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More ES Santa Cruz notes: Soft-shell crab at Naka Sushi; Coastline Brewery

Carb Lover | Jun 17, 200503:27 PM

I've been lazy about cooking at home lately, perhaps in part to the warmer weather. Did a little more exploration on the eastside by heading to the Pleasure Point area shops and eateries clustered around 41st Ave. and Portola. There's a good amount of development going on in that area, so wouldn't be surprised to see some new eateries soon.

Intended to try Pink Godzilla for sushi, but the huge quirky menu (reminding me a bit of Mobo) and the general vibe inside prompted us to scurry away. Eyes wander across the street and notice a sign for Naka Sushi (851 41st Ave). Go inside to inspect the menu and decide to take a seat. Naka-san (the sole sushi chef) was planted behind the bar and I'm assuming it was his wife who was waiting tables. Place is def. a hole in the wall w/ about 10 tables and one small sushi counter. Had a similar vibe to Sukeroku on westside. Was a Wed. night and it was about half full by the time we left.

I didn't inspect the overall menu that much since we were there for sushi as fish in case looked fresh, but there were the usual cooked suspects available. We ordered 3 of the 4 nigiri specials that night: uni (urchin), hamachi (yellowtail), and mackerel. Surprisingly had the coveted toro (fatty tuna) on the menu but $9.25 for two pieces was too steep. Rounded out the sushi by ordering some maki (rolls). Got a spider roll since soft-shell crab is in season and the Naka #2 w/ a variety of fish and avocado. Nigiri prices range from $4-7 for two pieces while special rolls run about $7-8. Fair price given portions.

When the wooden plank arrived to our table, all I could think about was OMG...sushi on steroids! Never seen rolls w/ such girth (I'm talking about 3"!); nigiri fish slices were wide and long. Portions were at least double the average amount. The end portions of the rolls that tend to have filling spilling out were placed flat on the board and resembled a palm oasis sprouting up on an island. Not sloppy, as Naka-san had an artistic and controlled hand, but very, very difficult to eat w/o deconstructing first.

In the end, most everything tasted good, but the gargantuan maki were impossible to enjoy as a whole. I'm a bite-sized sushi fan. Uni was a waste since it tasted bitter, so I didn't proceed after my first bite. The thing that stood out the most was the delicious soft-shell crab in the maki. Deep flavor, perfectly fried. It's offered as an app w/ a dipping sauce for $7.95, so I'd return for that and their distinctive miso soup. No more rolls for me, but other nigiri (like scallop) seem worth a try. And we did leave stuffed for $40 pre-tip. Good basic service, and would love to sit at the bar w/ Naka-san next time.

Wandered to Coastline Brewery (see link) across the street, as I'm venturing into the world of beer. Pretty empty w/ a reggae band setting up, so I'm sure the place gets hopping later. Bartender let us sample their line of organic beers (blonde, pale ale, lager, amber). Happy hour (5-7pm) pints are $2, regular price $4. I liked the blonde the best since it was smooth, crisp, slightly fruity, not as bitter as pale ale. Beer on training wheels. Asked for a half-pint and, even though not on menu, she obliged and charged half the regular price, $2. Y tried them all and didn't love any. He favors unfiltered European stuff I guess so ordered the Widmer Hefeweizen ($4).

I liked the creaminess of his beer, but that stuff was really heavy for me. Mine (pictured below) was good for the first few sips but I started to get really full halfway through. Too much carbonation; would have been more enjoyable w/ pub grub, ethnic food. They don't serve food there and probably won't anytime soon. Fun to try a new place, but probably won't return. Might be fun hangout if we were ten years younger and still single. :-)



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