Monday, November 10, 2008


Talk about a complexity of flavors.

The name alone intrigued me. Curiously titled “Sunshine Snow,” one particular sashimi dish stood out above the rest—maybe because its description read “Ice Cream Sashimi.”

“Is there actually ice cream on this one?” I incredulously asked the waitress, who replied, “Yes, there is…and she makes the ice cream herself.”

Miki Izumisawa, owner and executive chef of the mini Laguna Beach restaurant known as 242 Café Fusion Sushi, is far too busy to answer questions. With her head bowed and a propane torch in her hand, she quietly and efficiently prepares each signature dish with her own unique style, while a staff of about six are assigned to assist. You can walk right off the beach into this one. It’s located next to an art gallery and across the street from sandy resorts, but its beachiness isn’t just geographical. Inside, your chopsticks stick out at you from the holes of beach rocks placed on the bar, while bohemian decor and a laid-back casual beachgoer’s attitude pervade the tiny place.

With a nature & Earth theme, the house specials boast names such as “Moon & Sun,” “Lava Flow,” and “Prarie.” Miki sees her work as art, the plates being the blank canvasses with which she expresses herself.

Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, whitefish and albacore meet serrano chili and green onions in this fanciful order of sashimi known as Sunshine Snow, and it’s drizzled with spicy olive oil right before the flame licks everything. As with most of her trademark entrees, the obligatory torch sears this one till it’s fragrant with with the smoky smell of scorched sauces. She stops right as the fish are slightly blackened at the edges, then dabs on the vinegar wasabi sauce and vanilla-like ice cream.

The wasabi sauce, however diluted with vinegar, is still highly piquant, and it can overwhelm the effect of the sweet ice cream if you don’t scrape some of it off. (That is, if you would prefer the taste of ice cream on fish as opposed to the traditional use of Japanese horseradish.) I for one am not opposed to this most unusual integration of ingredients…it is sassy and daring, and the tart frozen treat seems to resemble a slushy sweet sauce that doesn’t conflict with the part-raw, part-seared fish.

I begin to see the Sunshine implied by the sunburst-shaped arrangement, while the Snow is obviously represented by the glops of gelato. It costs $20 to attempt this bold taste venture, but I highly recommend it.

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