Sushi Gem in the OC

In somewhat typical fashion, my siblings and I are always on the look out for new and interesting places to eat in Orange County… for me, it’s usually some new sushi place… because I just love sushi. So after scouring Yelp, we decided to check out Ikko in Costa Mesa.

This was the Japanese eggplant tempura topped with spicy tuna and wasabi smelt eggs.  It was very delicious! We were curiously looking at the sushi bar and salivating while watching them prepare this not realizing that they were preparing it for us. The hot, crispiness of the tempura eggplant served as a nice “cracker” for the spicy tuna mix on top. I absolutely love spicy tuna, so I was really expecting to love this dish… and I did.

The Monkfish liver was an interesting dish. As expected, it has a similar consistency to pate except slightly firmer.  It was topped with a ponzu mousse and some gelatin pieces made from sake.  All components together were very interesting. It was a unique taste that was kind of hard to describe. I can see why some people may not be such a big fan of it, but I really liked it. The monkfish liver was very tasty, but then again, I love pate.

The Albacore Carpaccio with Avocado and Salsa was another well-executed dish. I liked the latin twist on a sashimi dish. Albacore is a tasty albeit more neutral tasting fish, so the oniony and sour flavors from the salsa mix really went well with the fish.

The most interesting of the small plate appetizers was hands down the Beef Tongue Carpaccio which was topped with some mixed greens, black truffle and a poached egg.  I have never had beef tongue, so I was overcome with a mix of fear and courage as I looked at the plate. I wasn’t really a fan of the egg, but I suppose that it, along with the salad, was intended to balance the beef tongue. The beef tongue tasted like an ever so slightly chewier version of beef slices.  It was well-seasoned and cooked in such a way that made me think that beef tongue is probably normally very chewy. However, in this case, they had done such a good job with this dish that  the difficulty in chewing was left to a minimum. It was very interesting.  I liked it a lot.

The appetizers started dinner off so well that I couldn’t wait for the sushi to come out. Even though my siblings often accuse me of over-ordering, I think we did a good job of moderating ourselves this time and just ordered 5-8 pieces.

We started with some of the usual suspects, salmon, albacore, yellowtail and the all-time crowd pleaser, toro.  I wanted to try the scallop, and my brother wanted the sweet shrimp and of course, he always has to have his uni and roe.  Any guesses who had 8 pieces? Hehe! Taste aside, I think the main reason I don’t like uni and roe is largely due to the texture. Uni is kind of slimy and roe just squirts juices when you take a bite. It’s just a little odd. I should probably give uni another try though.

We were feeling somewhat adventurous, and Ikko offered a lot of different types of fish that you don’t normally see at your average Japanese restaurant.  I liked that. Lately, I’ve been more interested in trying different fishes and trying to hone my skills on identifying different types of fish. Unfortunately, in doing so, I realize that either I’m a very poor student no matter how hard I practice or restaurants think patrons can’t tell the difference and serve random types of fish and call them different names. Nevertheless, the variety on the menu piqued our curiosity especially for my sister who is probably the sibling who gets the least opportunity to try and new different types of sushi.

I’ve found a greater appreciation for Spanish mackerel which is a lot less fishier than regular mackerel. It was very good. I also introduced my siblings to butterfish which I recently discovered at Zushi Puzzle.  My brother and sister-in-law seemed quite intrigued with butterfish since they had never heard of it. I’m not sure if they liked it or not.  It wasn’t as “buttery” here as I’ve had it, but it was still pretty good.

Now here is where I started to question my knowledge of different types of fish. Yellowtail tends to be more white and opaque, and toro is usually red or pink with varying degrees of fatty marbling. I could have forgotten and confused the pictures, but for some reason, from what I could remember, the hamachi was deep red and a tad bit fattier than normal, and the toro was white but still characteristically smooth and fatty.

The quality of the fish overall was very good. It all tasted very fresh and flavorful.  I particularly liked the toro and yellowtail, I”m sure it’s partly because both tasted so fatty.  I really like the fact that they offer a variety of different fishes including the less common ones.  However, the small plate appetizers were really what stood out for me.  Dishes like the Monkfish Liver and Beef Tongue Carpaccio are unique, and they were so well-done that I can still remember how they tasted after the fact. The spicy tuna and albacore dishes were just as good if not better than versions of these dishes that I’ve had at other restaurants. Overall, this was a very good place, and it has quickly rose to the top of my favorite restaurants in Orange County. Although it can’t replace Taiko as my go-to sushi restaurant in Orange County (mainly because you can’t get a better bargain for the quality of food at Taiko), it is definitely a restaurant I would want to come back again and again and I would recommend it to anyone who asks.

735 Baker St, Ste C
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

PAFO Ratings for Ikko:
Price 3 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars


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