Sushi Imari - Costa Mesa
If you fancy yourself a sushi purist, you might have dismissed Sushi Imari as a roll-peddler, an entity that would initially appear so diametrically opposed to the respected raw fish masters at Sushi Shibucho and Sushi Wasabi that it becomes like comparing a graffiti artist to Michelangelo and Botticelli. Yes, it has a menu that features rolls with names including but not limited to the "Marilyn Monroll" and "Me Soy Horny".
But if you were judging by only that, you'd be as misinformed as I was when I walked in.
Nearly everything I ordered from the specials board turned me from snobby skeptic to instant fan.
I've been eating a lot of live amaebi lately, some better than others, but Sushi Imari's special was immaculate. I was floored how good it was. The flesh was predictably crunchy and sweet, dispatched just seconds before it's laid on top of the ball of rice; but the way they do the heads was a different beast entirely.
The antennae extended past the boundaries of the plate, arching towards the stratosphere, and were gilded in a thin shimmer of tempura batter that hung off like dew drops. The care taken in cooking the head was remarkable--every millimeter of the carapace was rendered crisp into a sea chip, the best fry job of its kind. It's greaseless and perfect, with just the right amount of salty.
And then there's the uni, so sweet I swore it was made of some sort of heavenly custard, and so sparkling fresh it seemed as if it were just fished out of the lapping waters of the Pacific just a minute before.
When we left, we talked about it again and both agreed: that was some great uni.
The hamachi kama, which I order just about anywhere I can get it, has to be ranked in my top five. The grilled fish collar--skin covered in char, supple flesh imbued with sweet, sweet smoke all the way through--was nothing but two thin bones picked clean by the end.
And yes, the rolls were unexpectedly enjoyable too. There was a cucumber-wrapped crab and tuna thing threaded by toothpicks that gushed flavor and a chillingly cool sensation, like a icy surge of arctic air down your spine.
Sushi Imari was excellent, and for the record, I also like well-done graffiti art just as much as I appreciate Michelangelo's masterpieces.
375 Bristol St. Ste 40
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Le Pain Quotidien - Newport Beach