Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Sushi in the States

My favorite sushi place in the 48 contiguous states is in Irvine, CA.  It's a place called Taiko, and if you don't get there right when it opens, expect to hunker down for a while.  Fortunately, it's in Southern California, and the weather is almost always perfectly stellar as you wait your turn outside.

I always try to sit at the bar because the sushi chefs can really only speak Japanese, and I like to hear my parents rap with them.  But it's also because you get things like this:

Each sushi chef on the line has his own MO.  Our chef this time around offered up this ultrafresh salmon with thinly sliced raw onions, dried bonita flakes, and a slightly savory sauce poured on top.  Perfection!!

This is Amaebi, literally translated to Sweet Shrimp.  It's actually technically a Botan Shrimp, but hey, who's being picky?  This is very different from the cooked shrimp that can be ordered from the list as this is served raw and I find it to be a much, much better eating experience than its cooked cousin.  In addition, you can get the shrimp heads deep fried, which you can see on the right, and when it's fried correctly, you shouldn't taste any kind of shell texture.  It should be like a deliciously crunchy Shrimp Chip.  To this day, I'm still impressed with my friend Chris, who let me order this on her second sushi excursion and went all in on that head.  Dare I say she was a convert from first bite...

This is one of my favorite Nigiri Sushi - Hamachi, or Yellowtail.  It's buttery, with a rich mouthfeel, and such a lovely distinctive taste.  When it's super fresh, it can really be a Calgon moment for me.  It's unbeatable at Taiko.

And then there's the Ika, or Squid.  When I was a foreign exchange student to Japan in high school, I lived in Hakodate - the southernmost tip of the northermost island.  Its mascot was the squid because that was the city's key export.  It was there that I developed a keen appreciation for all things squid, but it was also when I tasted squid that had been caught only hours beforehand.  And truly, there's nothing like it that I've had since.  Still, I seek it out.  And I'm much more likely to get my fair share of squid if I know the restaurant carries Shiso leaves.  When it comes to perfect combinations, there are very few that can beat Squid + Shiso Leaf.  It's a pungent flavor that is so distinctive and seems to have been created just so it can be eaten with Ika.


SushiTail said...

Beautiful! They look so close to my mouse, yet so far.

Lina Bierker said...

Hey, thanks!

Percy N said...

Looks good. Have you tried Sushi Yasuda or Masa in NYC?

Bluefin in Plymouth Meeting, PA and Fuji in Haddonfield, NJ are the best I have found in SE PA/NJ.