Saturday, August 8, 2009

ALOHA from Laguna Beach...

Flower Fusion

Just when you think you’ve seen it all before, along comes the Aloha roll, bearing edible flowers, a spectrum of vegetarian toppings, and a sprinkling of black pepper.

It doesn’t sound as pretty when you read its ingredients on the menu, or rather, plate—the daily specials are listed on little cards taped onto a gold platter that is handed to you as soon as you sit down at Miki Izumisawa’s Laguna Beach restaurant, otherwise known as 242 CafĂ© Fusion Sushi. These cards are changed from time to time, depending on availability and the mood of the executive chef, who is constantly experimenting and creating new dishes.

The Aloha roll is a brilliant stroke of inspiration—is it coincidence, or pure talent? The seeming randomness with which these concoctions are drummed up suggests it is chance; the way the tastes coalesce perfectly on the tongue tells a different story. It is the silkiest blending of the most unlikely ingredients: beets, radishes and turnips sliced thin and draped in rainbow-like formation across the top before a row of homegrown flowers is arranged on them.

I am surprised to learn that the only meat part of this bountiful roll is tuna, for Miki is known for including a wide assortment of fish in a single sashimi dish or roll, and I suppose I never realized that you didn’t need that much seafood in a sushi roll to have it taste this spectacular. The tuna sits snugly next to avocado, cucumber, and the tropical-ish mango.

Aside from the blooming garnishes, other parts of the roll seem to say Aloha, such as the macadamian nuts and mango. The consensus is usually the same amongst me and my fellow comrades: right next to the freshness factor, the magic sauces Miki mixes are what make the dishes so extraordinary. The Aloha, for example, comes lightly painted in spicy olive oil and soy vinegar sauce. It is a veritable work of art, and could win awards for most beautiful maki if there were such a thing as a sushi pageant.

So imagine my chagrin when I went back two weeks later, this time with a new group of friends, in a quest to have that roll again, to own it, to indulge in it, to be overwhelmed by its sweetly floral and fruity and not-so-carnal essence, the black pepper crunching in my mouth, and was told it was unavailable! Apparently, the Aloha was not the special of this day, or it would have been listed on the gold platter. The base menu, which is still highly desirable, still featured all the other amazing tastes Miki is so famous for, but none of them were the Aloha, and I wanted so wanted the ALOHA! The pretty Lithuanian waitress pleaded with her eyes: Please understand…

And so I had to move on…