Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Most Disappointing Sushi Meal


As this blog's purpose is to highlight great places to eat rather than tearing the bad ones just for giggles, I've decided not to name the sushi bar I'm reviewing here. But there should be plenty of clues to tell you which restaurant I'm talking about.

Things started well. The ingeniously-placed mirrors in the waiting area, which is separated from the bar and the dining room, had the effect of disorienting me like I was in a carnival fun house. And then there was the professional appearance of the staff. The chefs wore blue kimono uniforms while the waitresses, red ones. Blonde wood slats surrounded the booths and the whole interior design evoked the rustic presence of a well-kept Japanese country inn. The place looked like another Honda-Ya, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Orange County.

We began with something called "bonta", a sort of Scotch egg-like concoction. They were quail eggs encased in balls of shrimp, which were deep fried and served on a small hill of tempura crumbs. As I dipped them into its mayo and piquant red pepper sauce, I realized I liked them so much I told myself I need to come back and have more during Happy Hour, when it's discounted by half.

Next, there was the salmon skin salad, a big portion of salmon skin scraps render to crispy in a toaster oven. They were piled in a big bowl of off-the-shelf salad greens with a few thinly sliced avocados. It was good, but I've had better.

After that, things slowly slid from being merely mediocre to deeply disappointing. The sashimi platter--a standard assortment of salmon, ahi, hamachi, yellowtail and albacore--was sliced with no uniformity. Some parts were fat and others thin as carpaccio. The presentation was also lacking, looking as though it was just slapped together in haste and only slightly more appetizing than a Sea World chum bucket.

Then the nigiri part of the omakase combo set came, which was the most disappointing of all. It was a repeat of the same roster of fish I had already eaten in the sashimi box, of which, at this point, I had already grown tired and bored. But the rice was barely there and what was present was gummy. Worse, the method in which the fish were cut was again haphazard and sloppy. Some pieces were ragged; some were as thick as slabs. And the flavor and consistency was on par with what I've had at those all-you-can-eat sushi emporiums, which isn't a compliment.

Maybe I should've ordered the dinner combo with the cooked dishes. Maybe I should've stuck with the rolls, such as "Orange City" named after the burg in which this restaurant is located. Or maybe I should've known better that a place that dabbles in Groupons (which I used) and offered free ice cream with a Yelp check-in (which I did) would not and could not, in any way, measure up to the Sushi Noguchis and Nana Sans of the world.

Maybe I won't be coming back for that Happy Hour after all.

Raw Bar by Slapfish


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