Porthos was a longtime fan of Shibucho, which has some of the best sushi in Orange County. And at about $60 per person, it’s a fantastic bargain for omakase.

But the customer service just wasn’t there. “After 10-12 visits, I was still treated second rate (always served last if you’re not Japanese) and after [a] pretty horrendous event … I decided that I needed desperately to find another sushi spot,” Porthos says. “Shibucho was a place that does not need my business and it showed.”

And then Porthos found Kasen, which offered a universally better experience: “[I] left kicking myself for putting up with poor treatment at Shibucho over the past 15 months,” Porthos says.

The food was equally excellent, or even better than Shibucho’s. “The rice at Kasen was better seasoned,” Porthos says. “The wasabi was fresh, unlike the powdered stuff used at Shibucho. The fish was every bit as fresh tonight and as good as the best I’ve ever had at Shibucho. … Kasen offered the same rare herring roe on my first visit tonight which took me over 10 visits to ‘earn’ at Shibucho. The chef took greater care in each slice and in trimming the blood lines.”

The bluefin toro at Kasen was just as good as Shibucho’s best, says Porthos, and the kohada and saba were equally well marinated. The snapper cured between dried kelp was just as well prepared. And Kasen has a better sake list. But the restaurant is more expensive than Shibucho (reports range from $15 to more than $30 more for omakase).

And you will be tested by the chef at Kasen. “The first thing he ever served us was small bowls with maybe a dozen tiny live fish swimming around in a bit of briny water,” Youndo says. “Once he saw we could handle that, he gave us the real deal omakase.”

Youndo adds that the similarity in style and skill between the two restaurants is no accident. The head chef at Kasen was actually trained by Shibucho-san years ago.

Porthos acknowledges that “long time patrons of Shibucho will probably not be swayed,” but “for those who are consistently treated in a rude fashion at Shibucho…as it turns out, it is not the only high quality traditional sushi in town,” Porthos says. “You can actually get better sushi with nicer ambiance, and a nicer itame at Kasen.”

Kasen Restaurant [Orange County]
9039 Garfield Avenue, Fountain Valley

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