Sushi 5 - Tustin
Eating sushi from what amounts to a baggage claim conveyor belt is an experience I've shied away from until recently. To me, it seemed rife with opportunities for abuse and mischief.
Once made, each plate of sushi is paraded naked, exposed, and vulnerable in front of every single gawking restaurant patron as it rides by on an infinitely looping sushi train. It only takes one ill-timed sneeze to get a lot of people sick.
But in my overactive imagination, worse things happen. I see it as the perfect place where a covert operative can slip in undetected and poison an unsuspecting ex-KGB spy or a Ukrainian presidential candidate (both of whom probably blithely declared "I feel like some sushi tonight!" before their dates with destiny).
So when I found out about a new revolving sushi joint in Tustin called Sushi 5, I held back, with my irrational paranoia preempting my love for sushi. Then the good reviews started to come in, tempting me like a siren's call. But it wasn't until I learned that all plates are offered at $1.99 from Monday through Thursday, that I decided to risk it, especially since, to the best of my knowledge, I wasn't on President Putin's hit list. That and I'm a sucker for bargains.
My fears were assuaged when I saw that the chefs cover most of the plates with a clear plastic dome before the food is sent on its journey around the restaurant. And to ensure freshness, an RFID tag is glued to the underside of each saucer, reporting to a computer which pieces have made one too many roundtrips, and taking them out of the rotation.
Those that you order off the menu arrive via the same conveyor belt, but on colored pedestals matching your assigned table color. It's best to take turns watching out for these pedestals, because once your order comes, it comes fast, and the comedic potential of unwittingly reenacting the chocolate factory scene from "I Love Lucy" grows ever funnier when you don't pay attention.
This almost happened to us, in fact.
As I was snapping away with my camera, one of our orders zipped by like it was on the Shinkansen. Luckily, my friend was ready to catch it before it left our booth for good.
Most of our plates arrived in quick succession after that. But we kept a close eye as we ate the tuna (maguro), which tasted as brisk as a gulp of sea air, and as red as a luscious maraschino cherry.
The sea bream (tai), came with coarsely ground sea salt for dabbing, and a lemon wedge for squeezing. Yellowtail (hamachi), was milky and cooling on the tongue, while the caterpillar roll satisfied with a smoky layer of bruleed freshwater eel (unagi).
We whisked a tantalizing specimen off the conveyor -- which was a white fish brushed with ponzu sauce and topped with shredded scallions -- and promptly consumed it without even knowing exactly what it was.
The spider roll were tiny things -- with probably half the usual amount of deep fried soft shell crab normally seen at other sushi bars -- but it was plenty for the $1.99 sticker price. Salmon skin roll was similarly sized, packed with enough crunchy fresh veggies and a good helping of the salty, savory, crackly rind to keep us happy.
The best of the night were the briny Kumamoto oysters, which quivered and slid down our gullets, chased by tart ponzu and soy.
The salmon (sake) was simple and straightforward, enlivened by thin shavings of onion, but the squid (ika) was so chewy, it annoyed. Contrastingly, the mackerel (saba) was so tender it seemed like it was cooked, and flavored so well it seemed like it was salted. But it existed this way naturally and needed no soy sauce or other accoutrements to dazzle our palates.
The Philly roll -- ordered at the insistence of my friend (yes, that's him giving me the finger on the video) -- wasn't bad, eventhough I usually object to the use of cream cheese on anything other than a bagel.
Hot and scalding, the volcano roll arrived fresh from the broiler with a crowning dollop of Japanese mayo -- a topping browned and bubbling like melted mozzarella on a pizza. After mercilessly scorching the roof of my mouth, the piece melted and oozed with the rich taste of egg and tangy teriyaki.
The spicy tuna roll, had avocado in it, which was a pleasant surprise. But more surprising was that it wasn't spicy. The crunch roll, however, was just as advertised, and it crunched with great vigor. To ensure that it kept this attribute, the drizzling sauce was kept apart and on the side in a plastic cup.
Alone on a plate of its own, the piece of sea eel (anago) was one of the softest, sublimely marvelous things to come out of the ocean and into my mouth. It is prepared simply cooked, with no sauce to obscure its decadent flavor -- a prime example of what the Japanese call umami.
After we finished, the waitress counted our empty plates and multiplied that number by $1.99 to get our total. We were pleasantly full but not overly stuffed. Hours later, I was still alive with no ill-effects, and actually quite happy that I kicked my fear.
I shouldn't have been afraid of revolving sushi, and neither should you. Unless, that is, you have been publicly critical of the government in Moscow.
13962 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
To watch a completely unrelated video I found on YouTube taken from the sushi's point of view:
--->>> CLICK HERE <<<---