In early February, I was invited by Lauren Campbell of Beach House | Penthouse PR to dine at RA Sushi Bar Restaurant - Tustin to taste their new menu items. When I said I couldn't make it down to Orange County in time for the blogger dinner, she let me schedule it at a more convenient date and time.
Perfect. Because then I was able to invite my friend DP since she works nearby. Except, she was working at home that day and had to drive down for our dinner. Doh! I got to RA Sushi first and noticed that the bar and restaurant areas were packed. Good thing I had a reservation. While waiting for her to arrive, I ordered a Ginger Blossom drink, Hendrick's Gin, St. Germain, muddle strawberry, pink grapefruit juice, lime juice, and a splash of ginger ale. Girly, fruity, and yummy.
The edamame arrived shortly before my friend did.
She ordered a Dragon Bite, Baccardi Dragonberry, strawberry puree, fresh lemon juice, Japanese yuzu, and a splash of soda. This was pretty good too, but we both liked my Ginger Blossom better. The restaurant's tasting menu said we could each have two drinks, but we were good with just the ones we had. In hindsight, I wished I had ordered the sake flights of sweet, dry, and sparkling sakes. They sound pretty intriguing now. Too bad I wasn't in the mood to drink much that night.
Everything was tasting menu portions so what you'll get if you dine at the restaurant will be double the size or a whole roll and not just a slice, but this still gives you a sense of what items are available.
We started with shishito peppers sauteed in an Asian seasoning. I love shishito peppers and have only had it lightly salted and grilled at other Japanese restaurants. The oh-so-unhelpful "Asian seasoning" didn't really give me much clue and when I asked the manager was told it was the chef's secret recipe. Darn it! But, I've been experimenting and I think my recipe is a pretty good facsimile. :)
Otoko salad, grilled chicken or beef tossed in a spicy yuzu dressing with grilled red and green bell peppers, onions and asparagus, served over a bed of mixed greens in a rice wine vinaigrette, and topped with watercress and fried ramen noodles. The salad was huge and this was only the tasting menu portion! I saw regular sizes coming out at another table and it was gigantic. So pretty much if you order this, it can be your whole meal. I was almost full after eating just this, but it was sooo good, I couldn't stop. Because leftover salad just isn't as good, you know? Was it the yuzu? I liked the savory citrusy dressing a lot.
Our second course was a sampling of four of the restaurants new sushi rolls.
Vegetable Tempura Roll, lightly battered asparagus, sweet potato and Japanese eggplant rolled and topped with colorful crunchy tempura bits, drizzled with a sweet eel sauce. The dressing and toppings were what made this roll. Because of the eel sauce, it was very reminiscent of the unagi roll, but vegetarian.
Pacific Roll, a spicy mix of albacore, cilantro, jalapeno, and cucumber rolled and topped with fresh avocado and mango salsa, finished with red beet tempura bits and sauteed cashew nuts. This one was OK. Too much of the toppings overshadowed the albacore.
"RA"ckin' Roll, kana kami crab and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed, lightly tempura battered and topped with guacamole and "RA"ckin' Shrimp, finished with a creamy ginger teriyaki dipping sauce, red beet tempurat bits and togarashi. A whole lot going on in this roll. I didn't mind though since the dressing, crunchy, creamy bits all worked together.
Tropical Roll, cucumber, mango, and avocado rolled and topped with spinach tempura bits, spicy shrimp mixed with masago and mango salsa.
The mango salsa. I have to say the last one didn't really work for me. The sushi and salsa were both unremarkable.
There was a traditional sushi bar in the restaurant so if the fusion rolls aren't your thing, you can definitely go that way, but we were pretty stuffed at this point already. On the other hand, if you don't enjoy nigiri sushi and only eat rolls, then these fusion rolls are a good way to enjoy sushi without the risk.
Third course was Lobster with Garlic Sugar Snap Peas, lobster sauteed with garlic, sugar snap peas, and shiitake mushrooms in an Asian seasoning. That darn Asian seasoning again! It was good, but was way too generously used in this dish. Good thing we had rice. We were both so stuffed at this point that we took leftovers home instead to make room for dessert.
I got a mango mochi.
While my friend go the strawberry mochi.
Overall, I think the new menu items are a good contrast to traditional sushi offerings. I could have easily just eaten that salad as a meal and the fusion rolls are great for non-adventurous sushi eaters. The bar and restaurant had a steady flow of customers on this weeknight so it was definitely already pretty popular.
I had a nice time at the restaurant, enjoying a good meal and catching up with my friend DP. We dined here on the eve of the Year of the Cat, so ushering in the new year with a good friend and good food would mean good friends and good food all year long, right?
Even though this meal was complimentary, we did leave a $20 tip. Or rather, my friend DP insisted she leave the tip.
Thanks again to Lauren Campbell of Beach House | Penthouse PR for inviting me. And thanks to RA Sushi manager Kim Stitham for taking care of us.
Other Japanese restaurant posts:
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town)
Izakaya Haru Ulala - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant - Pasadena (Foothill Blvd.)
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant - Rancho Cucamonga
Shogun Japanese Restaurant - Pasadena
RA Sushi Bar Restaurant
2401 Park Ave.
Tustin, CA 92782
1 year ago today, Minx Restaurant and Lounge - Glendale.
2 years ago today, Wahkeena Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon.
3 years ago today, pomegranates!!!
4 years ago today, everything's coming up roses...and a sidenote on plagiarism and copyright infringement.