Sushi Laguna

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

By pure accident one evening, Andrew and I stumbled upon Sushi Laguna in Laguna Beach. In my ever burning quest to find quality and authentic sushi in orange county, this place has come the closest to the real thing.

Although serving "traditional" sushi/sashimi, Sushi Laguna's strength lies in the chef-owner's innovative interpretation of traditional sushi with modern techniques and local ingredients, thus producing a really fun and exciting dining experience that leaves you wanting more after every bite.

The best thing to do is sit at one of the 22 seats at the sushi bar and let the sushi chef have at it. It is, afterall, his restaurant, and after extensive training in the sushi arts you owe it to yourself to let him show you what he can do.

I recommend starting off with one of the imported sakes or beers and a quick scan of the specials written on the white board. The chef-owner prides himself on freshness of ingredients, and personally visits the local fish market daily as well as imports fish in from Tokyo-Tsukiji Market.

A week ago we sat down for our second dinner here. And here's what we had:

Red Snapper Sashimi style, lightly scorched with blow torch and topped with scallion, sea salt and sweet ponzu sauce.
This was really nice. It's not often I have a "cooked" sushi, but I did enjoy how the warmth of the blow torch created a contrast against the cool ponzu sauce and rice. I'm so used to the sushi/sashimi being on the cooler side, so the warmth was surprisingly pleasant and brought out the delicateness of the fish. The fine sea salt was a nice addition as well (no soy sauce for dipping please!)

Kumamoto Oysters, raw oysters
Officially one of my favorite oysters now. They're smaller but just packed with flavor. I'm a huge fan of oysters in general, but only had them with the traditional western cocktail or mignonette sauces. Here they were served with a dash of soy sauce and sweet pickled ginger (not the pickled ginger with wasabi one usually has). This Asian version was really nice as the soy brought out the brininess of the oyster without destroying its natural sweetness. These are a must have!

Soft Shell Crab Roll
Soft shell crab tempura style, crab mixture, lettuce and roe wrapped and served with sriracha.
I'm not usually a huge fan of soft shell crab, so this roll didn't particularly do it for me. It did score points for me, though, with the sriracha sauce used in place of wasabi. It achieves the same spicy factor but in a new and tangier way. And we all know how I feel about sriracha...

Toro! Toro! Toro Sashimi.
Toro is my favorite sashimi. I once heard it described as "the cadillac of sushi" and I agree. For those of you who don't know it's splendor already, it's the fatty underbelly I believe of the tuna fish. And it is wonderfully tasty and a must-have for me on every sushi excursion.
I'm not sure why this picture loaded vertically, but I'll go with it. Simply served - it's all toro all the time. And with a little wasabi and soy, it's splendid.

Spicy Baby Octopus, marinated in a sweet chili sauce and served cold.

I ain't gonna lie- this was just nasty. And I'm ashamed to say I couldn't bring myself to eat one. Maybe it's because I just had a baby and the fact they were so mini made my psychologically unnerved. Maybe it's the fact they looked like little red aliens. Or the fact it's the entire fucking octopus, not just the tentacles which I can handle if battered and deep fried or marinated and grilled Greek-style. Regardless, I met my sushi match with this one. I've tried the urchin, and I ate the entire nato (which really wasn't that bad), but these suckers destroyed me. I couldn't even taste a little. Andrew did though, so he's the man.

Firehouse Roll, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber with more tuna on top lightly scorched and topped with sliced jalapeno pepper and sriracha, served with sweet ponzu sauce

This roll was excellent. Again, not particularly traditional, but that's what makes it fun in this instance! If you're up for the spicy, this is up your ally and a must try. The spice was just right and not overpowering, and the ponzu was perfectly complimentary to the jalapeno and tuna. It's almost a cross between Japanese and Southwestern, and my new official favorite roll.

The best part of Laguna Sushi is probably the staff and atmosphere. The sushi chefs are very energetic and very sweet on top of being very passionate and talented with their craft. Everyone's constantly cracking jokes and poking fun at each other and playing tricks, so your dining atmosphere matches the vibrancy of your food.
Here's our chef, "Jose":

Add a bottle of seemingly never-ending imported sake and we had an excellent evening.
Here are some facts if you're interested in visiting:
Address: 231 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Attire: casual
Seating: sushi bar and main restaurant
Full Bar: no
Expense: moderately expensive (depending on type of sushi you get!); rolls $12 on average

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