It had been almost a year since I stopped at Genkai in Irvine (Jeffrey/Irvine Center), but when my mom and dad called me with their mouths full of sushi at lunch on Saturday raving about how much better it was under what appears to be new management, I had to give it a go for dinner.
The space has been expanded into the adjacent space (what it was, I can't remember), and while the feel is not all that different, it is of course much more open, and there's a plasma tv behind the sushi bar so you can enjoy the latest and greatest Japanese culinary programming while you're waiting for your sushi.
When we arrived, the chef sent over:
- Enoki mushrooms which seem to have been blanched and marinated in something that tasted like light soy and mirin - yummy and fun pre-dinner, beer drinking munchy type stuff.
- Green beans lightly blanched and tossed in a sesame paste. Enjoyable as well, but I didn't care for it as much as the enoki.
We proceeded to order the following from the sushi bar, all of it exceedingly fresh. The rice had good texture and was in perfect proportion to the fish, if just the teeniest, tiniest bit overseasoned for my taste, but not enough to really detract from the meal.
- Ankimo (monkfish liver) - No rice here, of course, but steamed just right to where you could enjoy the creamy richness and fattiness of ankimo without having it overwhelmed by the bitterness and graininess of overcooked liver (of any kind).
- Amaebi (live sweet shrimp) - So very fresh and sweet with the heads served steamed in a miso broth rather than fried. I enjoyed this preparation for a change, for while I do love fried sweet shrimp heads, I do not enjoy having the roof of my mouth gouged by the little fried antennae and feet.
- Some sort of fresh clam (not hokkigai) which again was extremely fresh and sweet. Tasted much like mirugai, only with a slightly more pliable texture.
- Halibut sashimi served with ponzu, scallions and spicy radish puree. (This was not tataki, just served with the ponzu on the side.) Clean, white fish flavor with that mildly springy texture that white fish tends to have. The chef graciously accommodated my fussy Korean father's preference for more thickly sliced "hwaeh" (Korean-style sashimi).
- Uni - sweet, creamy, nutty, fresh!
- The name escapes me now, but an unusual looking conglomeration of light yellowish fish roe molded into a thin boomerang shape. First time I've ever tried this so no reference point to discern good versus bad, but most definitely interesting - sponge-y and springy with that characteristic small fish roe crunch. Glad I tried it - probably wouldn't order it again.
- California roll (for the kiddies) - High quality crab. Again, the rice was a tad overseasoned (on the salty side), and it was more pronounced here because it was compounded by the saltiness of the crab, but still good.
From the kitchen:
- Soba with duck - This I'd have to rate as only good. Broth was a tad salty and the duck a little overcooked.
- Garlic beef tataki - Flavor was very good, but I like my tataki rare, i.e., lightly cooked by the yuzu only, but this appeared to have been either steamed or overcooked by the citrus. Nevertheless, the beef was tender and flavorful - just not pink enough for me.
- Tempura - It's all in the batter, and their batter was as good as any I've had - light and crisp, fried in clean oil. Good dashi to accompany.
- Grilled eggplant - Sweet, tender Japanese eggplant grilled and served in dashi. Simple. Good.
- Beef teriyaki and chicken teriyaki - can't comment because I didn't have any and wouldn't care if they didn't, either.
And to top it off, our bill for 4 adults and 2 children, beer included (for the adults, that is), was a very reasonable $140.
If quality remains consistent, I think I may have found my new local sushi joint.