Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sushi Wave (Costa Mesa, CA)

Sushi Wave
2075 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tue 08/19/2008, 07:25p-08:30p

Ah, Sushi Wave. This was where, many years ago, I had my first taste of "decent" sushi. As such, the place has always held a special significance for me. I'd probably been here near half a dozen times, but it had been about two years since my last visit, so I figured it was about time to go back. How would Sushi Wave hold up, given that, in the meantime, I had tried numerous other sushi joints? That I had tried sushi in Japan? That I had tried Urasawa?

Located next to a Radio Shack in a rather depressing strip mall off the 55 freeway, Sushi Wave is pretty nondescript.

The restaurant was surprisingly empty when we arrived. This was a bit disconcerting, as previously we'd never been able to dine here without a significant wait. There are about eight tables and seating for about a dozen at the bar. We sat at a table, as we'd done in the past; it's interesting to note that we'd never sat at the bar before.

In addition to the standard selection of nigiri, a decent selection of rolls and other miscellaneous items are available. Fortunately the rolls don't seem too outlandish, save for the "Jumbo Jack" hand roll. Note that compared to the Sushi Wave web site, prices are considerably higher. But prices wouldn't really matter as much tonight, as we decided to go omakase for $40 per person. The waitress seemed perplexed when we asked for such a thing, which didn't really lend much confidence. Click for a larger version.

The drinks list contains a fairly standard selection of beer, wine, and sake. We started with a 300mL bottle of Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo [$27.00], which I was a bit surprised to see on the list. I had actually visited the Hakkaisan brewery on my trip to Japan earlier in the year. Once the sake was finished, we moved on to a large Asahi [$5.90]. Click for a larger version.

To begin, we were brought edamame and a bowl containing wasabi and gari (pickled ginger). The edamame were passable but lacked crispness, while the wasabi was obviously imitation and the gari artificially colored a neon orange.

After some delay, the first plate of sushi was brought out. We were hoping that the pieces would come out individually à la Sushi Wasabi, but then again, even Urasawa sends out the sushi on platters if you're unlucky enough to have to sit at the table there.

1: Hamachi/Yellowtail [$3.50]
This was a fairly standard yellowtail, nice texture and not overly unctuous. Very easy to eat.

2: Hamachi Belly/Yellowtail Belly [$MP]
The belly of hamachi, indeed a bit fattier than the cut above, with a slightly softer texture as well.

3: Maguro/Tuna [$3.50]
This was a decent cut of tuna, with a mild taste and a clean texture.

4: Toro/Fatty Tuna [$MP]
The toro had a good amount of fattiness and oiliness when I bit into it, but the presence of tendon made the fish quite tough to chew.

Our second platter of sushi came with a special ponzu dipping sauce for the whitefish.

5: Tai/Red Snapper [$3.95]
Tai is generally one of my favorites when it comes to whitefish, and this had a nice, subtle flavor but was perhaps a bit dry.

6: Hirame/Halibut [$MP]
Good texture, and quite similar to the tai above. Hirame and tai are often served together, as at Sushi Sasabune and Go's Mart.

7: Mirugai/Geoduck [$5.50]
The mirugai actually had a very good texture to it with a slight ocean-y flavor and a subtle sweetness. This compares favorably to most any of the other preparations I've had.

8: Awabi/Abalone [$4.50]
This was way too tough and crunchy in my opinion, resulting in me focusing just on getting the piece down rather than on the taste. The best awabi sushi I've had is still at Go's Mart.

9: Unagi/Freshwater Eel [$3.50]
Rather rich, creamy, and quite sweet with the sauce, this was exactly what I expect unagi to taste like. Interestingly, in Japan I found out that unagi is generally not served in Edo-style sushi, since it's considered too oily compared to its saltwater counterpart, anago.

10: Tamago/Egg [$2.50]
A very sweet, soft, fluffy version of tamago. It was actually pretty good. I still maintain that my best tamago ever was at Natori.

Supplement: Saba/Japanese Mackerel [$MP]
As one might expect with mackerel, this turned out to be quite fishy, but the taste was well tempered with the ponzu sauce provided earlier.

Supplement: Sawara/Spanish Mackerel [$MP]
Compared to the saba above, this was actually very mild in flavor. The topping of scallion and ginger went beautifully with the fish.

Supplement: Sake/Salmon [$3.25]
The salmon would have been quite solid on its own, but the addition of the katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings) topping gave the fish a smoky taste which definitely elevated it to another level.

Supplement: Crunchy Roll [$6.95]
Regular readers will know that I generally shun maki sushi rolls. But, like Sushi Wave itself, the Crunchy Roll holds a special significance, as it's the roll that was ordered on my first and all subsequent visits. It's basically a roll consisting of imitation crab, avocado, and tempura shrimp, topped with tempura flakes and eel sauce. On this occasion, it was pretty much the same as I remembered, though perhaps the tempura topping was a bit harder than before. Simply eating the topping along with the sweet sauce was enjoyable by itself.

Supplement: Amaebi/Sweet Shrimp [$5.50]
The raw shrimp had a nice creamy texture but the flavor was marred by a slightly bitter aftertaste. The deep fried heads were quite delicious however.

Surely, Sushi Wave pales in comparison when compared to many of the sushi places I've been to in recent years. That's not to say that the place is bad. In fact, the fish here is quite palatable and I think Sushi Wave is still tops when it comes to "cheap" sushi. I wouldn't go for the omakase though. It will never be my regular place as it had been in the past, but I'm sure I'll be heading back here in the future. Just give me two more years.


Blogger Tubs said...


I like your blog!!! Am packing right now to board my plane so will check out your site in detail shortly!!!

I've already received msgs from you and Ryan you guys are amazing working around the clock on my side I have just woken up :P

Anyway chat soon and look forward to reading more of your blogs.

Yes there is always the lag in blogging after eating. I wanted to make my blog less fine dining and more about food but when you're on limited time it's always the fine dining ones that take priority.


Monday, September 01, 2008 8:46:00 AM  

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