Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tricks of the Sushi...

The name of the restaurant, Ichikara, didn’t do it for me. Nor did its location—a shopping plaza in West Covina, nothing fancy as far as the eye could see. But one of its chefs, a young peppy lad by the equally peppy name of Kirby—you guessed it—did it. He turned the sushi tricks.

“No, I’m a rookie,” he replied when I asked if he had worked at another restaurant prior to this one. I was always curious; chefs will migrate from one sushi bar to the next, and by asking this question I either get to learn of a new place to try, or I can share my opinion of one I’ve already visited.

From the flair by which he wielded the knife and mixed his own sauces, I was surprised he wasn’t a self-professed sushi master. He was one of those rare service providers who catered with such gusto that you felt good about ordering with special requests, knowing he was having fun with making it just right for you.

On a board behind the sushi bar, the names of special rolls abounded—Godzilla Roll, Diablo Roll, Mexican Roll—all of them with abbreviated descriptions of the ingredients used. But the contents were not so dashingly bold, containing recurring themes of spicy tuna, crab meat and shrimp tempura; and the prices ranged from $9.95 to $14.95, which sounded very much like I had to commit to one big roll that was likely to make me full right away.

Soon I overheard Kirby enlighten my bar neighbors about the virtues of his special onion-garlic-ponzu sauce, and there were hunks of spice-slathered fish in the frosty glass case, so it was settled. I ordered up peppered salmon nigiri and asked for some of that signature sauce on the side, to be followed by cajun albacore sushi, presumably with the same sauce.

Once the albacore was garnished, I almost didn’t recognize it. Slices of red onion and leaves of cilantro crowned the top and an oily, light brown dressing trickled—I was told this sauce was a sweet vinegar mixed with garlic, chili and sesame seeds. According to Kirby, the cilantro is pre-mixed into the sauce, but the red onions are tossed in about five minutes before serving, so as to prevent sogginess. Although I generally abhor cilantro, it was hardly noticeable in such a myriad of other flavors.

The “Whatever Roll” is what Kirby calls one of his own creations—a soy-paper-wrapped roll consisting of shrimp tempura and imitation snow crab on the inside, and minced crab stick on top mixed with spicy mayonnaise, masago, crunchy tempura bits and eel sauce. I decided to be flip by ordering a hand roll with just the top part of that roll inside it. The eel sauce looked likeit was about to seep through the diaphanous soy wrap, the only visual blip on an otherwise aesthetically perfect hand roll. No tricks to the taste, thoughit was virtually divine.

450 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina

Note: Ichikara has closed down

1 comment :

Unknown said...

thanks for eating there! I've been curious about this place for a while since it's so close to my work! I'll need a brave coworker to go with me...most of them are the choy suey type of eaters u know what I mean?