5 Amazing Takes on Tuna in Orange County Marissa Wright October 10, 2015 Spread the loveThese 5 Restaurants Serve The Most Amazing Tuna in Orange County. Written By: Marissa Wright 5 Tastiest Tuna Dishes in Orange County Photographed By: Sarah Wilson There are over 27, 000 species of fish in the world, but when it comes to consumption, one fish reigns as the world’s favorite: tuna. While the canned stuff probably helps skew the figures some, the versatility of this warm-blooded fish makes it easy to feature in seemingly endless ways. However, it may come as a surprise that traditional sushi didn’t include any of the eight species of tuna as an ingredient. Now all you have to do is look at all the different types of tuna most sushi restaurants feature to know our obsession with this fish goes beyond tuna salad sandwiches and niçoise salads. If you don’t know what all the fuss is about, you probably haven’t experienced all that tuna can be, which is why you should make a plan to take a tour of Orange County’s best tuna dishes. We scoured our neighborhoods to find spots that will help you fall in love with this giant fish. Whether you’re a seafood aficionado or a sushi rookie there is a dish waiting to change your perspective and remind you how powerful a good meal can be. Photo By: Sarah Nail Photo By: Sarah Nail Photo By: Sarah Nail Sushi Roku 327 Newport Center Dr Newport Beach, CA 92660 949.706.3622 | www.innovativedining.com/restaurants/sushiroku How They Do Their Tuna: Bridging old school technique with new school flavors. No stranger to the dining scene, Sushi Roku has been creating memorable culinary experiences for guests since they opened the doors to their first Los Angeles restaurant in 1997. Understanding that the ambiance is almost as important as the food itself, Sushi Roku created an inviting environment while highlighting the tasty masterpieces being constructed as guests watch. Since its inception, Sushi Roku has expanded to Santa Monica, Pasadena, Las Vegas and Scottsdale, and continues to bolster the reputation of excellence and innovative cuisine that had Orange County locals rejoicing at the news that Fashion Island would be home to the latest expansion. The Newport Beach location appears deceptively small but upon entering the venue presents a clean, contemporary design with bonsai trees, rich wood tables and a neutral color palette. The modern decor transforms the space from bright and airy during the day to posh and sophisticated as the sun goes down—guaranteed to impress a date or act as the perfect backdrop to an upscale night out with friends. While the menu has moved away from classic preparations in favor of a more avant-garde approach to Japanese fare, the precision and respect of traditional cooking practices remains the foundation for Sushi Roku’s brand of culinary art. You will discover that delivering edible works of art with surprising non-traditional ingredients is nothing new to the chefs of Sushi Roku, but your taste buds might throw you a party after you treat them to this dining experience. Inventive plates like the tuna beet carpaccio, featuring thinly-sliced bigeye tuna, paper-thin shaved rainbow beets, a touch of feta cheese and a yuzu miso pair ingredients that sound like they shouldn’t work together but in reality harmonize in ways you couldn’t imagine. Their tuna tartare only resembles the traditional dish in name. Sushi Roku opts for a deconstructed approach, presenting chunks of bigeye tuna kissed with a soy truffle sauce and then topped with their yuzu guacamole and shaved white truffles. Even classic gyozas get a facelift from Sushi Roku and are filled with Wagyu beef. These are not your average Japanese potstickers and should not be missed. If you are into a simpler flavor profile or more of a traditional Japanese dining experience, there is still plenty for you to enjoy as well. They have all of the usual characters for sushi and sashimi in addition to a small selection of classic rolls available as cut or hand rolls, and Sushi Roku’s signature rolls like the Katana roll that features three types of tuna—spicy tuna, tuna and yellowtail—with shrimp tempura. If you can only splurge on one thing, treat yourself to some toro (tuna belly) sashimi. Reasonably priced at $36, toro sashimi is like the Kobe beef of sushi and quite literally melts in your mouth. Native Knowledge: As Newport’s latest hot spot, the people watching is incredible at Sushi Roku. Dress to impress and enjoy a cocktail. Photo By: Sarah Nail North Shore Poke Co. 214 Fifth St Huntington Beach, CA 92648 714.465.9011 | www.northshorepokeco.com How They Do Their Tuna: Hawaiian-style Poke. Duh. Hawaiians have been making poke for longer than we know, but once upon a time the dish did not resemble the marinated fish salad we think of when we hear the term. Old school Hawaiian poke consisted of meat that had been cleaned and deboned served with sea salt, candlenut and seaweed. These days, Hawaiians and mainlanders mostly prepare this classic with ahi (yellowfin) tuna and flavor influences from Japan and other Asian cuisines, and North Shore Poke Co. is no different. After spending 4 years in Hawaii as an active member of the Coast Guard, Shawn Gole developed a serious case of poke addiction. All it took was a brief conversation with his dad and fellow poke enthusiast Mark Gole to decide they should start their own restaurant modeled after the poke stands around Hawaii. Landing a prime location near Main Street in Huntington Beach, NSPC opened its doors in 2012 and has been dishing out personalized poke bowls ever since. While some restaurants adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to their poke recipe, NSPC believes in putting the power in the guest’s hands and offers eight housemade sauces, the option of white rice, brown rice or cucumbers as a base, and 10 different add-ins like avocado, mango and masago. With so many potential combinations, there is a poke for anyone. Despite allowing guests to fully customize their bowls, the service at NSPC is surprisingly quick so you won’t have to worry about waiting too long—they know you’re hungry. If you want to grab a seat, NSPC has a minimalistic dining area, but the spot was originally designed to be a grab-n-go restaurant. Makes sense, since the beach is steps away and what better way is there to enjoy a bowl of ahi poke than with the sand under your feet? Native Knowledge: If you’re a serious poke lover (or don’t want to cook for an upcoming party), NSPC also offers poke by the pound at market price. Photo By: Sarah Nail Photo By: Sarah Nail Riptide Rockin’ Sushi & Teppan Grills 27741 Crown Valley Pkwy Mission Viejo, CA 92691 949.282.0182 Ext. 7 | www.riptidesushi.com How They Do Their Tuna: Rolled like you’ve never seen. Riptide Rockin’ Sushi & Teppan Grills has called the Kaleidoscope home for several years now. Like other teppan restaurants, the food is good and the accompanying performance makes it dinner and a show. Different from other Japanese restaurants, Riptide has an extensive menu with options for people who don’t eat fish. While the burger is quite good, the true star of Riptide Rockin’ Sushi is just that—their rockin’ sushi. The lineup starts off standard with an assortment of sushi and sashimi options (fatty tuna, albacore, yellowtail, tuna tataki, etc.) and transitions into rolls by offering classics like spicy tuna and rainbow rolls. Riptide Sushi calls its rice-less cucumber-wrapped roll the Shogun Warrior, but it’s hardly aggressive with its straightforward flavors. If the inventive ingredients and preparations weren’t catching your attention, surely the names of the signature rolls will. With rolls like the Screamin’ O’ Roll or the Sexy Mutha Cut Roll, they would be ordered even if their ingredients didn’t sound as awesome as their names imply. The Screamin’ O’ is tuna, freshwater eel, crab, cream cheese and avocado tempura fried and topped with sauce—this roll earned the name. Hitting every delicious note, the Screamin’ O’ is sweet, salty, rich, creamy and crunchy at the same time. It’s almost sensory overload and then the Sexy Mutha roll is there to cool it off with shrimp tempura, avocado and sprouts rolled in soy paper and topped with spicy tuna, green onion, masago, sesame seeds and sauce. Equally tasty in different ways, the Sexy Mutha is a texture and flavor explosion. For those who want to go a little lighter or limit their rice intake, there is the Typhoon Tuna Salad—a mound of slightly spicy tuna, cucumbers, sprouts, green onions, avocado and masago served with rice and bibb lettuce to make your own lettuce wraps if you like. The fun names and lighthearted environment make Riptide a great destination for groups while the food keeps everyone happy. A sushi novice would enjoy rolls at Riptide Rockin’ Sushi while a more experienced diner could enjoy an assortment of traditional sushi. They even have a kid’s menu. Riptide Sushi puts the fun in Japanese dining and is the perfect solution to varied food preferences. Native Knowledge: If you’re the type that can eat your body weight in sushi, visit Riptide on a Thursday night from 8-11 p.m. for their $20 all-you-can-eat special. And they have crazy drink specials on Thursdays like the $4 fireball, $4 large Japanese beers, $3 draft pints and $2 sake bombs. Make a reservation, though, because it can get very busy. Photo By: Sarah Nail Photo By: Sarah Nail Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill 2881 El Camino Real Tustin, CA 92782 714.730.0200 | www.mizusbg.com How They Do Their Tuna: Every way imaginable. Getting its start in Silicone Valley, Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill has been delivering a fusion between Japanese and Korean cuisine since 2008. Still a newcomer to the Orange County food scene, the Tustin location is enormous with a large dining room, private dining room, sprawling sushi bar and patio with fire pits and heaters. The interior is designed around a water theme since mizu means water in Japanese. The design features clean, modern lines with a giant bar glowing blue, calling you to the large selection and inviting you to stay and watch the game a while. Despite the upscale environment, Mizu maintains a casual atmosphere while serving beautifully presented menu items. Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill offers a wide selection of salads, appetizers, traditional sushi and sashimi, classic and signature rolls, grill items, Korean BBQ and udon and ramen noodles. Feel like some toro sushi, tonkatsu ramen and KBBQ? Mizu Sushi has you covered. Their experienced chefs masterfully transition from Japanese to Korean within the same table and the result is a dining experience unavailable anywhere else. Unconventional rolls like the Yami Yami—a deep fried yellowtail roll topped with tuna, salmon, spicy scallops, tobiko and a combination of unagi sauce, spicy mayo, and green onion wasabi mayo—turn traditional sushi on its head and provide complex flavor experiences. Apart from sushi and signature rolls, Mizu also offers dishes such as Wagyu steak and will be presenting new items to the menu this upcoming fall. Their tuna tartare starts off similar to other establishments but arrives at your table with a layer of black tobiko on top and a raw quail egg sitting in the center. The dish tastes as good as it is visually striking and this is true about most things on the menu. Knowing that presentation is almost as important as flavor, the chefs at Mizu approach each dish with precision and a soft artistic flair. Native Knowledge: Happy hour at Mizu offers food and drinks for $3-$5, but make sure you are sitting in the right place, because happy hour is not offered throughout the entire restaurant. Also, while happy hour goes until 6:30 p.m., it resumes for Late Night Happy Hour between 9:00 p.m.-Close, Monday-Saturday. Photo By: Sarah Nail Photo By: Sarah Nail San Shi Go 205 Main St Newport Beach, CA 92661 949.673.3724 | www.okidoki345.com How They Do Their Tuna: By the book. You won’t see much fusion or modern takes when dining at San Shi Go in Newport Beach. Their chefs are classically trained in Japanese cuisine and they stick to what they’re good at—creating subtly complex dishes to delight your taste buds. Open only for dinner, San Shi Go is a fine dining approach and the prices reflect that. Dinner entrées are served a la carte and range from $14-$40 while appetizers will run $5-$14 if you want to build your own meals for the night. Adventurous diners can enjoy monkfish liver pâté (made in house by their expert chefs) or some sautéed baby abalone. Less daring eaters will love their homemade pork dumplings and spicy tuna over crispy rice. If you are looking for sushi, San Shi Go serves up classic rolls and preparations from fish flown in daily from Japan and other parts of the world, but you won’t find a menu for complicated rolls with sauces galore. Their tuna varieties are presented in nigiri form over a small portion of rice, or in sashimi form. They don’t need any soy, so don’t drown your fish. The only way to get a crazy roll is if it’s part of their prix fixe style omakase. Thankfully, this is where San Shi Go really shines. Their omakase, or chef’s choice, is boasted to be the only true omakase available in Orange County. The omakase gives you the choice of a 5- or 8-course meal that will be created by your dedicated chef with the finest ingredients. Not only is the food exquisite in presentation and taste, but you have the luxury of truly relaxing through your meal and being able to give your attention to whoever you’re dining with instead of planning out courses and what direction to take a meal. Picky eaters should steer clear of the omakase, though. The chefs don’t do substitutions. If you aren’t too intimidated to take the plunge into an omakase experience, a unique and surprising meal awaits you. The servers aim to please and provide an educational experience, too, but traditional Japanese dining does come with some firm rules so extending some understanding to the staff while they guide you through your evening will take you a long way. While San Shi Go would be a fun time for a large gathering, the charm is best enjoyed by couples and small groups. Host your birthday dinner at a different venue, but have your honey bring you here when you want to be pampered. Native Knowledge: Located deep on the Balboa Peninsula, parking can be a nightmare during the summer and on weekends. A little forethought can be the difference between starting your dinner relaxed or deeply annoyed. Also, San Shi Go makes ice cream in house for dessert. Ask about their current flavors and save room—the ice cream is that good!