Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nana San - 07/02/2011

3601 Jamboree Rd, Ste 15B
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 474-7373

I do my best to keep abreast of new restaurant openings, so I find it difficult to believe that I'm only hearing about Nana San two years after it first opened. The restaurant is owned by Goro, formerly the head chef at Ango-Tei. Opened by Goro's step-father Ango in 1982, Ango-Tei was likely Orange County's first high quality sushi restaurant and it remained well regarded for the 25 years that the family ran it. The family sold the restaurant in 2007 and after a 2 year hiatus opened Nana-San.

Located in the space of the now-defunct Yuki Sushi, Nana-San represents quite the upgrade, offering both high quality sushi and cooked dishes. The space has a very contemporary Japanese feel with a smooth brightly lit sushi bar and several small tables. Behind the counter are Goro, step-dad Ango, and our chef for the evening, Ken-san all three of whom have been there since the restaurant opened.

Suntory - The Premium Malts
Koshihikari Echigo
We started with a trio of more obscure Japanese beers, the Yebisu was a fairly middle of the road lager, while the Suntory offered up heavier notes of malty sweetness (no surprise given the name), while the Echigo was the lightest of the trio.

Sashimi - Ankimo, Maguro, Amaebi, Aji, Tai, Aoyagi
The first course was an elaborate presentation of sashimi. The plate came adorned with the skewered remains of a filleted aji as well as three still moving shrimp heads. The selection of seafood was all superb with the ankimo and amaebi being the exceptions. I feared I was looking my appreciation for ankimo, but this smooth, creamy, and above all decadent preparation reminded me of why I fell in love with the "foie gras of the sea" in the first place. Amaebi quality depends heavily on how fresh the prawns are and still moving heads foreshadowed the fleshy brine kissed glory of the meat.

Squid - soy marinated
This was the most adventurous course of the night. The texture was slick and chewy without the typical creaminess that follows and the flavor was a dark earthy sweetness that I suspect would be a bit challenging for most diners.

Aji no Hone Senbei & Amaebi Head
The shrimp heads and fish bones on the sashimi plate were more than mere decoration. After we finished with the sashimi, our waitress took the serving plate and returned with this beautifully fried bounty. The shrimp heads were superb; tinged with an almost imperceptible offal flavor from the brains and other innards. The fried mackerel bones were even better, possessing a texture similar to a cracker and a potent savoriness.

Shiro Maguro Kama - Black Cod Collar
Given that the collar is highly prized in Japanese cooking and often considered the most tender and succulent part of the fish and Black Cod is already an oily supple fish, I had high expectations for this course. The fish is seasoned with a light glaze of sweet miso, par for the course with cooked Black Cod. Where the fish really shines is the texture, ever so slightly firmer than regular black cod; I proceeded to suck the flesh from the bones with relish.

Yoshinogawa Echigo Junmai, Niigata
We almost went for one of the 1.8L bottles but then decided to stick with a 720ml bottle. The Yoshinogawa was a very crisp and clean sake with subdued notes of yeast and citrus.

Chutoro - Medium Fatty Tuna
A lean nuanced example of chutoro, texturally flawless, the fish lacked the heady richness typically associated with Toro.

Kanpachi - Amberjack
This was my favorite piece of the night, the fish is snappy, deliciously oily, and augmented by a piercing citrus-spice that lingered on the palate.

Beni Sake - Sockeye Salmon
I've never particularly cared for Sockeye salmon, though the flesh has a more complex flavor, I prefer the simplicity and richness of the more common salmon varieties.

Suzuki - Sea Bass
Next up was a lightly cooked sea bass, covered in a thin sheen of oil, the fish came with a topping of cooked shishito peppers whose smoky vegetal bitterness worked wonders with the flavor of the cooked fish.

Hirame - Halibut
This was another of the night's standouts, the pickled jalapeno adds a delightful crunch and spicy verve to the delicate whitefish.

Koban Aji - Pompano
Pompano is a relative rarity among sushi restaurants. Like most silver skinned fishes, the Koban Aji has a pronounced oiliness and texture similar to Kohada.

Hotate - Scallop
A nicely prepared scallop, the searing gives the exterior a bit of firmness and complexity while the yuzu kocho deftly compliments the mollusk's deep abiding brine.

Negi-Toro Maki - Fatty Tuna Roll
Ken-san called this "Taiwanese" Negi-toro because of the type of radish used. This course is typically served at the end of ameal to aid digestion The fish is almost secondary to the tangy crunch of the radish

Katsuo no Tataki - Seared Skipjack Tuna
By the time we finished our meal, most of the specials had sold out. The only thing left that piqued our interest was a seared bonito. The fish wasn't as rich and complex as I was expecting but the tender fish was nicely seasoned with a savory sweet tataki sauce.

Horagai - Conch
Trying to decide how to close out the meal, we wanted an order of abalone sashimi, but our chef recommended the fresh conch instead. I've never really understood why conch is so prized in Japanese cuisine, its just a giant sea snail if you think about it. This was probably the best preparation of conch yet, the meat falls somewhere between orange clam and abalone in terms of texture and the innards weren't overwhelmingly bitter. The snail is served with a deeply umami broth that heightens the natural aroma of the conch's flesh.

Mandarin Jelly
The dessert was an elegant semi-transparent cube of orange jelly, quite the departure from the typical mochi ice cream. Though personally I would have preferred something simple and sweet like green tea ice cream.

Despite starting out in Orange County, I've diverted most of my attention to culinary happenings in Los Angeles. While LA certainly has a more vibrant food scene, it does mean that sometimes truly worthy restaurants like Nana-San slip through the cracks. I was thoroughly impressed with the omakase; $50 was a steal for the quality and quantity of food we received. Ango-Tei was known for its cooked dishes, next time I may eschew the sushi offerings to see if the Kappo tradition is still alive and well at Nana-san.


Rodzilla said...

Wow, $50 really is a steal for that. A lot of places would charge that much for your first course alone.

Did they serve each piece of nigiri individually, or did you split 2 between diners?

Epicuryan said...

Yeah I was pretty pleased to find this place and embarrassed that it took me 2 years to do so.

We did omakase so we each got an order, the sashimi was actually shared between 3 people.

Lindsey Corbin said...

Great review! I found this place when I moved to the area last spring, and immediately got hooked! They have excellent lunch specials, and its always very crowded at dinner. Sounds like I need to make another trip before your review sends the line around the corner!

Epicuryan said...


Welcome to Orange County. Its a shame the restaurant is so far from where I work. I'd love to try it for lunch.

suzn924 said...

Glad you feel the same...OC does have some great sushi places as well but Nanasan is actually our all time favorite place in OC. We frequent weekly if possible and so far Nanasan truly delivers for us in terms of authenticity, innovation, Japanese hospitality with a unique dishes each time. Other items Seared albacore or seared salmon dish or any nigiri with yuzu i love. If you get a chance also try nigiri or sashimi with cucumber very refreshing, the live Soft Shell crab, of course Live Amaebi and fried shrimp heads, Peruvian lattern scallop, or Fugu fin in hot sake. Nansan also make different version of soup similar to Japan, where you get a different version of Miso soup at each location like Tai daikon soup, ankimo soup, or clams miso. We also love the Ankimo here and I always have to have Uni for any lunch or dinner Omakase :) I found Kevineats through a coworker and now you through Kevin eats..oh oh my wallet is in trouble haha. "I Bid you Good Eating!!"

suzn924 said...

Oh they also have great sake selections as well like Hakkasan and Kubota Manju and if you order a large bottle chef will stored it for you for a month with your name on it.

Epicuryan said...

Welcome to my blog. I hope you keep reading.

You've listed some very appealing dishes, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them, particularly that Peruvian Lantern Scallop.

I'm surprised they have fugu fin. I thought fugu was illegal in California.

I like the idea of being able to store a large bottle of sake, less pressure to finish in a single sitting.

suzn924 said...

I guest we will have to keep the fin on the download..but definitely will be following your blog. THanks