Sagami has reincarnated itself a few times, says exilekiss. It started as a typical Japanese takeout joint in a strip mall, then expanded and started serving traditional Japanese udon and soba dishes, along with the usual American crazy-roll-type dishes. Now, it has revamped again, with an izakaya small-plates menu served at lunch and dinner.

The wafu ban ban jii is a “really tasty” sesame- and peanut-infused chicken and cucumber salad, reports exilekiss. The agedashi tofu (fried tofu with dashi sauce) has a slightly crisp outer texture, which combines perfectly with raw green onions and the bit of broth. Then there’s ebi shinjyou, which is a shrimp ball, though the name really doesn’t do it justice, says exilekiss: Chunks of shrimp are mixed with shiso leaf, deep-fried, then served with a side of yuzu salt. The whole thing is “wonderfully fragrant and excellent with a bowl of rice.”

Gindara saikyo yaki (black cod miso) has a “perfect lightly browned exterior and extremely buttery, mouth-watering goodness within.” And the miso kushi katsu (cuts of pork topped with special miso sauce) is “very nice,” with crispy pork bits and fragrant, lightly sweet miso flavors.

There’s also kisu no tempura (sillago fish, nicely battered and well-fried), which exilekiss has never seen before on a SoCal menu. The fish itself is very tender and rich. Buta kimuchi (an izakaya classic: fatty slices of pork, sautéed with kimchee) is tasty and a little lighter than the usual version. And the hokke ichiyaboshi (sun-dried mackerel, baked, and served with ponzu sauce and fresh-grated daikon) is extremely salty and pungent. It’s almost too intense to enjoy on its own, but cut with the ponzu and a beer, it’s goes down quite well, says exilekiss. It’s definitely meant to be eaten with alcohol, explained an assistant at the restaurant.

The main weak point is that some ingredients don’t match the freshness of LA’s top sushi restaurants. Avoid items that depend on extremely fresh seafood, like sea urchin tempura or sautéed scallops, advises exilekiss. Elsewhere, the soba noodles are decent, as are the traditional Japanese box lunches.

Sagami [Orange County]
3850 Barranca Parkway, Suite B, Irvine
949-857-8030

Board Link: Sagami–Lunchtime Izakaya in Irvine?! [Review] w/ Pics

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