While I admit to being a carnivore, I've also become fond of seafood. So to interview the head chef of Sushi Roku's Newport Beach location was a treat. Casual enough for the yoga pants crowd at lunch, yet upscale to be a RHOC date nite, Fashion Island's dining game continues to improve and diversify. Shin Toyoda (no car or Star Wars puns, please) keeps it simple and to the point.
What is the toughest skill to teach an aspiring sushi chef?
Teaching is the hardest part. However, realizing the passion an aspiring chef has is the true obstacle.
Favorite meal growing up:
Maybe oyako donburi - an egg and meat dish with dashi and mirin. Comfort food, indeed.
Your best recent food find.
Joel Robuchon. A true, coursed meal; I think seven courses! Simply amazing.
Most undervalued ingredient:
To me, every ingredient finds its way into the hearts of chefs. The value and rotation of every ingredient will find its way.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County has the best "hidden gem" restaurants. There's always someone talking about a new "hot spot".
What do you think is the most important element when making sushi?
Technique. Be it learned or, more importantly, something that is developed personally.
What is your beverage of choice?
How did you decide that you wanted to be a sushi chef?
I think it may have decided for me. It's in my blood and history. I think making others happy was a main deciding factor!
Have you noticed any differences between Orange County preferences and LA diners?
LA offers more "farm-to-table" menus. The advantages of being in a centralized city in OC is getting there!
What was your most recent meal?
I made niku-jaga. Simmered beef, potato and onions over white rice. Perfect for these cold days.
One stereotype people have about sushi chefs, and whether it's true.
That some are too uptight, I guess— Traditionalist. Feel free to ask me anything, share experiences, cuisine from your own life. It's simply inspiring to me.
Tell us about your decision to incorporate non-traditional ingredients.
Most ingredients used today were non-native, and through time became 'traditional'. Utilizing new ingredients in any cuisine is growth for those cultures and those enjoying the meal.
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What is your personal preference for sushi?
I love a nice piece of hon maguro (bluefin), ankimo, seared gindara. So many choices!
Favorite places to eat.
I love gastropubs. There's two that come to mind in OC: Haven and Chapter One. Good food; good brews.
Most frequently asked question.
(Laughs) "Which fish is the freshest?"
Sushi Roku is located at 327 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach, (949) 706-3622; www.innovativedining.com.