Photo by Jessica CalkinsO Sushi Café in Brea was packed with beautiful people the night my party of five arrived, so lacking a reservation (duh!), we were escorted to the open-air, second-story patio.
Ringed with so many heat lamps, it was probably hotter up there than inside. Patio tables were strategically placed around a cool Japanese fountain.
We were split 3-2 in favor of raw fish, so after flagging our extremely friendly waiter to say we were ready to order appetizers, the first thing we did was hand him a sushi order form. He returned promptly with salmon ($3.95), which was moist and not too chewy. Tuna ($4.50), arguably the most overworked sushi fish (not counting cooked crab, the most overworked sushi crustacean), burst with more flavor than most here. The equally tasty snowcrab ($4.95) provided a pleasant change-up to the gilled set.
The pair who don't do ungrilled Flipper got kushiyaki and yakitori for their starters. Kushiyaki ($5.95) had two tender, grilled beef and onion skewers topped with teriyaki sauce. I don't eat cow but was told this was "quite good." I do eat birds, so I snuck a bite of the chicken yakitori ($4.50), where two grilled, marinated clucker skewers were glazed with homemade teriyaki sauce. The chicken was larger and plumper than the frozen chicken yakitoris I'm used to from Costco. One could even get away with adding white rice, salad and soup and turning the yakitori into a satisfying main dish.
I was much too hungry for menu mix and matching. For my main dish, I got the sashimi platter ($19.50), which features a generous assortment of what's billed as the restaurant's freshest cuts of ahi tuna, Atlantic salmon, albacore, whitefish, hokki clam and yellowtail. My platter lived up to the hype. The most pleasing was the salmon, which was a darker red—and thus, fresher-tasting—cut than what had been rolled into the sushi; the heavenly ahi tuna was sliced extra thin, its ends peppered and seared like pastrami (or how I remember pastrami); and, my favorite, the whitefish, with its poofy skin forcing you to slow down and savor the flavor.
In case it was not perfectly clear in that previous paragraph, I find it damn difficult to express myself about really good raw fish because, like McDonald's burgers, good sashimi is good sashimi anywhere you get it. (Bad sashimi, of course, can lead one to an emergency room.) How's this? I haven't had better sashimi anywhere in OC—including some absolutely killer ahi at Kitayama in Newport Beach.
Some tablemates continued ordering from the sushi menu for their entrées. One non-fishy went with the tempura platter ($13.50), an assortment of shrimp, seafood and fresh vegetables flash-fried until crisp and golden and served with warm homemade tempura sauce. I corralled a loose yam and found it perfectly prepared, which means not too greasy or overcooked.
The kushiyaki eater remained beefy by selecting teriyaki-glazed rib-eye ($21.95), a steak grilled with tempura asparagus and onion rings. I stabbed a stick of asparagus and found it, too, flirted with perfection.
All entrées came with miso soup, rice and cucumber. Too busy chowing down, no one registered any complaints about any of it.
The spirit of culinary consent carried over to dessert, where we all split green-tea ice cream. O Sushi Café doesn't simply dig the frozen dairy product out of a vat, plop it into a bowl and stick it under your nose. They deep-fry the ice cream tempura-style—creating an unusual, refreshing finish.
O SUSHI CAFÉ, LOCATED AT 375 W. BIRCH ST., SPACE 3, BREA, IS OPEN SUN.-TUES., 5-9:30 P.M.; WED.-THURS., 5-10 P.M.; FRI.-SAT., 5-11 P.M. (714) 990-4698. FULL BAR. DINNER FOR TWO, $13.50-$24.50, FOOD ONLY. ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED.
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