Maki-Zushi - Tustin
"Cheap" and "sushi" -- two words in the English language that should never be uttered in the same breath. "Cheap" denotes low quality, low cost. It is an adjective that should never be applied to any food worth consuming, let alone sushi. But sushi lends itself special credence to this rule.
The very term "sushi-grade" reflects the high expectations we hold for this food. Anything less than the best that money can buy isn't worth risking your gastro-intestinal health, nay, your life for.
In fact, the only thing scarier than "cheap sushi" is "free sushi", which reminds me of the following exchange between a patient and his doctors on the NBC show, Scrubs:
So I cringe when I hear someone mention that they've found cheap sushi, as I suspect you would.
Mr. Strauss, I don't wanna tell you how to live your life, but maybe you should avoid eating sushi from the Gas 'n' Go.
It came free with the fill-up!
What am I supposed to do, just throw it away?
Yes! Yes, you are!
"Inexpensive" and "budget-conscious," on the other hand, is a more congruous description for the new sushi joint I recently discovered in Tustin called Maki-Zushi.
I've eaten at Maki-Zushi an unprecedented four times in the past four weeks, binging on the creations constructed by the three gentlemen you see smiling above.
On each visit I've tried something new, and each time I have been pleased at the quality, the presentation, the service, and most of all, the price -- especially because of their promotional 20% off dinner discount. The deal makes the already reasonable rates even more enticing for a discriminating cheapskate like myself.
If that weren't enough, beer and sake is B.O.G.O.F. (Buy One, Get One Free) after 5:30 pm. Although I don't normally drink, I couldn't resist ordering a small Sapporo ($2.95), especially since there'd be another bottle that I could offer to my dining companions.
The longnecks were iced in a bucket; the glass, frosted. A nice touch for a great deal.
But the real value was the food. Take for example the Tuna Roll ($3.95), which had more tuna than rice. With the discount, it was a mere $3.16 for the generous hunk of luscious ruby-red fish that took up the bulk of the roll's diameter.
More tuna equals more flavor, and this had it in spades -- a pure and unobstructed sample of the species. Had it not been for the snappy nori, it might as well have been sashimi.
Then there was the Salmon Skin Roll ($4.95) -- wheels of rice and nori packed around shards of wafer-crisp salmon skin, which crackled like salty sea-chicharons. Flecked with meaty bits of the salmon itself, and flanked by spears of cold cucumber, each roll was delectably savory down to the last grain.
They say that when you put a seashell up to your ear you can hear the ocean; eating the Scallop Roll ($3.95), I tasted the ocean. The sun, the waves, the sea breeze; this delicate, soft-as-satin bi-valve specimen harnessed it all.
Ironic that it sat on my plate, served in a restaurant just outside the protected "Green Zone" of Irvine, away from Tustin's restaurant thoroughfares, and mere blocks from industrial Santa Ana. It exists in a sort of city-limit purgatory.
The restaurant seems stuck in a complex that straddles the MetroLink tracks and neighbors a self-storage rental garage. No wonder then that they have to resort to discounts and coupons sent through local mailers to announce their existence.
For now, the result is a sushi consumer's "buyer's market". But even without the discounts, I would rank Maki-Zushi a notch above most of those cookie-cutter sushi joints in Irvine, where the words "cheap" and "inexpensive" doesn't even exist in anyone's vocabulary.
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1641 Edinger Ave #101
Tustin, CA 92780
*UPDATE (December 22, 2006): Maki-Zushi no longer offers their 20% off dinner special. The tables are now covered in white linens for dinner although the food selection remains largely unchanged.