Friday, April 24, 2009

Sushi Saurus: Take 2

Sushi Saurus in Belmont Shore has reopened!
The small, reliable sushi joint closed around the end of 2008 for renovation, amid word of new ownership.
I got several local tips (thanks to Claudia, and the ever-dependable Yelp) that it had reopened in recent weeks, so I was anxious to get over there and see if the food had changed.

I'd avoided the place for a long time because of the name - and, to be honest, the location in trendy Belmont Shore.
But I finally visited about a year ago, after reading Yelp reviews that mentioned the small size of the place and a focus on traditional sushi more than crazy rolls.

The food won me over on that first visit.
It was a good "every day" sort of place - not the most sublime, incredible sushi in the world, but solid quality, when you need a quick fix but don't have the time or money to go for out-of-this-world omakase.

But under new ownership, would Sushi Saurus still satisfy, even on a weeknight?
I rallied gal pals Susan, Erika and Brooke to go check it out with me.

The physical renovation is an improvement, indeed.
Compare just the exterior shots: the old sign and awning (pictured at right) was ugly and hard to read, while the new sign is clean and clear on the stucco wall (left):
Inside, I found a mural along one wall very distracting and ugly, but I really like the wooden dragon piece on the wall behind the sushi chefs (pictured at top of post).

I also like the lanterns.

The new owner has kept the sushi chefs from before, which is a relief.

And most of the menu is the same - a good mix of traditional sushi and other dishes, with a short list of rolls (some of them unfortunately involving cream cheese, garlic butter and jalapenos) for the sushi novices.

The sake menu remains diverse, with very good offerings, and the beer lineup had a good, lesser-known option: Yebisu.
But there were three very noteworthy (and alarming, for us) omissions on the food menu:
* No unagi don (broiled freshwater eel served in strips atop rice)
* No agedashi tofu (fried tofu in a light broth)
* No monkfish liver

Brooke and Erika, in particular, were fans of the unagi-don on the old menu: a big bowl of rice with strips of unagi freshwater eel on top, teriyaki sauce drizzled on top.
This is a food staple in certain parts of Japan - very yummy, filling and comforting food.
But here in California, it's not easy to find an eatery serving unagi-don.

It's clear to me that the new owner is trying - understandably - to streamline the menu for cost and efficiency.
I'm guessing that besides Brooke, Erika, Susan and I, there probably weren't many other diners who ordered these three dishes.
The clientele is mostly young (20- and 30-somethings) and white, adventurous diners but probably inexperienced in authentic Japanese food.

Cutting monkfish liver from the menu isn't such a tragedy: it's a delicacy that can be costly, and monkfish is listed as a fish to "avoid" on sustainable fish guides.

But the ingredients for unagi-don and agedashi tofu are among the most inexpensive and readily available.
This is a sushi place, with plenty of unagi in stock for sushi, and a kitchen stocked with tofu and tempura fixings (for those ever-popular "crunchy rolls" and such).

So ... I asked if we could still order unagi don and agedashi tofu.
And sure enough, they delivered.

The unagi bowl looks a bit messy in this photo, but it's a good kind of messy - a complete meal in a bowl.
As I expected, I'm already craving this bowl as I write this, a day later:
The big bowl is filled with rice and topped with (clockwise from top):
* The requisite strips of unagi, served with a much-appreciated light brushing (not a dousing) of the sweet sauce, and topped with slivers of nori (dried seaweed) and bonito flakes.
* Slices of tamago (the ubiquitous, slightly sweet egg omelette). Several of us thought these were mango slices because of their unusual shape; tamago is usually cut in small rectangular pieces.
* Pickled cucumber salad
* Octopus salad

I've never had such a cornucopia of an unagi bowl (unagi-don is typically simple, just unagi on rice) but this combination worked, thanks to a balance between milder, slightly sweet flavors (rice, egg, unagi) and stronger tastes (pickled vegetables, salad).
Of course, I wanted MORE unagi - which, Brooke noted, is how everyone feels even after a regular unagi bowl. You just can't get enough unagi!

The agedashi tofu was good - nothing spectacular. Comforting, as it should be:
I also ordered an appetizer that sounded refreshing: salmon radish roll - "Salmon wrapped in reddish pickle," says the menu.
But no, you don't get raw fish served up in a pickle dyed red.
What you get for $9 is a lovely cut roll of silky salmon sashimi wrapped in daikon radish, sliced paper thin:
Brooke ordered a salmon-skin salad, anticipating a small, simple dish of greens and crunchy, salty salmon skin. What we got was Tranny Hot Mess Salad:
In contrast to the unagi bowl, this was too much of everything - including clashing flavors (strong salmon and super tart pickled vegetables).
And to add insult to injury, it was served on a bed of iceberg lettuce - blech.
It was like a bad Cobb Salad, when we were expecting a simple yet sophisticated, fresh dish to whet our appetites. The four of us each took a few bites before abandoning it.

Call this "What NOT To Order" at Sushi Saurus.
I'll provide another WNTO example later.

Luckily, the rest of our meal was a stellar lineup of very good cuts of fish - all melt-in-your-mouth quality with clean, subtle flavors:

Bluefin tuna

Albacore: our favorite of this bunch.
So tender, enhanced with just a dab of ponzu. Heavenly.

Amaebi (sweet shrimp)

Aji (spanish mackerel): Another meaty but tender morsel.

I've been enjoying so much good aji lately, I was happy that Sushi Saurus kept up and didn't disappoint.

The total bill for all this great raw fish, plus some beers, came to about $40 each (including tip!).
So glad Sushi Saurus has come out of hibernation.

Oh, one more WNTO (What Not To Order) tip: The Stinky Roll.
The young couple next to me ordered it and kindly allowed me to take a photo:
It's a California roll topped with albacore (OK, so far not bad, right?) and then topped with daikon radish slivers and a garlic butter sauce - hence, "The Stinky Roll."
I like each of those individual ingredients on their own (even a good California Roll on occasion), but this combination sounds like another Tranny Hot (Stinky) Mess.
As Brooke noted, wouldn't garlic butter sauce ruin the delicate raw albacore?

Sushi Saurus
5260 E. 2nd St.
Long Beach, CA 90803

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Will sashimi soon be extinct?

I just noticed this interesting feature out of Washington, D.C., on the "sad state of sushi," and non-raw-fish sushi trends.

It brings up the question of sustainability of fish, too.

Yes, sushi actually isn't about raw fish. It's about the rice. So technically, raw fish isn't necessary for a good sushi bar.

But will raw fish disappear completely from sushi bars soon?

Will I eventually need to change the name of this blog?

Sad thought for this raw fish fiend ...


La Mar: Tasty Peruvian raw fish

Leafing through the latest issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, I was excited to read their list of "50 Best New U.S. Restaurants."

Of course the list was annoyingly heavy on New York City restaurants - always the case with East Coast-centric magazines.
There were only two Los Angeles spots noted (Palate Food + Wine in Glendale and The Bazaar by Jose Andres on La Cienega, both of which I've been meaning to try), and of course NO MENTION of any O.C. eateries that opened in the last year or so. (Ayame?)

But San Francisco garnered prominent coverage with eight freshman eateries, and I was delighted to see La Mar Cebicheria Peruana among them.

This may be the first time a non-Japanese-cuisine eatery has rated posting in RawFishionado!
But it's almost shameful that I haven't posted it earlier, since La Mar is all about high-grade raw fish, served up deliciously.

I had the pleasure of trying La Mar when I was in San Francisco during New Year's. It's a beautiful restaurant on The Embarcadero, next door to that foodie paradise, the Ferry Building.

As the full name implies, the restaurant specializes in Peruvian cebiche (ceviche), the Latin-American method of "cooking" seafood with a citrus bath.
I had never tried the Peruvian version until I ate at La Mar.

Peruvian cebiche is typically prepared with shark and other white fish bathed in lime juice, peppers and onions, and served with chunks of cooked potato or yam and corn.
The lime-and-peppers marinade is also typically served up in shot glasses - and called "leche de tigre" (tiger's milk) - at cebicherias.

Of course, I also love Mexican ceviche, which is often prepared with a mix of seafood, especially shrimp and octopus, and can include tomatoes and avocados as garnishes.

While La Mar focuses on Peruvian style, the menu reflects variations that give an admiring nod to other cultures, from Asian to Central American.
A tasting of five "leche de tigre" shots is also offered.

My girlfriends and I got a nice table in the bar area, next to a big window looking out at the city. We ordered several of the different types of cebiche so we could conduct our own taste tests and see which we liked best.

Needless to say, I liked the entire lineup we ordered, a very small sampling of the menu ...

Cebiche Mixto: Mahi mahi, calamari, octopus, habanero pepper in aji amarillo with cilantro, red onion, Peruvian corn (the big white kernels that look like pearls in the pic) and yam.
Fresh tasting, with a nice hot KICK. Didn't even taste the cilantro!

Cebiche Clasico: Halibut and red onion in a habanero leche de tigre with Peruvian corn and yam. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness and surprisingly mild despite the habanero and lime bath.

Cebiche Nikei: Ahi tuna, avocado, cucumber, red onion in tamarind leche de tigre bath.
Very Japanese in flavor - yum.

Cebiche Chifa: Yellowtail with peanuts, scallions, ginger, pickled carrots, daikon, wonton strips and habanero pepper in a cilantro-sesame leche de tigre.
Yummy Thai-South Asian sesame flavor.

We also tried a potato dish:
No, this isn't dessert. It's Causa Cacera: mashed purple potato forming the base, topped with artichokes, asparagus, avocado and tomato confit with basil-cilantro oil.
Loved the flavors, which mingled perfectly in a balanced, comforting way, with no one taste dominating the dish.

Sitting in the airy, lovely restaurant with good friends, nibbling on these refreshing tastes and sipping on a glass of Latin American wine or a cocktail made with Peruvian Pisco (a liquor made with grapes), is a little slice of heaven, indeed.

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Pier 1.5
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Origami Bistro & Bar: Get happy, for cheap

If you work or live in or near Downtown L.A., Origami Bistro & Bar's Happy Hour is a good way to enjoy good food and a cool vibe during these recessionary times.

Origami offers Asian fusion food served in the now ubiquitous "small plates" style (aka tapas or izakaya style, long before the current mainstream trend).
And the raw fish offerings are pretty good - not premium, but good enough quality to warrant regular visits by RawFishionado - but only at Happy Hour, when you can get two fist-sized Hama Hama oysters on a half shell for $2.95 and decent salmon and snapper nigiri for $2.50 (2 pieces per order).

I'm afraid I don't have any photos of our Happy Hour eats late Sunday night because my friends and I dropped by on a whim and didn't have a camera with us.
My two gal pals and I headed to Origami for drinks after enjoying several hours of great music, dancing and people watching at the Cuban Festival just up Spring Street, at the 740 club.

I'd passed by Origami several times in the past and admired the decor (sleek woods, pretty lighting and a wall of subtly sparkly mosaic tiles), and wondered how the food stacked up.
Post-Cuban Festival seemed a perfect time to stop in for a snack.

It WAS a perfect time: we stumbled into their weekend Happy Hour, which goes from 5:30 to 11 p.m. (Weekday Happy Hours are 5 to 7 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. Monday-Friday.)

There are 23 items (some raw, most cooked) on the Happy Hour menu, ranging in price from the $1 Kobe Beef Taco to the $8.95 Super Tuna Roll.
Besides the aforementioned nigiri sushi and oysters (which were topped with green onions and a dash of wasabi, garlic and ponzu sauce), my friend Stacey also enjoyed an order of the Shrimp Tempura Tacos (2 pieces for $2.95) that were satisfyingly tasty.

There was only one other table of three in the dark, lounge-y spot on this Sunday night. We had a very green, new waiter (just two days on the job) but he won us over with his enthusiasm and honesty.

With Little Tokyo's authentic Japanese food just a few blocks down the way, I can't see myself ever going to Origami for a full meal.
But I'll definitely return to Origami for Happy Hour - especially the late-night version, when it's harder to find inexpensive but craving-worthy food in a nice atmosphere.

Origami Bistro and Bar
257 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(Also a location in Valencia, Santa Clarita area)

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Chiba: Carrying on a family tradition

Sitting at the counter at my favorite Long Beach breakfast place, I got into a conversation with fellow counter diners about good, homemade corned beef hash vs. the canned stuff.
That chat eventually led to talking about good sushi. (Isn't that where all my food conversations end up eventually?)

Anyway, one new acquaintance, Dr. Hal, told me about a place in North Hollywood, Chiba, that's been his favorite sushi place for many years.
A family-run place, he said, the best sushi he's had anywhere.

Of course, I felt a smidgen of skepticism when I heard that lofty statement. I didn't really know Dr. Hal's sushi credentials.
But from our conversation about corned beef, I got the sense that Dr. Hal, a Jewish guy originally from New York-New Jersey area, knows good food.
Plus, I liked what I heard about the family running Chiba for a long time in one of those crowded little strip malls in North Hollywood.
Sounded promising.

So this past Saturday, Dr. Hal, my friend Susan and I ventured up north for a Chiba visit.

It was definitely worth the drive.
(Lots more PHOTOS and VIDEO follow.)

Yes, Chiba is in a pretty ratty-looking strip mall that has a sliver of a parking lot.
To me, that's a good thing: a true mom-and-pop original that doesn't rely on awe-inspiring ambience or architectural brilliance to distract diners from the food itself.

But the parking situation is so bad that Chiba actually hires a hardy gentleman to provide valet parking.
Smart, if a bit surprising to see a valet sign in this shabby strip mall.

We walked in and the place was bigger than I expected, with two sushi bars plus a good number of large-party, family-size dining tables.
The sushi bar that runs along the wall left of the entry had 3-4 sushi chefs manning it, while chef-owner Shigekazu Chiba held court alone at the squared sushi bar in the center.
Dr. Hal had gotten us a reservation at Master Chiba's sushi bar. Sweet.

The place was packed, with multi-generational families filling the sushi-bar seats and the tables, enjoying both raw fish and the homestyle dishes prepared in the kitchen.
I was impressed with the diversity of customers - varied ethnicities and ages - and all the KIDS, some as young as 4 or 5, enjoying sashimi sliced lovingly for them by Shig.

A couple speaking Hebrew and their adorable daughter, about age 5-6, sat next to me at the sushi bar, and I watched with delight how the little girl slurped up a little plate of yellowtail nigiri (trimmed to kid size portions by Shig) and proceeded to chow down her mother's albacore sashimi, too.
At the other sushi bar, I spotted two tow-headed kids (probably 8 to 10 years old) enjoying some type of roll with varied sashimi slices on top.

Every customer is clearly a regular. And despite the decent size of the restaurant, you'll have a wait if you come after 6 p.m.

Clearly the reason for the popularity is Shig Chiba and his mother, who are both so warm and welcoming and make good food accessible to everyone.

Shig grew up at the restaurant - it was his late father's.
Shig was born in Japan but came to the U.S. when he was 11, the year his father started the restaurant.
(Read the full family story here.)
Eventually Shig returned to Japan to train and become a sushi chef.

His sushi pedigree clearly proved itself in our omakase meal. The fish was exceptional quality, his flavor touches understated, spot on, sensational.
But what makes Shig Chiba an exceptional chef is how he casually and subtly, in a very friendly manner, teaches his clientele about quality food. He raises their standards and expectations by offering the best, no matter what their Japanese food knowledge.
He respects each customer - even the little ones, judging by the fine cuts of fish he offered up to the little girl sitting next to me.
If she's consuming such high-grade fish at her young age, she will demand nothing less when she gets older.

So here's what he served us ...
First up, a trio of tuna: toro, maguro and ...

... albacore belly topped with micro arugula and a dash of ponzu (citrus soy sauce).
The toro and maguro were perfect. I didn't dip either piece in shoyu so that I could fully enjoy their clean flavors, each enhanced with just a small dab of wasabi inserted by Master Shig.
But the albacore belly was the clear champion of this first plate: buttery and mellow, with the arugula an unusual but perfect garnish, adding a nice nutty flavor.
Ranks in the Top 3 of the night.

Next was another trio - halibut, yellowtail belly and red snapper/sea bream, each splashed with a dash of ponzu sauce:
The halibut had my FAVORITE shiso leaf tucked inside. Lovely - a clean fish taste enhanced with the sweet tang of the shiso.

The yellowtail belly was another morsel of buttery goodness, with a dab of yuzu providing a slight kick. YUM.

The tai snapper also got a nice kick from some yuzu - but nothing that overwhelmed the smooth goodness of the fish.

Next was a trio of slightly stronger-flavor fish ...
The shima aji (amberjack) was my favorite of this bunch. It tasted as beautiful as it looks: clean and sophisticated, with a shade more flavor than the earlier courses.
Another Top 3 sushi of the night.

The kanpachi was like a palate cleanser between the two ajis, but the dab of yuzu brought out the mild flavor to a perfect level.

The regular aji (Spanish mackerel) was perfect, especially with that sliver of shiso leaf tucked inside - you could taste the mackerel flavor, but it was so subtle that Susan, who doesn't enjoy stronger flavored fish, remarked on it.

Moving right along ... next came a plate of seared salmon, seared scallop and amaebi (sweet shrimp):
The seared scallop (left) had a smoky flavor enhanced by the dab of yuzu. And the seared salmon was an utter delight, moist and flavorful, topped with caviar. I haven't enjoyed salmon seared this perfectly in a long time - most places sear it too dryness.
The salmon is my third choice for Top 3 of the night.

Another sushi favorite of mine is amaebi, and Chiba-san topped it with shrimp roe. Sweet and meaty, almost like lobster. Sigh.

Then, instead of serving the shrimp heads in their ubiquitous fried form, Shig served them in a perfect miso soup, garnished with Japanese parsley. Delicious:
This is REAL miso soup, comforting and flavorful, not just salty.

By this time, Susan and I were huffing and puffing. I let Shig know we'd hit our limit.
Dr. Hal was willing to go another course, so for this longtime friend, Shig offered to make something "special" that he could share with us, if we wanted to taste it:
We watched him fashion this creation and definitely wanted a taste: asparagus and avocado roll with a delicate cucumber skin, topped with a lobster and snow crab salad.
It was yummy, and proof that Master Chiba is as fluent in modern creations as he is in traditional tastes.

The bill: the omakase sushi cost us about $60 each. Incredible value for the quality we enjoyed.

11713 Saticoy St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Shin-sational sushi

One of my foodie friends requested I find and review some authentic sushi places in south Orange County.
Quite a challenge, I thought. The only South County place that I could rave about is Sushi Wazen in Lake Forest.

But I love a challenge, so I started looking.
And thanks - again - to Yelpers, I learned about a gem of a sushi spot tucked among the sprawling residential neighborhoods of Mission Viejo (who knew?).

I found Shin Sushi in a roundabout way: first, I searched on Yelp for Sushi Plantation, a terrible-sounding place that I briefly considered checking out, in case it was a great place with a bad name.

But after reading Yelper raves about the crazy rolls and viewing the photos of the awful Tranny Sushi served up there, I knew Sushi Plantation was NOT worth my time.
Some of the reviews DID mention other Mission Viejo sushi places, including Shin.
So I checked out the Yelp page on Shin, which indicated Shin was a subdued, intimate place with a limited menu focused on fresh fish.
Sounded like my kinda place, the antithesis of Sushi Plantation.
I rallied my RawFishionado friend Lisa to join me.

Shin is another small place tucked in a strip mall (the standard description for most good sushi places), this time at the northeast corner of Oso and Marguerite Parkways.
On a recent Wednesday night around 6:30 p.m., there was only one or two other couples in the tiny space, and Lisa and I were easily seated at the sushi bar.

The "YES! This place IS Japanese!" proof of authenticity came in rapid succession:

1. The waitress came to take our drink order and responded in Japanese to my questions in Japanese.
2. They had Echigo beer. A lesser-known label in the U.S., Echigo Beer Co. is based in Niigata in northern Japan, where the rice fields and heavy snowfall also contribute to the production of premium sake.
3. Next came the hot towels - steaming hot and very refreshing.
4. The short sake menu was also perfect, natch. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the sake we ordered, but it was on the sweeter, floral side, yet still dry enough to taste clean - perfect with our sushi.
Of course, the real stamp of authenticity was the itamae (sushi chef) serving us: Mr. Shin himself, the owner, pictured in the photo at top.

The specials board confirmed that Master Shin runs a tight ship that doesn't cater to every roll-loving novice sushi eater.
The list of fresh fish and specials was short and discriminating - nothing too unusual, but the short list indicated to me that the standards - i.e. toro, Spanish mackerel, yellowtail - would be top-quality here.
Aside from ordering one unusual item on the specials list ("Tea Pot Soup"), Lisa and I went omakase and left the sushi choices up to Shin-san.

As I expected, the sushi was perfect:
From left: yellowtail, salmon, halibut and toro. Each piece was buttery, so-fresh-and-so-clean-clean in taste.
I didn't dip any of the pieces in soy sauce so that I could truly savor the flavor of each fish.

Then came white tuna and albacore:
The white tuna was the Top Sushi of the night: flavorful in a subtle, sublime way, it literally seemed to melt in the mouth.
The albacore was lovely too, but the white tuna was truly crave-worthy.

Next up, the Spanish mackerel:
The aji was perfectly flavored with just a dash of ponzu over the onion and ginger garnish - a far cry from the oversauced Tranny Aji I've experienced at other places.

We enjoyed watching Master Shin slicing the raw fish so expertly:

Then, our Tea Pot Soup came out, a very light broth with scallops, shiitake mushrooms and mitsuba (Japanese parsley) leaves, served in a lovely ceramic teapot.
We poured the broth into tea cups and then fished out the pieces with chopsticks:
Satisfying in a sophisticated, subdued way.

After all this lovely, traditional Japanese food, we were a bit surprised when Mr. Shin presented this cut roll of unagi and snowcrab:
But it showed that he was willing to create dishes that appeal to hakujin tastes, and the roll was definitely tasty, not oversauced and overdone. You could actually taste the unagi and crab and avocado.
NOT Tranny Sushi.

By now, Lisa and I were getting ready to signal to Mr. Shin that we were full. But he presented one more dish we could NOT turn away: tempura scallops garnished with a sprinkling of spicy salt:
The scallops were meaty and juicy, the tempura treatment providing a satisfying, salty crunch.

Lisa and I sat back with big smiles on our faces.

Of course, Mr. Shin and staff wouldn't let us leave without some refreshing, oh-so-Japanese dessert: fresh fruit and slices of strawberry-flavor mochi ice cream:

Total bill for the classy omakase meal, including beer and sake: just over $100, or $50 each. What an incredible deal for the high quality of food we enjoyed!
This meal emphasized that we were truly ripped off at the other place where we recently spent $50 a piece on omakase.
I wish I could get my money back from that place!

Shin Sushi
26002 Marguerite Pkwy #C
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Costa Mesa is Good-Sushi Central

So you may have noticed that many of RawFishionado's favorite authentic Japanese eateries are in or near Costa Mesa.

And in an earlier post, I lamented the lack of REAL sushi places in Long Beach.

I have a half-educated, theoretical and mostly observational explanation for all this:
The Japanese just love Orange County.

They love the newness of the suburban cities, the master-planned, safe communities and schools ... and the golf courses and South Coast Plaza!

So Orange County has become the favored settling place for the more recent immigrants from Japan - those who've come here over the last 20 years - and the eateries and other businesses that serve them.

Costa Mesa and Irvine are particularly popular communities for Japanese immigrants, thanks to shopping empire South Coast Plaza (a frequent destination for Japanese tour buses), and the highly rated schools and master-planned neighborhoods of Don Bren-land.

These attractions weren't that prominent when my parents first came to Orange County. My parents immigrated to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, and by the 1970s, they were among the many Angelenos seeking refuge from the urban sprawl, drawn to Orange County for its affordable housing and open space.

My parents moved in 1970 to Garden Grove (where lots of affordable tract homes had sprouted to house aerospace-industry families), and about five years later, our family moved to Santa Ana, where my parents and one sister still live.

While we were growing up in "suburban" O.C., my family still had to trek to Los Angeles for Japanese grocery shopping and dining in Little Tokyo.

Of course, the situation is almost the opposite now, with large Japanese companies and other Asian businesses now more numerous in Orange County.
Interestingly, my parents' decision nearly 35 years ago to buy a new house in west Santa Ana - about two miles from the Costa Mesa border - seems prescient or visionary now, when you consider all the Japanese businesses in this area.

Los Angeles County still boasts many Japanese businesses and restaurants, but they've clustered in West Los Angeles and the South Bay cities of Gardena and Torrance, close to large Japanese employers like Toyota and Panasonic.

Somehow, Japanese enclaves never took hold in Long Beach, a large sprawling city sandwiched between Los Angeles and Orange County. I remember a few Japanese restaurants, and some Japanese family friends living in Long Beach during my youth, but in recent years, most Japanese immigrants - and the businesses that serve them - have typically bypassed this city, lured by the shiny glow of Orange County.

So, alas, any RawFishionados in Long Beach must leave our 'hood to seek out sublime sushi.