Thursday, December 27, 2012
Eatery - Sushi Noguchi (CA)
18507 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Casual, Dressy Casual | Cuisine - Japanese
Hands down the best sushi and sushi experience I've ever had. I'll say it. Now it's entirely up to you if you want to trust my word but whether you do or not does not change what a great time I had at Sushi Noguchi. Let's forget the company I was with (though c'mon, who doesn't have fun when Lori & Robert are around?) and focus on the restaurant itself. Still, the best sushi experience. Sushi Noguchi is one of those gems that you don't know about unless someone tells you. Luckily for Duc and me, we're friends with the chef's wife (and co-owner), Jun, who has told us constantly that we need to drop by. So we finally did one night and wow is all I have to say. First of all, the dining environment is lovely - it's simple but still has personality. The wooden furniture and slats on some of the walls and ceiling complemented the stark white tables and paint, giving a more modern look to an otherwise traditional Japanese-style place.
We sat at the bar so we could watch Chef Hiro-san at work. I was tempted to go with the Omakase choice but since we were dining with regulars, I left it up to them for our off-menu items. We asked what was new and special for the night and out came some tempura anago (sea eel), a difficult fish to prepare due to its extreme boniness. It came out with some lemon and salt and was prepared perfectly with nary a bone in sight or mouth. Our friends ordered a plate of fresh, raw clam and a bowl of the Chicken Kara age (marinated in special house sauce and then deep fried). I've never had clam sashimi before so gave it a shot - so fresh and tasted like the sea! The texture made me think of cartilage or tendon though so keep that in mind before you order. The kara age was very juicy and perfectly crisp. As I love yellowtail, I could not pass up on the Yellowtail Sashimi in Jalapeno Sauce. I'm glad I didn't because this was mind-blowing. The fish was so soft and buttery, lightly melting in my mouth while the sauce reminded me that there was some kick in that pepper. Let's not forget to stare at the picture of it too. Everything was presented beautifully that night as they do every night.
As you may have guessed from the idea of yellowtail sashimi in jalapeno sauce, they do things a little non-traditional here. An amuse-bouche came out with some calamari (best crunch I've had in a while), Kobe beef steak bite (juicy), and a kabob of sorts with to-die for shrimp. Though swimming in the decadence of expertise there, we still managed to capture some silly moments of Jun despite Hiro-san's concentrated preparation, haha.
Upon recommendation from our friends, we opted to order the Japanese Ceviche (tuna, yellowtail, salmon lightly marinated in fresh yuzu juice, olive oil and minced garlic) which was lovely, bright, and flavorful. The marinade was tangy and refreshing - I really could have used a lot of chips right then and there to scoop up all there was in the bowl! Our friends ordered the Spicy Tuna Tartare Mille-Feuille (three layers of spicy tuna tartare, slices of avocado and deep fried wanton skins with balsamic vinegar soy sauce), a skillfully crafted tower of crispy, creamy, and creative. I didn't get a taste of this but it did look simply ravishing. We all got miniature bowls of monkfish liver, an item that was rich in flavor with the texture of extra-firm tofu. Lovely. Then they ordered the Chilean Seabass Chinois Style (lightly pan fried Chilean seabass with crispy exterior served
in a chinois style sweet and sour sauce), a flaky delicious fish that beautifully mixed with the sweet and sour sauce it swam in.
To finish off the night well, I asked for the Smoked Salmon Carpaccio (thinly sliced smoked salmon with yuzu juice, olive oil, red onion and garlic) out of curiosity for this take on an Italian dish. As I expected, it was sashimi artfully presented with little sprouts and pink peppercorns. Talk about a Christmasy plate! As with all the fish we had, this one was just so soft and fresh. The smoked flavors really shone through when highlighted by the yuzu juice and the pop from those peppercorns brought the experience to another level. When we thought we'd be done, our friends insisted that we give the infamous Mille-Feuille dessert a try - I'm so glad we did. This custard-based cake is created by laying thin layer upon alternating thin layer of pastry and cream, a feat that Jun confessed to us takes 2 hours for her workers to master each morning they make it. I can believe that! The attention put into ensuring that each layer is exact in thickness and richness can easily be tasted as each part slides inside your mouth. I'd drive back to Yorba Linda just for the dessert for sure!
Overall, a magnificent evening full of deft hands, the freshest of fish, the most careful and beautiful presentations, and passion. Loved it! Thank you to Jun and Hiro-san for creating such a wonderful place for people to go to to enjoy your talents. Your dedication to the art of sushi and cuisine shows and is inspirational to those of us who appreciate your hard work and skill.
Photography by Duc Duong.