Took a friend out for a special occasion in Santa Monica last week and decided on dinner at Sushi Roku. She is veggie-turning-vegan, and I wanted somewhere that had enough choices for her. I think that going to Sushi Roku and ordering the veggie options gave me a unique perspective on the restaurant.
CASA DEL MAR, 1910 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, 310.581.5533
Before dinner, we stopped for drinks at Casa del Mar. We both have some fond memories of Casa - it's where she was married - and I just really enjoy the setting. It is a perfect special occasion place to go and have drinks and watch the ocean.
SUSHI ROKU, 1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, 310.458.4771
Oshitashi. Excellent rendition of this dish, with a great sauce over it that tasted a bit more tart than I usually have it and a bit more special than the soy-sauce tasting sauces I get sometimes. GOOD PLUS
Braised Daikon. While we both enjoyed tasting this dish, and found it to be interesting, I don't think we had more than a couple bites. The final product was a bit sweet, but we were both surprised to find that the spice of the daikon remained through the braising. GOOD
Sizzling Mushroom Tobanyaki. This dish was worth the entire meal for me. The mushrooms had a gravy sauce that tasted almost beefy it had so much body and depth. If we hadn't have received a guarantee from the waiter that it was veggie, I wouldn't have believed it. I mentioned that I wished I had a french roll to sop up the bread. If it weren't for the constant upsell pressure here (see service notes below) I would love to go in and just get this with a bowl of rice. If anyone has an idea of how to make this, I would love some advice. EXCELLENT.
Various a la carte tempuras. I love that you can pick and choose your tempura here. We had asparagus, avocado, enoki mushroom (brought to us by mistake). Everything was wonderful except for the enoki mushroom. Some things just aren't meant for a tempura. GOOD PLUS.
I had a couple of sushi dishes as well - Aji Sashimi, Salmon Sushi and Anago. For a place that is supposedly known for it's sushi, I really wasn't impressed with the fish I tasted. None of it grabbed me, and it tasted fairly pedestrian. The anago was one of the worst I have tried ... prepared exactly like unagi with a sweet sauce instead of with salt and lemon, the way I like it. The presentation of the Aji Sashimi was really beautiful, but I wouldn't return for the fish. GOOD MINUS.
Service Notes. Here is where this restaurant really bugged me. I was totally duped by the server when I depended on him for a cold sake recommendation.
I wasn't paying a lot of attention to what I ordered (paying way more attention to the conversation with my friend), and took his rec for a dry, Otokoyama-ish sake. He pointed me toward one of the most expensive sakes on the menu ($16 for 5 oz) and tried to upsell me to a 10 oz portion ... for $32. No thanks. I ordered the 5 oz, which was pleasant, but much sweeter than Otokoyama.
He was constantly trying to get us to order more fish (have you ever tried Toro? Yes, and I don't want that tonight, thank you.. But have you ever tried it with our special blah blah blah presentation? Yes (lying to shut the guy up)). I was practically feeling guilty that we went in there and "only" spent $100 for a meal, instead of being real customers by spending gads on the sushi.
I would go again for the veggie options. But the sushi? Give me the dressed-down style of Sushi Shibucho (Costa Mesa) or Angelfish (Alameda) any day.