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Restaurants & Bars 7

Disappointment at SUSHI WASABI (OC)

rabo encendido | Mar 13, 200612:40 PM

I know this is a favorite of the OC Hounds, so I'll tread carefully here.

When approaching SUSHI WASABI'S tiny storefront, the first thing one notices is a big sign plastered on the front door. "We do traditional sushi ONLY", the sign proclaims. "We go to market everyday, and buy BEST FISHES. TRUST ME."

Upon entering, another sign greets you, this one the size of Rembrandt's "Night Watch", reiterating the trust factor, stating there's no ordering at the bar, and no California Rolls will be made. Thusly warned, mrs rabo and I nervously approach the bar for some "omakase onigaishimasu".

Despite all the ominous signs of Marshall Law, owner/chef Katsu-san seems quite affable. Full of smiles and banter, he takes great pride in telling you where his wares originally hailed from---"Albacore from Fiji....Blue Crab from Texas...Big Eye Tuna from Boston."

The problem is, none of it is particularly noteworthy. The fish does seem pretty fresh, but, as one poster previously noted, Katsu-san loves his ponzu sauce. It's definitely homemade---the citrus/yuzu component is nearly overpowering---but it's damned near ubiquitous. And certain items----like our Melanesian albacore friends---are submerged in the stuff. Everything winds up tasting like everything else.

In addition, presentation seriously lacks. I don't really place a premium on such stuff, but it was pretty noticeable here---odd-shaped cuts, hunks of fish sliding off their rice-mounds like a wino off a barstool.

The one exception is the blue crab handroll. This is no frills stuff, no veggies or pickles to get in the way. Just a small seaweed missile stuffed to overflowing with crab meat and rice. I could have eaten forty of those.

Service---Katsu-san's wife is the lone waitress---is very good, and the prices reasonable (sans alcohol, twelve or thirteen rounds of nigiri at around $50 pp.) Just wish the food was better.

In the end, mrs rabo and I may have been a victim of our own "Best in OC", "Trust Me/Best Fishes" expectations. WASABI is by no means bad, but it's not special either. Just a competent, neighborhood sushi joint.

Dessert was a couple of Hefeweizens down the street at Tustin Brewery, along with a large basket of some damned fine onion rings.

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