Restaurants & Bars

Sushi Shibucho in Costa Mesa

Mark Lee | Jan 23, 200311:17 PM     5

Though there are some dissenting voices on this board, I decided to follow Melanie's lead, and hunt down this place (since living now in Long Beach and working in Orange means that I can't do my customary Sawtelle and Valley sushi jaunts like I used to).

Got out of work early today, so I headed down to Costa Mesa, stopping first at Hi-Time Wines and browsing their 2001 Germans, as well as the smattering of 2000 Bordeaux that have rolled in. After killing a bit of time there (Shibucho wasn't open for dinner yet), I made my way to the restaurant. As others have mentioned, they certainly could use an upsurge in business (showing up at 6pm on a Thursday nite, I had the place to myself for awhile); I think part of the problem is the relative difficulty in noticing the place when driving by. I was actually looking for the place, and thought it a bit too "tucked away" to be noticed easily -- I suspect that precludes a lot of casual drop-ins (the garish In-N-Out Burger next door isn't doing it any favors either). The welcome was friendly and enthusiastic (though I kept having mental flashes of that scene near the end of Tampopo, when a lone customer enters the competitor's once-busy-now-deserted ramen stand, waking the staff from their naps....).

Since I'd skipped lunch, I was ready to vacuum my way thru a wide swath of fish. Two pieces of impeccable toro sushi came first, buttery-rich, and free of any gristle. Next came one piece each of halibut (doused with the smoky soy that Melanie mentioned in her posts), and tai (unadorned), both fine as well. Didn't take notes, so the following procession of pieces kinda blurs together at this point -- mackerel, squid (topped with ginger and that soy again), yellowtail x2, salmon, snow crab leg, anago and unagi side-by-side, uni x2 (the same nori-less preparation as Melanie commented on), albacore tataki with that onion-ponzu dressing (better-balanced than the versions I've had at Nozawa and Sasabune), two chunks of gobo in the middle of the procession, and a roll I've not had before: herring roe w/a couple of sprigs of a sprout whose identity escapes me at the moment, and some bonito shavings. Certainly the most unique item I tried, and not one for the brininess-averse! Don't think it'll replace my fave crabmeat hand rolls real soon, but I gotta give 'em credit for letting me give it a whirl! The vast majority of the fish seemed impeccably fresh when I went there (perhaps I just lucked out, eh?), though the crab leg and the mackerel seemed a bit dried out. I'd go back just for the albacore tataki and the uni!

Got into a little conversation with the waitress, Susan -- when I mentioned that I'd been tipped off to this place via an Internet contact, she immediately made the connection and mentioned you, Melanie! (Guess you made quite an impression!) Suggested to them that they need to do something to make themselves more visible to passersby (some sort of sign out closer to the street, perhaps?). Also had the thought that for once, maybe the Zagat guide could serve a useful purpose, if enough people ('hounders and friends-of-'hounders would do nicely!) would review the place for the next edition. Voila! Free advertising! Hopefully, these wonderful folks will start getting the business they deserve. Orange County in particular can't afford to lose a place like this.

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