Hiro Noguchi may have required a translator to answer our questionnaire, but we shared a rapport over his omakase menu one afternoon. While skittish about dining on fresh coronet (pictured), it quickly became apparent Noguchi would be our sushi hero, saving us from Americanized rolls and introducing us to thoughtful cuisine.
Favorite meal growing up:
Udon! My mother gave it to me as baby food. Therefore, I still love it after all these years.
What is a typical day like for you? How early do you get up?
I leave my house at 7 a.m. and go to the fish market in downtown Los Angeles. I choose the best quality fish at the market and bring them to the restaurant. I work until 11 p.m. and get home around 11:30 p.m.
Your earliest food memory:
My mother's homemade soba [buckwheat noodle] for New Year's Eve when I was 7.
Your best recent food find:
The escargot at Bistrot Massilia in Yorba Linda. I loved that the escargot came in a buttery, garlicky sauce. It was perfect for dipping the French bread in.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Soy sauce. Because we are using it not only for sushi, but also sashimi, udon sauce, ponzu sauce and other Japanese food. It might surprise people that soy sauce is the base for most Japanese sauces.
What do you recommend for first-timers to your restaurant?
Hiro's Omakase because they don't have to think about what to order. They can just let us know their preferences. I will select the best sashimi and sushi from the market.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vietnamese food. I really like spring rolls, pho and com tam. Garden Grove has very authentic Vietnamese food.
What is your beverage of choice?
Green tea from Yamamotoyama.
Tell us about your previous restaurant.
Higo Sushi, which was in La Habra from 1996 to 2012, was less traditional. We served chicken teriyaki and more special rolls.
One food you can't live without:
Rice. I eat rice every day.
Where was your most recent meal?
My family and I went to Ojiya. I had yakitori, soba and a rice bowl.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Mr. Katsuya Uechi. He is an excellent Japanese chef who always researches and creates new menus. Before I started my business, we worked together for three years. I respect him so much because I learned a lot from him.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Chicken feet. It is so bizarre, but the Vietnamese and Chinese communities really like it. I can't eat it.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
Takao in Brentwood.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Rice bowl and miso soup. Yes, I know. I am so boring.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Konowata is made from the entrails of a sea cucumber. The entrails are removed, thoroughly washed with water to clean off any mud and dirt, and then fermented in salt. Yes, I did.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
I love French desserts. I would love to learn how to make pastries.