Waiiha Sushi - Costa Mesa
I don't think I've seen a more austere sushi bar than the new Waiiha Sushi at the OC Mart Mix. It looks almost half finished, like they saw the primer being applied and then just told contractor, "Stop right there. That's perfect."
Perhaps they figured the food should be the focus. In tasting a few items, I would have to believe so. The menu is as sparse as the surroundings--rolls with cute names on a single sheet; combo bentos with tempura, teriyaki, and karaage; and some apps in a two-page laminated folio.
I thought I had the place pegged. I thought it would just be like so many others; but I was pleasantly surprised.
In fact those words were exactly what I heard a customer tell the chef when he asked how everything was . "I'm pleasantly surprised," the guy said as he paid his check.
We were surprised with just about everything we tried.
Something called "Moon Light" turned out to be fried shrimp, crab meat and asparagus rolled inside a thin omelet that's cut into six wheels. There was no rice to obscure the oceany sweetness, no wasabi to interrupt perfection. And then there was that crepe-like omelet and I'm always a sucker for things made from an egg.
There was the "Candy Salmon", a $3-a- piece single bite shot of salmon draped over a ball of crab meat mix dipped in fine-grit tempura crumbs. You drag it through a dribbled sticky sweet soy sauce and let the cool silk of the meat dissolve into nothing in your gullet.
Poke nachos ($9) were cubed ahi coated in sauce stacked on top of wonton chip--standard stuff, really, but well-done and gone too quickly. You could say the same about the yellowtail carpaccio ($11), four pristine slices soaking in a complementary sauce with a jalapeño slice.
It was one of those experiences with which we had no prior expectations but came away with much more. Like that other guy said, we were pleasantly surprised.
3321-D Hyland Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
The Starling Diner - Long Beach