Friday, September 02, 2005

Tommy's Sushi - Tustin

Well, I finally got my fix for deep fried shrimp heads last night. This after two marvelous and drool inducing posts from Pam of Daily Gluttony and Kirk of mmm-yoso! implanted the idea into my head.

All day long I was haunted by a novelty song from the old Dr. Demento show, called "Fish Heads". Substituting the "fish heads" with the object of my epicurean desire, these words rang in my skull:

Shrimp heads, shrimp heads,
Rolly polly shrimp heads,
Shrimp heads, shrimp heads,
Eat them up,

Tommy's Sushi in Tustin would be where I would feed my craving and, hopefully, banish that goddamn song out of my brain!

Tommy's is one of those neighborhood sushi joints that, I gather, has been there forever. As such, the clientele are mostly locals looking for california rolls and teriyaki. And they're a raucous bunch, toasting each other happily at the sushi bar with their Sapporos held high. It's just about impossible to get a seat at Tommy's on a Friday or Saturday night.

The atmosphere befits a joint of this type. There are booths that look like tatami rooms, but with the middle dug out for your legs. Kitschy red paper lanterns dangle in a dimly lit room. And it's perpetually dark in there since no windows exist to let in any ambient light.

The food is not up to par with more traditional establishments like Shibucho, but you'd be silly to expect that it could be. The sushi Tommy's serves can be a hit or miss, and most of their combos, usually containing a teriyaki of some sort, is uninspired.

But they do two things well. Actually, very well, in my humble opinion, bringing me back again and again. They are, of course, the deep fried shrimp amaebi heads and the poke bowl.

The poke bowl, going for $9.75, is the best value Tommy's offers. A healthy mound of tangy sushi rice is topped with a generous helping of crabmeat, julienned cucumber, capelin roe, chopped green onions, and chunked raw tuna and salmon dressed in a tart and spicy dressing. The bright colors are a feast for the eyes while the fresh and silky textures satisfies the palate. This would be a filling meal for those dining alone.

The combo sampler of nigiri ($11.95) was less successful. The hirame (halibut) tasted off, while the others were no better than anything I've had at Sushi Boy. My girlfriend and I agreed that after our Shibucho experience, this nigiri wasn't up to snuff.

The amaebi (sweet raw shrimp) was fine, but staggeringly expensive at $4.50 when you think that it's really just two small bites of neutral-tasting raw shrimp. But of course, the point of ordering amaebi (at least for me) are the:

Shrimp heads, shrimp heads,
Rolly polly shrimp heads

...which, of course, were great! These leftover shells and heads, byproducts of the raw shrimp nigiri sushi, are rendered until crackling in boiling hot oil. Then it is served golden and crispy with a wedge of lemon.

Biting down on the feelers, eyeballs, antennae, head and carapace results in a lovely crunch, similar in texture to an extremely well-done, deep fried soft-shell crab.

Like divine pork rinds of the ocean, with a briny pulpy center and spiky appendages that could easily poke a hole through your cheek, I realize that it is an acquired taste. But it is one addiction that I am always happy to indulge.

Shrimp heads, shrimp heads,
Rolly polly shrimp heads,
Shrimp heads, shrimp heads,
Eat them up,

Tommy's Sushi & Japanese Restaurant
(714) 669-2969
1051 E Main St
Tustin, CA 92780


At 1:10 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I think so. They are pretty accomodating. The waitress came around every five minutes to check if we were okay. Very friendly and warm staff.

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice neighborhood place! In many places the "atama" (head) of the Amaebi is better than the shrimp itself. Too bad the nigiri wasn't up to par, I pretty much never order a Nigiri Platter at a sushi bar - it tends toward the generic, or what they have an ample supply of. I don't think $4.50 is too much to spend for Amaebi - especially by San Diego prices! You know, because of the availability of excellent fish in LA, when we lived there I used to just make my own Poke - ended up being better than almost every other place.

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a funny thought - if you'd just left the title as Tommy's - I woulda been looking for some chili-burgers....

At 2:15 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah, the name isn't exactly apt, or, come to think of it, is it? Considering they really do an Americanized take on Japanese food, I think it sets appropriate expectations on what they will find here...

This was the first time I've actually ordered a sushi platter from any place, and it will be the last.

It's good to know I wasn't being ripped off for the amaebi. I don't order it often because I often think that I'm being gouged.

So, Kirk, care to share your poke recipe on your blog someday??? ;-)

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elmo - I already have:

You can get everything you need from Marukai! Don't forget the Ogo!

At 3:23 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Ahhh! I missed that post!


At 9:52 AM, Blogger 冬冬 said...

NICE poke bowl!! are the fish fresh though?~

I love Fukada's spicy tuna don, but this looks pretty good too.. hehehe

At 10:40 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

The fish is pretty fresh. I think in general the fish at Tommy's is fresh since they get a lot of turnover. The place is always busy. Beware of sushi places that are not busy.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for visiting! I've not had sushi in S.F., but L.A. sushi is definitely great. Someday, when I have a few thousand bucks to blow, I'm going to Urasawa; the ultimate of all sushi joints outside Japan.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

"Like divine pork rinds of the ocean..." Sign me up!!

At 2:06 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Not exactly "deep end" is it, but perhaps it a literal sense anyway! ;-)

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There I was, googling for a recipe so I could recreate the Poke Bowl from Tommy's Sushi.... and I found your blog! I lived in Tustin for about 10 years and that was my favorite thing at Tommy's. Now I live in Houston and am seriously jonesing for sushi.... Since you so nicely listed all the contents of the Poke Bowl, I can try to recreate it at home. Thanks for your post!

At 2:38 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Glad you found me! Hope your poke comes out well. But Tommy's truly does the best poke that I've ever tasted. Of course, I've only had poke at two places; one I hated and the other was Tommy's.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've eaten at many sushi restaurants, including Shibucho and I'd rate Tommy's very high. My reccomendation would be to always eat at the sushi bar if you can. If you go to Tommy's try the "Clam Pizza" (served hot) or the "Caterpillar Roll". These are very creative items and they are great. Their Toro and Salmon sushi are excellent as well. Another very good place is "Sushi Itto" @ 498 E. 1st St. in Tustin.

At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG dude. I used to live in Orange County and LOVED Tommy's Sushi. About a year ago I moved to Fresno and I STILL make the 5 hour drive JUST to eat at Tommy's.

I have never had sushi anywhere else as good as Tommy's.

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Tommy's for 2 other reasons

they serve spicy tuna hand rolls with whole cuts of tuna insted of the chopped up, lesser tuna

the (wife) loves the Crunchy Roll here better then anyware else.

Just found your blog, Woodbrige Local, Great Site, thanks

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Samantha said...

for a great american breakfast go to Pop's Cafe
714) 543-2772
112 E 9th St, Santa Ana, CA
they have great prices too!
my weakness is the deep fried french toast!

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmo, you couldn't be more right about the poke bowl. Delicious and addicting!! My other favorite from Tommy's would have to be the Spicy Scallop Hand Roll. Tommy's uses the large scallops and keeps them whole within the hand roll. Definitely my weakness.
I came upon your blog looking for Sushi 5. Your write-ups are great. Keep up the good reviews! Thanks! Your new fan in Orange, CA

At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy's is extremely dirty and we have called last night our very last time at Tommy's. That place should be shut down and I do not trust anything that comes out of that place! I'm reporting that restaraunt to the OC Health Dept!

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"MEalCentric said...
Do you think its possible to get a poke bowl with only tuna?'

Yes you can, I get it that way all the time. I am a tuna only person LOL.

Hope this helps.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommie's is by far the best sushi I've ever had. If you loved the poki bowl, try the "bronco roll" you won't be disapointed. Also, if you're daring, ask "Kinsan" to prepare an oyster shooter for you "with the show" (you must be at the bar for this one). You haven't experienced Tommie's until you've seen "the show".

As far as having it closed down. Please, just don't go back. It's a great, and friendly place.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy's is wonderful! Poke Bowl is the best. But the Paradise roll and the stuffed Jalapenos is awesome as well. Paradise roll is basically the cucumber skin roll, but the stuffed jalapenos, is the japanese peppers (shishito), stuffed with chopped tuna and masago and then deep fried. Definetely worth trying!

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy's in the BEST! The chef's have all been there for YEARS, they remember everyone and try to have fun with everything, I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!!

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to Tommy's for the the first time the other night. Our host asked us if we wanted "fun" sushi or "good" sushi. We opted for fun and it turned out to be the right choice. The Poke Ball was awesome but best of all were the chefs who made it a night we will be laughing about for a long time. Tommy's rocks.


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