205 Main Street
Newport Beach, CA 92661
Recently I've made a point to visit all of Orange County's top sushi restaurants and San Shi Go was the last on the list. I think the big reason for the delay was that part of me still couldn't believe all the rave reviews. Location aside, the restaurant was part of a small chain and the owner didn't actually work at the Newport outpost. More concerning though was the menu which offered a fairly typical selection of nigiri, rolls, and and appetizers.
Uni Martini - Poached Egg, Chilled Dashi
When we sat down our itamae asked for a brief list of our likes & dislikes and based on our response offered us an uni martini before diving into the nigiri. The generous dollops of urchin roe were immensely fresh and bursting with sweet creamy goodness. The dashi added a pleasing savoriness to balance the sweetness of the uni while the poached egg yolk gave the broth a pleasing viscosity. A beautiful dish all around and not to be missed by any uni lover.
Madai - Snapper
The sushi service started off with a fittingly mild piece of snapper, the texture was a bit softer than normal but the compliments of salt and yuzu were perfect for enhancing the light flavor of the fish.
Hirame - Halibut
Next up was halibut topped with a slice of summer truffle. The fish itself is fleshy and mild, the perfect platform for the pungent fragrance of the truffle.
Engawa - Halibut Adductor Muscle
Engawa refers to the muscle that controls the halibut's dorsal fin. I've only had this a handful of times and always at excellent restaurants so I took its presence here as a good sign. Texturally, engawa is quite different from hirame, with a denser weight and muscular snappiness. Daisuke torched the muscle giving it a deliciously smoky that he complimented with fresh shiso and an enticing spice from the yuzu kocho.
Maguro - Bluefin Tuna
Daisuke mentioned we were in for a treat, the bluefin arrived earlier in the week and the restaurant was almost sold out. The color was a beautiful deep red while the flavor was the prototypical combination of clean sweet water and an iron tang.
Zuke - Marinated Tuna
Next up was a marinated tuna wrapped in kelp. The exterior seemed almost seared and the marinade seemed to leech some of the water out of the fish. The result was a hardier and richer tuna, with a distinct sweetness from the marinade.
Toro - Fatty Bluefin Tuna
Next we moved onto raw toro and though the fish appeared a bit flyblown the texture and flavor were spot on; pure oily bliss!
Seared Toro - Seared Fatty Bluefin Tuna
The tour of tuna concluded with a beautifully seared toro, just as rich and buttery as the raw toro, the sear adds an lightly bitter char; that extra layer of flavor made this my favorite of the quartet.
Hamachi - Yellowtail
Though our itamae referred to this as hamachi, its color, texture, and flavor was more like yellowtail belly. The fish had a unctuous toothsomeness and correspondingly forceful oiliness. This was substantially more flavorful than a typical yellowtail and one of my favorite pieces of the night.
Inada - Baby Yellowtail
Like with the tuna, Daisuke presented three variations of yellowtail back to back so we could better appreciate the subtle differences between them. The inada was milder than the previous piece and felt slightly firmer,
Kanpachi - Amberjack
The third in the troika of yellowtail was a Kanpachi. Positively austere compared to the previous two the fish had a lean snappiness and a cleaner less oily essence.
Takabe & Aji - Yellow Stripe Butter Fish & Spanish Mackerel
This was my first experience with Takabe and Daisuke referred to it as a "premium mackerel." The fish was immensely tender, but possessed a concentrated oiliness similar to that of a mackerel. I appreciated having the aji there for comparison, and I actually preferred the firmer texture of the mackerel to the Takabe.
Sake - Copper River Sockeye Salmon
I've never appreciated premium salmon, the fish is much leaner than the typical farm-raised variety with a slight minerality that I don't care for.
Sakura-ni - Simmered Octopus
This was a departure from the typical sushi style octopus. The simmered tentacle is wonderfully soft and meaty, with a pervasive smokiness that feels reminiscent of a Western preparation.
Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp
The amaebi was freshly killed in front of us and both the texture and flavor were fairly typical, that is to say delicious.
Sanma - Pike Mackerel
I've only had Sanma once before and that was at Urasawa. Beneath the shimmery silver skin lies a layer of creamy white fat which gives the fish a profound flavor perfect with the almost jellied texture of the fish itself.
Binnaga - Albacore
I always like raw albacore and this was a cut from the fish's belly. While the texture of the fish was marvelous, the sause tasted overwhelmingly of garlic, a shame not to let the fish stand on its own.
Negi-Toro - Fatty Tuna Hand Roll
At this point Daisuke asked if I wanted anything else and I told him to surprise me. He presented me with a negi-toro roll which contrasts the succulent lavishness of the fish with the crunchy tang of pickled radish, onion, and leeks.
Anago - Sea Eel
The final fish for the night was a sliver sea eel. Rather than drown the fish in sauce, Daisuke only applied a few drops striking an effective balance with the gentle brine of the eel itself.
Red Miso Soup
Though I prefer my amaebi head fried, our chef recommended that we go with the miso soup. The red miso was substantially darker and more robust while the head gave it a delightful saline tinge.
Tamago - Egg with ume shiso
For their tamago, San Shi Go offers an unconventional preparation, serving it with plum and shiso to help break up the monolithic stature of the egg.
House-made Ice Cream - Marscarpone, Black Sesame
Asian restaurants often skimp when it comes to desserts, but Daisuke told us that we were in for a treat and he was absolutely correct. The black sesame was immensely rich with a resonant purity of flavor while the marscarpone was smooth with a sweetness reminiscent of condensed milk.
Thankfully most of my concerns about San-Shi-Go proved to be unfounded. The quality of the fish is second to none, and while most of the guests favored the restaurants a la carte roll offerings, I was pleasantly surprised to find the omakase fell along very traditional lines. The food at San Shi Go easily stands up to other Orange County heavyweights though the price is a touch higher with the omakase running about $75 per person. If you are willing to pay the Newport premium, San Shi Go is definitely worth your time.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
205 Main Street