Costa Mesa, along with being the home of the most ramen shops in the county, has a lot of sushi joints. There are about thirty, if not more, places to sit in front of an itamae and toast his knife skills with sake and chilled Japanese beer.
Sushi Town is one of them, a place you've probably passed by without knowing it. It's on the one-way part of Newport Blvd. that parallels the 55, in a strip mall with a liquor store and a massage parlor that advertises "colon hydrotherapy" in neon.
When you go in, you realize the whole neighborhood is here at the bar, knocking back the sake like they've got something to prove and feasting on rolls drenched in sauce. There's a wait list for the booths and the specials are scribbled with marker on plain white copy paper taped on the walls. Everything seems to be served on no-frills cafeteria plates.
You find a cozy booth in the back corner. There's a TV tuned in to sports that no one's really watching and when the waiter comes, you find out he's one of the friendliest, most sincerely affable chaps you've ever had serving you anywhere, sushi bar or otherwise.
Since the prices are relatively low, with nothing generally over $10, you over order. The sesame chicken is not like what you expected, the fried morsels soaked in sticky teriyaki, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and enough to be a filling dinner by itself.
Their hamachi kama is wonderful, plainly broiled, seasoned with black pepper you can taste, the meat soft like pudding. They do a remarkable oyster fry bursting briny juice and a flawless soft shell crab covered in panko. Both are to be dipped in the same tart house ponzu sauce and served with the same fistful of coleslaw.
You move on to the sushi. The broiled unagi comes in slices thick enough for two nigiri pieces, belted with a strip of nori and brushed with enough sauce to taste like candy. The raw scallops come cuffed in more seaweed, tossed in a light mayo-based lubricant with bits of caviar. The snow crab is done the same way, except with a crowning touch of lemon. On special tonight, a hamachi belly, and to it you add a roll that you saw on the picture menu that has imitation crab, salmon, tuna, and more hamachi wrapped around thinly sliced cucumber. It's speared on toothpicks and is as refreshing as it sounds.
The uni, however, is just so-so, kind of bitter in the aftertaste, perhaps because Sushi Island's customer base aren't the kind to order it. Nor would they necessarily order the sweet shrimp just so that they can chomp on their deep fried heads, a crunchy shell harboring pulpy sea-mousse right behind the beady eyes.
They'd rather have something like the salmon skin roll, which you order too, because the crispy scraps of rendered fish epidermis they scatter atop the rolls still has bits of meat attached.
After you start on the Banana Surprise, a dessert of freshly fried tempura-battered bananas served with ice cream, you decide that Sushi Town has become one of your favorite sushi joints in a town full of sushi joints.
2346 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
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