the cucumber/daikon thing at the end.

                                                ~$61 after tax.

                                                1. re: mrhooks

                                                  You can ask for it, but whether he gives it to you from the batch in the front or the batch in the back cooler set aside for his Japanese patrons is an entirely different matter and makes the difference. For example, when I ask for himo at Shibucho, I get the pieces up front. When I ask for himo at Kasen, he breaks open a new clam and harvests the himo from the fresh clam. That was true from my first visit and that's the difference for me. I'll gladly pay the $19 difference.

                                                  At Kasen, I get the same cut as his regular Japanese patrons. Going again tonight. Will post a picture of the sashimi plate if I remember to take it before I chow down.

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    The only time I've ever seen them pull something out of the back cooler is when it's something that isn't in the front case, or the front case has run out of something. I've never seen them keep two versions of one thing, and not serve the un-butchered stuff to me.

                                                    1. re: mrhooks

                                                      There are 2 versions not for everything of course, but at least a fresher batch for the ayoyagi scallop portion. It's also where he keeps some of the rarer stuff. I've seen him pull from the back cooler for his "friends" and then serve me and others what's in the front.

                                              2. From Kasen last night:

                                                Appetizer: simmered fish, tofu, burdock root

                                                Sashimi plate: chu toro, kanpachi, tai, uni, santa barbara prawn, tako. I requested chu toro because the toro here is the highest grade of o-toro and just way too rich and fatty for me. Note the fresh grated wasabi. No powdered stuff here.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                  Your chu-toro looks divine, uniform color throughout. I hate it when I'm served toro with pink/white striping/sinews(ruins any piece of sushi for me), most recently at Kiriko. I'm also in the camp that prefers chu- over o-toro.

                                                2. More rare stuff at Kasen last night: Torigai. No english name. It's supposed to be a "giant cockle".

                                                  It's sweet like ayoyagi but very silky and fine in texture. The chef mentioned that it was rare and that he was fortunate enough to get a batch. Below is a photo of what is left and the chef basically mentioned that it'll be gone after tonight. I'd recommend stopping by if you're in the area and hankering top notch sushi. It was $100pp before tip for the omakase.

                                                  Tori scallion handroll last night was delicious and the uni was particularly outstanding.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    Man I am drooling reading about this place. Sounds like Kitsho (Cupertino) in its prime days minus the toro and overly warm rice. Does he use Atlantic/Boston bluefin? What varieties of the seasonal silvery shiny fish does Kasen stock and how is their kohada?

                                                    Looking at the pic from Kevineats http://www.yi-ren.net/pics/2007/07033...

                                                    They have oshi-sushi (anago or...not sure what the other one is but either a white fish or silvery fish) and battera sushi too! Nice.

                                                    Also their boxed futomaki is very nicely presented

                                                    http://ameblo.jp/maritime-1125/entry-... (bottom of page


                                                    And looking at their Facebook page, these guys do some (at least visually for now) seriously impressive looking ekibentos and osechi ryori...


                                                    I bet once you're "in there" you might even get a sample of their osechi as part of dinner, around December timeframe.

                                                    I have an excuse to come here next time a trip to Disneyland comes around :-)

                                                    1. re: K K

                                                      This place is the real deal. The fish is much higher in quality than Kitsho. On par with Mori and Urasawa. The rice is as good as Sushi Zo is these days.

                                                      Not sure where the bluefin is from but it's bluefin and delicious and the highest quality every time.

                                                      Silvery fish last night included perfectly marinated rich saba and aji. Had kohada on my last visit. Was not avaialbe last night.

                                                      I keep getting full or I'd ask for the battera too because it looks so good.

                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        Just goes to show that good sushi doesn't have to be Michelin star'd places that many Japanophiles and numerous Taiwanese expat bloggers like to flock to for bragging rights.

                                                        I only used Howard's restaurant as a comparison, since he also did some osechi and offered us some years ago (and also did kelp wrapped hirame, sadly only once or twice). A SF Bay Area Japanese blogger compared Kasen (in a 2007 post) to Anzu (SF) in its heyday with Kaz Takahashi at the helm, I'm guessing fish quality since the hiragana to Eng translation was wack. Since you've been to Anzu SF's bar before Kaz-san left, is the fish quality comparable?

                                                        1. re: K K

                                                          Anzu had the variety but not the quality that is found here at Kasen. I would rank this place above Kiriko and maybe even Zo for my tastes. Doesn't have the variety of Zo but what he has is pristine and he has rare stuff that I've never seen before period.

                                                  2. There's this great place called Koto that's pretty close to Kasen...it's on Brookhurst near this hospital. Even though Koto is catered more towards foreigners (chicken teriyaki, dynamite rolls, etc.), they have amazing chirashis. The fish quality, I have to admit, is sometimes one step down from Kasen, but it's still good. However, if you go to dinner and order one of their omakese courses, their kaisen appetizer is...truly Japanese haha. I don't know how to say it, but it's like really, really authentic Japanese food. Sorry, I'm getting kind of out of topic, but please do try one of Koto's chirashis. It's pretty good, and my family's been visiting both Kasen and Koto (back when they had that huge restaurant in Newport Beach) for many, many years (they used to play mahjong together).

                                                    Oh and I also second visiting Ikko in Costa Mesa! That place is less Japanese, more fusion (but less fusion-y than bluefin), and their chef is like a soy sauce hater haha. He believes soy sauce would drain the fish's flavor, so he serves sushi with either salt or with a few drops of soy sauce.

                                                    Oh and one more thing, you should try visiting Nana-san. And if you're into Japanese food (like not sushi) you should visit Hanna Kappo. Nana-san used to be the owner of angotei before the switch (and after the switch, angotei went downhill), and Hanna Kappo's owner was the head chef for the old Koto (in newport beach) before the land was sold. Sorry, this might be a bit confusing, but the owner for the new Koto was the sushi chef for the old Koto, and the owner for Kappo Hana was the head chef for the cooked goods for old Koto.

                                                    Sorry, edit #2, I totally forgot about 345 on Newport. Once again, 345 is like a more fusion-ey place. Sit at their sushi bar, and go for the omakase. Try to go for the old looking sushi chef (he kind of looks like a music conductor/ yakuza boss) You would not be disappointed. And then there's Taiko in Irvine, which is more catered towards beginners, but they serve sushi in large cuts (i know, that's not authentic), and you can create your own rolls. The Taiko sushi chefs are really friendly too.

                                                    1. Hi Porthos, did you know any place I can find kama toro (Tuna collar)? thx :)

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: fiefie

                                                        Last place I had kama toro was at Yasuda in NYC :)

                                                        Haven't had it here in LA yet.

                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                          any recent visits to kasen or the other joint in costa mesa /

                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                            Nope. Shunji tomorrow though :)

                                                          2. re: Porthos

                                                            Thank you so much for the info :)

                                                        2. Kasen price update. Copied and pasted from my reply to another thread.

                                                          Just got back from Kasen. Here is what at $69 omakase got me today:

                                                          Tai with salt and lemon
                                                          Hirame no konbu jime (halibut marinated in kelp)
                                                          Blue fin tuna- lean cut
                                                          O-toro: pink with 50% marbling. As fine as I have seen including Urasawa.
                                                          O-toro roll

                                                          Of course my bill was much higher due to me getting 2 glasses of Kubota Manju @ $35 each and a couple bottles of Asahi Amber.

                                                          Point being, if you stick with hot tea, and don't over do it on the amazing toro, Kasen actually comes out to be quite reasonable.

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                            The Asahi Amber beer -- is this made in the U.S.? It is not available in Japan. I am curious about what it is like. Thanks!

                                                            1. re: Tripeler

                                                              Don't know. I ordered it by accident last time because they just list it as Asahi large and Asahi small. Apparently the small isn't just a regular Asahi, it's Asahi Amber. It's delicious, more flavorful, brown orange in color. I too haven't seen it anywhere else but here.

                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                Your $70 meal became a $175 meal with the drinks, right ?

                                                                $35 bucks each for the kubotas, so 70 and 70 and two beers probably 8 bucks each, $160.

                                                                wow, but $69 bucks for a dope omakase is not bad.

                                                                ps. if possible can i get the details of the totoraku dinner, is possible, and it's open to a bunch of hounds, it sounds beyond exceptional, and it's been about four years since i've last been. sorry if it's imposing, my apologies, in advance, although i still kinda want to go. :)

                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  Lol. Kevin, it's not an open invite. JL was pulling your leg. Just a couple of friends and family. I owe Delucacheesemoger one for getting me into Chez L'Amis Louis in Paris.

                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                    Ok. Cool. No worries.

                                                                    Please report back or have the other member of your party report back.

                                                                    A bit of advice:

                                                                    I did go a few years ago with my friend who had the hook up and the chef presented me with the now infamous, highly sought after business card , but I no longer have it. He did say to come back any time on my own. But I doubt he will remember me.

                                                                    So what would you recommend I do ? I gotta a friend who is begging me to take them there.

                                                                    Btw, I don't think Totoraku is enough of a pay back on your part for your friend taking you to Chez l'ami Louis.

                                                                    People would sell their liver, and other body parts just for a taste of the old world style foie grad served up in hearty slabs as well as the cote du beuof.

                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      ...and don't forget the lamb, potato galette or the superb Bresse chicken. Damn, y'all are making me hungry!

                                                                      1. re: Searching4Dunny

                                                                        Exactly, cote was good, the saddle/breast of lamb was insane.

                                                                        Kevin, I would call and mention the regular that you went with that night. I'm bringing a Pichon Baron vertical, a 98 Vieux Telegraphe, and I promise to give him the last piece of outside cap...payback enough for ya? ;)

                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                          Sounds fair to me, l will remember you are donating the rib cap to me.
                                                                          The '70 Taylor is packed to go.
                                                                          Regarding the article Linus below alludes to, Over the past few years there are less Americans at L'Ami Louis than previously, great, now an easier reservation.

                                                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                            Whoa whoa whoa, not the ENTIRE rib cap! Just the last piece.

                                                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                                                  It shattered, made a mess on my finished wood floor. Perhaps a rib cap entier may bring it back to life.

                                                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                    Good thing you told me you had a case of that stuff sitting in your cellar, moved only once since purchase :)

                                                                                    I doubt the other diners would let you have the whole thing anyways...

                                                                          1. re: linus

                                                                            That's why going with a regular makes all the difference...

                                                              2. Hey Porthos - good thread just saw it today. how does this place compare to yasuda? It's pretty close in price based on what you were saying

                                                                I'm somewhat dated on what sushi is still good in OC since I haven't really been eating it when I'm home and when i do its someone just picking one of the places in newport like blue fin

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                  The price is $69-$89 so nothing close to Yasuda in price. The selection is nowhere near Yasuda either. The o-toro is as good as anywhere, especially when he takes out the entire side of tuna and breaks it down in front of you. Gorgeous stuff. Everything else is a notch below Yasuda but as good as anywhere else in the $100pp range. Rarely can go up if he has a shipment of rare Japanese shellfish. When available, I also ask for the 3 parts of the aoyagi (body, scallop, skirt) and he usually cracks open a new one for me.

                                                                  Good for OC and LA at that price point. The quality is better than Bluefin and it is more traditional than Bluefin.

                                                                  For sushi alone, I'd rank them:

                                                                  Tier 1: Yasuda, Mori, Urasawa, Shunji
                                                                  Tier 2: Zo, Kasen, Kiriko
                                                                  Tier 3: Bluefin, Oshima, Sushi-gen, etc.

                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                    ohh ok, i saw $100+ type of #s, but i just mustve read the wrong thing...this is a long thread

                                                                    thats interesting though, ill def have to try to it out next time im at home. I'm not the biggest fan of bluefin, i think its fine, but not that great at the price point, but i always get dragged there b/c everyone in newport goes there

                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                      I would take Kasen any day over any other place, but agree that in terms of variety yasuda has much more.

                                                                      1. re: epop

                                                                        epop - so you think that kasen is better than yasuda?

                                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                                          Over Mori and Yasuda, yes. I did an omakase at Mori recently, and it was great. But about $200, and doesn't really count as a sushiya alone.

                                                                          1. re: epop

                                                                            very interesting...ill give it a try next time im at home

                                                                        2. re: epop

                                                                          I really really really liked Mori, Kiriko, Shibucho, for the past two years.

                                                                          But it's been over ten since I've been to Kasen.

                                                                          You would take it over Mori even ??? Fair enough.

                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                            Just went for lunch today, had the maguro, hamachi chirashi and unagidon. Large pieces of very fresh fish, 9 each for $15 each, a real steal. Staff was very, very almost protective. Large statement before we sat down, as no rolls, etc.. They did not take their eyes off us while we were in resto, odd and disconcerting.

                                                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                              Is this in reference to lunch at Kasen ?

                                                                              Cool. I didn't even now it was open for lunch.

                                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                                Yes, sorry not clearer, Kasen and that was 9 large pieces of fish for $15 on chirashi base.

                                                                    2. After reading this thread, I just had to try this place out. So off I went to Kasen on Saturday evening. Arrived there approximately 6:15pm, the place was empty except for 2 japanese couple. We asked for the sushi bar for the famed omakase. We had the sashimi + sushi omakase.

                                                                      I have to agree, the fish is fresh. This is a very traditional sushi bar where alot of the nigiri that he serves is not seasoned with ponzu or any other sauce if you're used to places like Oshima. Taste is based heavily on the fish itself.

                                                                      What I loved is that the fish to rice ratio is 2:1, you get alot of fish for a tiny amount of rice, you taste the sweet/tangy rice at the backend.

                                                                      For the sashimi plate, we got 2 pcs of Toro, 2 pcs of abalone, 2 pcs of yellowtail, 2 pcs of halibut, and 4 pcs of uni.

                                                                      The sushi are as followed:

                                                                      halibut marinated in kelp
                                                                      stripe jack (shimaji)
                                                                      japanese scallop
                                                                      spanish mackarel
                                                                      dungeness crab leg
                                                                      salmon roe
                                                                      toro roll - 3 pcs
                                                                      miso soup - signifies the end of the omakase
                                                                      otoro - extra order

                                                                      i had a large sapporo.

                                                                      $90/person including tax w/o tip.

                                                                      It was hard interacting with the chef unless you speak Nihongo however the server will gladly explain everything for you. The service is good, there was probably only 1-2 minute break from each sushi he serves.

                                                                      I enjoyed this dinner. If im in fountain valley, this is probably my go to sushi bar however I still love my Oshima at the end of the day, not to take anything away from Kasen, it's a fabulous sushi bar and anyone who wants a traditional taste, you need to try this place.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: JMan604

                                                                        Thanks for reporting back! Very fair assessment. The below paragraph is key:

                                                                        "...the fish is fresh. This is a very traditional sushi bar where alot of the nigiri that he serves is not seasoned with ponzu or any other sauce if you're used to places like Oshima [or Sasabune, Katsuya, etc]. Taste is based heavily on the fish itself."

                                                                      2. I love Bluefin. It is expensive but just the best. If you want a good deal, go at lunch and get the bento box for $25. You will not find a better one anywhere in the OC. I have been to Hamamori and it is good too. I would recommend it. For anyone that is commenting and hasn't been there, maybe you should go and give it a try rather than listening to just one individual.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: newport5

                                                                          I agree people should give Bluefin a try. Be warned that it is more Nobu style sushi and not traditional sushi and that a "try" comes at $100-$140+ a pop for their omakase at the counter.

                                                                          After 5 visits, it's worth it to me to drive up to LA for Mori and Shunji or go to Kasen instead. The quality of fish is superior at Kasen. Especially the maguro and toro.

                                                                          1. re: newport5

                                                                            I do agree Bluefin is expensive and that it is good - but best....no. Have you been to any of the other sushi places mentioned in this thread? I would put Shibucho (food not service), Ikko, Nana San, Ohshima and Maki Zushi over Bluefin for food (not ambiance necessarily). I haven't tried Kasen yet but from the reports (from hounds I trust - not just "one individual") I am expecting it to rank with my favorite LA spots (i.e. Mori, Kiriko)

                                                                            1. re: Searching4Dunny

                                                                              maki and shibucho are both def better than bluefin

                                                                              i havent been to ikko, nana san, ohshima or kasen

                                                                          2. Kasen update.
                                                                            Quality is as good as ever. Only 1 seat left at the counter by 7pm.

                                                                            Omakase tonight was $90pp after tax with 1 bottle each of Asahi amber.

                                                                            -Hon maguro lean cut dipped briefly in shoyu.
                                                                            -Shima aji belly cut. Rich and delicious
                                                                            -Kohada. Perfectly marinated. As good as LA's best
                                                                            -o-toro. Like butter.
                                                                            -Aji. Top notch. Rich and sweet without the slightest hint of fishiness
                                                                            -Sweet shrimp. Head served in a delicious red miso broth (my preferred prep over deep fried).
                                                                            -Battera. The quality of the mackerel and konbu jelly is outrageously good.
                                                                            -Torigai. Again a great treat. Silky, fine, and sweet.
                                                                            -Repeat of the the hon maguro lean cut.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Porthos


                                                                              "Hon maguro lean cut dipped briefly in shoyu." - very standard shoyu zuke on the fly prep, typical in Tokyo sushi restaurants (Sushi Nakamura, Michelin star and random sushi bars featured on Japanese TV from youtube clips come to mind). Sounds like a real winner overall!

                                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                                You have to swing by here and Shunji your next time to Disneyland.

                                                                            2. Kasen update in pictures. Quality is still too notch here and can swing with the big 3 in LA.

                                                                              Not pictured: tai no konbu jime. At it too fast it looked so good.

                                                                              Bonus rounds of Saba with konbu jelly (mini battera), lean tuna, and chu toro.

                                                                              20 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                                Definitely going here next week! The past visit from a year ago was so memorable for me. Thanks for the photos and tip!

                                                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                                                  You're making me want to go back. How much was your latest omakase with them?

                                                                                  1. re: JMan604

                                                                                    Dinner was 110pp with 2 beers each including tax, before tip.

                                                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                                                        As someone who wants to try omakase, this seems like a place that delivers Mori-like quality for a relative bargain. Do you agree, or should I just go to Mori to establish a base level of quality and then venture out to the Kasens and Go Marts?

                                                                                        1. re: young_chower

                                                                                          Mori is a whole different level and probably $180-190pp these days for omakase. If money is no issue, go to Mori. If you want excellent sushi at $80-100pp, Kasen is an excellent choice.

                                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                                      Is that pen shell/tairagai in photo #7? So hard to get find that in NorCal sushi shops! Last year's visit...the mirugai was ridiculous, as was the chef's knifework and detail...and the way he preps/cuts abalone. If only I could visit when they have a full lineup of shellfish...

                                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                                        No penshell this time. Asked for it.

                                                                                        Mirugai was indeed delicious.

                                                                                        Photo 7 is baby abalone.

                                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                                          Dropped by Kasen 5 days ago and got seated in front of the chef. Gladly answered questions about fish (though he never introduced any of the fish as he put down the nigiri, but I was able to figure out most of them), though was very brief with his answers. Looks like a typical shokunin type, but doesn't give you that gruff cold feeling like Keizo/Sushi Zo back in the day.

                                                                                          The sake and beer list is on one small placard, and for a place frequented mostly by local Japanese expats, the selection is small indeed. Settled on a 180 mL Urakasumi sake to kick off the meal, and then just asked for omakase in Japanese.

                                                                                          Tai no konbu jime (kelp marinated sea bream). Old school prep with skin on. Very nice specimen. Very enjoyable sushi rice recipe (clearly not aka shari/red vinegar marinated) that is far better than most places in SF Bay Area. Ended up getting another piece after the tamagoyaki course

                                                                                          Shima aji - a very interesting almost triangular like cut that had a nice light crunch factor. Not a typical curvature nigiri mold (made to look like a fan), but the bite was awesome (the right thickness)

                                                                                          Unmarinated bluefin (akami) - firm meaty specimen. I actually asked him if it was Spanish bluefin and he replied "soh" in Japanese (assuming that is a resounding yes).

                                                                                          Albacore - Normally not a fan of this since it is filler material (and granted I am not a regular here), but I have to say the chef's knifework enhanced the texture of the chew. And for albacore sushi this is one of the best preps I've had in a while.

                                                                                          Santa Barbara abalone - I can tell Kasen (and the chef) takes pride in their shellfish, despite a smaller selection this visit. Fantastic looking specimens that I would probably say surpassed Monterey abalone that I had at Akaoni in Carmel.

                                                                                          Uni - the chef molds it as nigiri without the use of nori, as some schools of thought believe that nori interferes with the flavor of really good uni. I want to say he didn't use a shiso leaf to prevent squishing (during the molding) but I can't remember. Good man.

                                                                                          Sumi ika with shiso - very nice, especially the cross cuts he made on top. It was not as good as the piece I had at Wako in San Francisco recently.

                                                                                          Chef then put down a piece that looked like kohada, but it seemed a tad smaller. So I asked him if it was kohada or shinko, which he paused for less than 2 seconds before confirming with me that it was shinko. Quite the surprise! Ended up doubling down on this one, with the 2nd piece nearing the end where he folded/molded 3 pieces together. Great marination on this specimen.

                                                                                          Mirugai - Haven't had good geoduck in a long time, and even high end Japanese sushi restaurants in SF Bay Area get inconsistent quality specimens. Can always rely on Kasen to give a nice piece with ample bite and texture.

                                                                                          Toro - chef apologized for not having chu-toro. I wouldn't say the toro was earth shattering, but it was pretty good and maybe even better if marinated. But I will admit that it looked very beautiful, like fatty marbled well distributed Japanese beef (falling frost/shimofuri distribution).

                                                                                          ikura - shio/salted version and clumpy. I was rather disappointed that he would serve this. Sushi Koto's shoyu ikura is far superior and is a delight to have in their kaisendon. The downer of the evening

                                                                                          Santa Barbara ama ebi - chef makes these delicate slits on top and removes the tail, as if he were serving shiro ebi. I love Santa Barbara fresh spot prawn. It's got that awesome crunch factor. I cringe when I end up having ama ebi at restaurants that are mushy from being pre-frozen.

                                                                                          Anago - very tasty, meaty yet tender. The way the piece wraps around the shari is rather unusual. I would have to agree though, once you have Japanese anago at a Ginza-esque sushi restaurant, you will never be the same again.

                                                                                          Tamagoyaki - sadly not the chef's forte and not my favorite

                                                                                          Scallop - from Hokkaido of course, but much tastier and meatier than what I've had before. The best one for me is Akiko's (prior to a recent re-org) in SF where they flew in Hokkaido scallops from Japan without going through flash/deep freeze (or so they said).

                                                                                          I was asked if I wanted the ama ebi head fried, grilled, or in miso soup, of which I opted for the soup. "Antennae" clipped, but that roe in the head was awesome. Also, traditional shop here uses aka miso/aka dashi, with a slight smokey and very mildly sour presence.

                                                                                          Asked the chef then to make a piece of blue fin akami marinated in soy sauce (shoyu zuke) which he was also doing for 3 Japanese customers to my right. He probably marinated the slices for about 5 minutes, and it was definitely far better than the unmarinated version. Definitely the way to go if you get bluefin (dorsal) and perhaps if he has chu-toro.

                                                                                          Saba - Kasen's other claim to fame in the JP community is their saba (or anago) battera, especially if you get it to go they put them in these neat boxes. So saba nigiri is a less calorific way to go. Chef always nails the marination of the mackeral down. Granted it is likely not Japanese saba (looks more like Norwegian, and I've had goma saba and masaba before), but it is so tasty compared to most places in SF Bay Area (even better than Ino). Can you imagine how ridiculous this would be if they used goma saba or masaba for this?

                                                                                          Crab - not sure why I got this, but it was good and filled my fix. Now if only he had kani-miso...

                                                                                          Not on the menu but spotted in the fish counter, ika geso (squid legs). No seasoning at all, but very tasty.

                                                                                          Ankimo - not the greatest, but not bad.

                                                                                          At this rate I was getting pretty full so decided on a hosomaki. Wasn't sure if they had takuan, so ended up getting the cheaper veggie option, kanpyo maki and it was very satisfying.

                                                                                          If I lived closer I would definitely return to try more seasonal items and their osechi...

                                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                                            Nice pictures. Strong review!

                                                                                            You can also ask for saba + konbu and he will add a strip of konbu jelly (basically mini battera) You can get your *almost* battera fix without having to eat the whole thing by yourself.

                                                                                            1. re: K K

                                                                                              great report!! i need to go as soon as i get home!

                                                                                            2. re: Porthos

                                                                                              Definitely excellent for the area!

                                                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                                                You were killing it with the review and then I scrolled down to the pics. Well done!

                                                                                                Care to elaborate on price? $130pp no drinks?

                                                                                                1. re: ns1

                                                                                                  Think it was a tad below that with the Urakasumi included in the final tab.

                                                                                                  I actually asked for 2 pieces of marinated bluefin (only one is pictured).

                                                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                                                    ns1. If you ever go, be aware that sashimi/sushi omakase tends to be a bit more from the sashimi course (thicker cuts, no rice filler). So if you're looking to keep costs in check, do the sushi only omakase and finish with miso soup.

                                                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                      I actually went before you did, just haven't had a return trip. Now, 4-5 years later I just remember "Tasty, but expensive".

                                                                                                      thanks for the suggestions - I didn't particularly care for the amaebi head miso soup.

                                                                                                      1. re: ns1

                                                                                                        can i tell them to leave out that crap if i'm getting the omakase ???????????

                                                                                                        it's been years since i've been.

                                                                                                        how's the tamagoyaki ????????????????

                                                                                                        1. re: ns1

                                                                                                          You can get the amaebi head fried.

                                                                                                          Then get regular miso soup (made with red miso) at the end.

                                                                                                    2. re: K K

                                                                                                      thanks man. KK, you in SF i thought ?????????? or am i mistaken ??????????

                                                                                                      it does sound dope. and i haven't been in over a decade or roughly thereabouts.

                                                                                                      maybe i'll return here instead of the joint in costa mesa.

                                                                                                      what was the damage without sake ?????? and then how much for sake ??????????

                                                                                                      how many pieces ??????

                                                                                                      and did you just say, "OMAKASE" or did you say some other words in Japanese ??????????????????

                                                                                                      thanks man.

                                                                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                                                                        My sake was $16 to $18 but they have cheaper options. I mentioned the total (minus tip) above that includes sake (and sales tax).

                                                                                                        They do not have your sponge cake tamagoyaki here. Theirs is the textbook common version. Mine was cold on two visits but still nice to have to close and signal the end of omakase. (Yes I was visiting the OC last week).

                                                                                              2. porthos, does this joint have my tamagoyaki ??????????????????????????????

                                                                                                thanks man.