Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Koi joy in Seal Beach

Boy, do I love Koi in Seal Beach.
This restaurant never fails to satisfy with its impressive list of fresh catches of the day, and to delight me with modern - but appropriate - takes on traditional Japanese dishes.

Open for more than 20 years, Koi seems to keep improving by innovating without going trendy and dropping quality to cater to the masses. Consider what my friend visiting from London and I enjoyed on a recent Sunday night, when we ordered several dishes from the special appetizer menu created to celebrate the greens, flowers and other fresh tastes of Spring:

Spring tempura appetizer ($13), an abundant plate of delicately fried, out-of-the-ordinary tastes: chrysanthemum and turnip leaves, squid, fish wrapped in shiso (often called Japanese mint, but which actually tastes more like plum) leaf, shrimp cake sandwiched between bamboo slices, squid.

Steamed kanpachi wrapped in wakame seaweed, garnished with other types of seaweed, some ikura and subtle beurre blanc ($10). The lightness of the flavors may be too bland for some, but I gobbled up the plate, carefully constructing each bite to include all the ingredients: a slice of wakame blanketing the meaty white fish and salmon roe, all of which was dipped lightly in the citrusy butter sauce. Luxurious.

Steamed tile fish with delicately tart cherry blossoms ($9), served in a fish broth. Very homestyle comfort food.

And, natch, an order of all my favorite fresh-catch sushi (pictured in top photo), including the buttery albacore, lobster-like sweet shrimp, and my must-haves every time I go to Koi: the Spanish and blue mackerel, each distinct in taste.

The fresh Spanish mackerel (the darker, reddish sushi at right in the photo up top) is mild and goes down easy, tasting almost like a fatty tuna. The blue mackerel (far left in the photo) has been marinated in vinegar and is served topped with a thin sliver of kelp, providing a flavorful, not tart or fishy, taste. It's delicate and sublime, enough to make my friend Greg's eyes go round with delight, a "That's amazing!" look on his face as he repeatedly pointed to the now-empty plate, his mouth full of the savory morsel.

The appetizer menu changes regularly, reflecting seasonal ingredients. On the regular menu, all the standards are reliably delicious (try the nabe hot pot when it's cold outside!) but you must also order any of the special dishes they make with kurobuta pork or duck - melt-in-your-mouth bliss.

Koi, 600 Pacific Coast Hwy, #100, Seal Beach, CA 90740 (562) 431-1186

View Larger Map

No comments:

Post a Comment