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There it sits—one of the most artfully beautiful things I've seen a restaurant produce. It looks like a meticulously wound ball of twine, but it's made of surgically thin slices of avocado, wrapped like a cocoon around a creamy core of albacore tuna, and topped with a maraschino cherry. Slowfish calls it the Famous Fat Avo, but it might as well be a throw-down-the-gauntlet proclamation of "Don't mistake us for a run-of-the-mill sushi joint"—even if it looks like a run-of-the-mill sushi joint.
Typical sushi-bar fodder is produced by request, but you shouldn't be limited by that list; it's not what the restaurant does best. For example, the Slow Fish roll—rice and lobster encased in soy-paper tempura—is monotonous, despite being sprinkled with diced bell pepper and zig-zagged with two kinds of sauce. Though their uni is luscious, the salmon and tuna nigiri are sliced so thin they're see-through.
16051 Bolsa Chica St.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Region: Huntington Beach
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Instead, follow that avocado starter to the Small Plates section, where Slowfish dazzles. The Ascon—bacon thickly wound around a thin spear of asparagus—serves as a reminder to get your cholesterol checked. Another appetizer employs a fresh jalapeño that's flash-fried in tempura, halved, and filled with cream cheese and spicy tuna. It exposes as fraudulent every insipid, greasy, fast-food jalapeño popper you've ever had.
The next item listed is probably the best of all: The Orange Scallops consists of three fat scallop steaks thicker than Angelina Jolie's lips. They're barely cooked, drenched in a bright, mildly acidic reduction made from orange juice—and a bargain at only $7.
Hamachi kama goes for market price, but it's worth every penny. This boomerang-shaped collar bone of the yellowtail tuna is cooked with minimal fuss, its decadence revealed by the soft flesh extracted from the nooks and crannies. By contrast, seaweed salad is served with the precision of Thomas Keller. It's molded as a perfect cylinder, crowned with sprouts and fish roe, and surrounded by crispy shards of fried potsticker skin and a drizzle of dressing.
While that seaweed salad is grouped with the appetizers, other salads get a menu section of their own. All involve a protein—tuna, salmon, chicken, crab, even pork are paired with field greens. A Slow house salad takes raw tuna mired in hot sauce and cools it off with sliced apples and a bed of spring mix. In your mouth, a battle ensues between the spicy and the brisk, the silky and the fibrous.
But if you're going to have protein, you might as well get one of the Big Plates. Be sure to get the Slow beef tender rib. The dish includes a small helping of salad, which you can summarily ignore, as your energy and attention will be devoted to tearing every bit of meat from the two hunks of rib. The beef rests on a platform of bone, but it isn't meant to be eaten with your hands. Instead, treat it like pot roast and peel off strips from the slab. It will surrender into strands with a gentle tug of your chopstick and taste like flavorful Korean-barbecued kalbi.
Those avoiding red meat should try the shrimp ravioli, in which four firm and chewy pasta purses twirl on the plate like poodle skirts. A creamy, cheesy, buttery sauce is spooned over them, making you think the dish escaped from an Italian trattoria.
Now that you've read this far, it's a good time to mention that Slowfish operates with the Slow Food Movement philosophy in mind—one that eschews factory-farming and chains for environmental sustainability and a local focus on dining (its name is a not-so-subtle hint of the fact). But if I didn't dwell on it before, that's because the restaurant chooses not to overproselytize. Instead, Slowfish relies on its food to do the talking. And no words could be more convincing than that Famous Fat Avo.
Slowfish, 16051 Bolsa Chica St., Huntington Beach, (714) 846-6951; www.slowfishz.com. Open Tues.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5-11 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 5-10 p.m. Dinner for two, $50-$80, food only. Beer, wine & sake.