Saturday, August 24, 2013

Seasons of Japan - Irvine

There are literally thousands of Japanese fast casual chains like Seasons of Japan, but only eight that are actually called "Seasons of Japan". All but the one that just opened in Irvine are located east of the Mississippi, most of them in Georgia. This makes Seasons of Japan even more foreign to me than if the place actually came from Japan.

Why? Well, because we've had a lot restaurants that are direct imports from Japan, without anything much lost in the translation. The beef tongue purveyor Gyutan Tsukasa at Costa Mesa's Mitsuwa Marketplace comes to mind. There were few surprises when I tried it. But a Japanese restaurant by way of Georgia? Now that's new.

Don't get me wrong: Seasons of Japan is certainly doing Japanese food. It offers the usual Japanese bag of tricks we Americans decided we like most about Japanese cuisine: teriyaki, hibachi, sushi rolls, sashimi, and tempura. But then they have these sauce dispensers that squirt what looks and tastes like sweetened mayonnaise. There are two variations of this sauce: a regular one and another that is adulterated with what must be Sriracha to be spicy.

There's a sign on the spigots that say the sauces go well with shrimp. And you know what? The sign is right: it tastes great with the shrimp. The hibachi-griddled shrimp, the tempura, but especially the shrimp served with a so-called Bang Bang Salad--which has the prawns lightly fried in a thin shimmer of batter and then served on top of greens as though it were croutons--turned into something even better than I expected when I dipped it in this sweet, creamy, and probably very fattening sauce.

It took me only a minute to realize why I liked it so much: it makes every shrimp taste like it's the Chinese restaurant staple of Honey Walnut Shrimp, except without the honey or the walnuts.

How are the other dishes? Fine. The seared beef cubes of hibachi steak is tender enough (not the best I've had). But they got better when I doused it with steak sauce dispensed by another self-serve spigot. I used a Sriracha-like hot sauce served out of a pitcher to dab a roll draped with unagi, avocado, and filled with some sort of broccoli salad. And because they are from the Atlanta area, home of Coca-Cola, they have one of those freestyle Coke machines--another reason why Seasons of Japan might quell feelings of homesickness in Georgians more than it would people from actual Japan.

3831-C Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 502-5111

The Woods - Fullerton


At 5:19 PM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

one of your most neutral reviews yet. i can't actually tell if you like this place or not...

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Edwin said...

Thanks for the heads up on this place. I will definitely be checking it out this week!

At 12:54 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Would you be surprised if I told you I was neutral about it? :-)

I liked a few things (the shrimp after I used that sauce on it, the eel roll) and the concept is neat; those sauces and the automatic spoon dispensers are novel and fun; the prices are somewhat reasonable. I didn't hate the hibachi steak or the noodles--they're merely ok. So neutral is actually the right word here.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

From one Edwin to another, I hope you like it. As the comment I wrote about said, I'm glad it's here, and I will be back, but it is not, by any means, something you need to get out of your way for.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I added a few words about the hibachi steak in the review just now!

When I was going to write this review, I was going to compare it to the hibachi steak that another new Japanese chain called Roll It makes...Roll It, by the way, makes a very, very awesome hibachi steak. They're on MacArthur between Campus and Von Karman...and I decided it warrants a review of its own.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish I tried Gyutan Tsukasa before I left OC. Do you have a review of it?


At 11:23 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I do! Here is the review I wrote for OC Weekly.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that sweet mayonaise is probably Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. They use it alot in Japan...

At 9:20 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Probably. But I use Kewpie at home and this tasted like an adulterated concoction with at least sugar and maybe mirin added to it.


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