The only cool thing about slaving all day at a computer buried inside one of the many faceless Irvine office parks is that one hour of freedom where you get to drive to the nearest retail corner and get a plastic plate full of fast casual ethnic food at lunch-special prices.
In my glory days of bouncing from one AppleOne-commissioned job to the next in Irvine's neutral-color wonderland, I fell in love with the area's minimalist sushi-and-udon-only Japanese stops where the crab was fake but the rice was sticky and the $5.99 specials made you feel like you'd fallen through the Earth and into some Tokyo mall food court.
Sushi Boy on Carson Street in Long Beach brings me back those OC lunch days when a California roll came with every combo and a Hamilton could get you enough grub to stay stuffed past dinnertime.
Located in one of those awkward contemporary strip malls that has no seemingly proper entrance, the Long Beach Sushi Boy is oft-forgotten and hard to find. But ever since a friend told me about their sweet tempura batter and dirt-cheap happy hour menu ($2 spicy tuna rolls, teriyaki chicken maki and more!), I have been driving up to Bixby Knolls for all my quick-n-dirty Japanese needs.
The thing that always surprises me the most about Sushi Boy is the quality of fish. Though I'm usually hesitant to order tuna, salmon or yellowtail sushi when it is advertised as coming in a "value meal," Sushi Boy somehow always manages to give you quality fish that's melt-in-your-mouth good, regardless of customer cost.
You can order the sushi a la carte or through one of the many plates that mixes and matches slices of sea creatures with the restaurant's modest selection of hand and cut rolls, but I like to build my own combo, which for $7.95 allows me to choose two items from a hearty list (that includes tempura!) served with rice, salad and miso soup.
Sushi Boy's udon is also better than your average counter-acquired Japanese soup with
a broth far more substantial than the deflated soy sauce water usually used to drench sub-par noodles. I first discovered kitsune udon at Sushi Boy when I ordered their $8.75 hot udon and sushi combo — nothing like some soggy, sweetened deep fried tofu to lure you into a new favorite dish.
With the slogan of "Something for Everyone," Sushi Boy masters all of the classics that cheap gabachas could want–from beef sukiyaki to spicy tuna rolls–at costs low enough to allow the indecisives to explore.
Sushi Boy, 610 E. Carson St., (562) 424-0900, sushiboy.net