Sushi 5* - Tustin
Your eyes do not deceive you. This is the same Sushi 5 I reviewed back December of 2006. The same Sushi 5 that marked my first foray into kaiten sushi, otherwise known as conveyer belt sushi.
Since then, I moved on. Despite it being within blocks from me, when I got the hankering to attend a sushi parade, my choice has been Kaisen Sushi in Santa Ana. There were more customers there, which meant more turnover. As Martha Stewart might say, turnover is always a "good thing" with revolving sushi.
Sushi 5 was a ghost town compared to Kaisen. Although their prices were reasonably low, hardly anyone bit. All that was missing was an errant tumbleweed to bounce by. Maybe crickets.
The revolving sushi concept wasn't working here.
Case in point: I had lunch with a co-worker a few months ago. We were the only customers. And there's nothing sadder than to to see a lone piece of sushi ride on a ever-looping conveyor belt, on a never-ending victory lap, waving to an audience of two.
Funny part was that even as we ordered our items fresh from the menu, the itamae had no other choice but to send it rolling on down the line.
Since we were seated at the far end of the restaurant, the elapsed time was nothing short of comedic. It was like like we were waiting at the airport baggage claim while the taxi was idling. In the middle of it, my impatience and hunger got the best of me: I got up and plucked our sushi orders mid-journey.
The owners at Sushi 5 got wise to this problem. They've recently ripped out all the conveyors, built a traditional long bar in its place.
Don't get me wrong: The concept of revolving sushi is not dead. As we speak, a new revolving sushi place called Kula is being developed at the Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine.
But it is dead at Sushi 5. Dead, gone and nearly forgotten.
What they didn't do away with are the bargains. Sushi 5 now offers a special deal (a permanent one, by the looks of it), where you pick 5 kinds with 2 pieces each from the picture list for $11.95 (which also includes a bowl of miso soup and a salad).
That's 10 in total, at about $1.20 a piece.
The best way to do it is to bring a friend and have them pick out items that you haven't scoped. When you share your bounty, you both will make out tasting ten altogether different pieces.
So, how is it? I'll tell you now that it can't touch Sushi Shibucho or Sushi Wasabi, which shouldn't surprise you. But then you're not spending $40-$100 per per head either.
If you want me to get specific, Sushi 5's salad was a bit overdressed; the miso, solid; and the sushi, virtually unchanged from what I said about it the first time around.
The crab flaked like crab. The scallop gets drowned in mayo. The surf clams crunched. And the Cajun tuna tasted like Emeril "bammed" it.
Sushi 5 is good and decent and cheap. Good enough and cheap enough to prove that the words "value" and "sushi" are not mutually exclusive. And now at Sushi 5, with less travel time.
13962 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
*Update (July 27, 2009): Reader dh has informed me that Sushi 5 shuttered on Saturday July 25, which was a day after I had this meal. Confirmation to follow later today.
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Traditions - Tustin