Everything that Edwin wrote about Hamamori in South Coast Plaza earlier this year is true–the sushi is creative and stunning (and, quite frankly, worth it), the sashimi a bit pricier but also divine, the entrees decadent. One appetizer he didn't mention, however, were the rock shrimp tempura with an accompanying ponzu sauce.
Fried rock shrimp might seem beneath Hamamori, but the buttery coat and soft flesh was better than half the meals in Newport Beach–and, at $9 for a hefty offering, is one of the better deals at this restaurant. But where the dish became a must-eat is when you dunk the nuggets into the ponzu sauce. This liquid is the ketchup of Japanese cooking–rarely memorable, rarely vile, usually unremarkable. Hamamori's ponzu is stunning–initially bitter, then sweet within a second (but never bittersweet), then gasp-inducing due to a layer of chile. It's not Mexican-spicy or wasabi-searing, but a surprising amount of heat mitigated by the other flavors in the ponzu. Milady and I fought over the last drops of the chile ponzu, and that was the first time I could ever remember an empty ponzu bowl, and I'm sure ustedes probably don't remember an incident like that, either. Stick with the rock shrimp tempura and a couple of sushi selections, and you're fine.
But whatever you do, DO NOT order any rolls–$15, and downright dull. Of course you knew this, so let me rephrase my advise: DO NOT order anything that the non-foodie significant other in your life wants to try just to see if it's different from other places. If you do, you'll be staring at Dead End Street but quick…
*Pictured: Happy, random couple at Hamamori.
Hamamori, 3333 Bear St., Ste. 320, Costa Mesa, (714) 850-0880; www.hamamori.com