Our latest issue out now!Summer 2017
There is a certain look that you expect when you walk into a sushi restaurant, and Samurai Sushi is no exception. Sushi bar with chefs at the ready? Check. Asian art banners? Check. Hundreds of pictures of loyal customers on the walls? Wait, what? Yup. The fact that the restaurant has pictures of many of their regular customers covering almost every available space on their walls is the first indication of something different and special. This place has generated a fierce, loyal following, and it is not for the décor.
While there is little differentiation in the layout of the restaurant – sushi bar for around 10 people, three booths, and a smattering of tables – it is clearly the quality of the food that brings people back on a regular basis. So, it was time to dive in and see what makes Samurai Sushi so special.
We started with a couple of appetizers, neither of which I have seen at other sushi places. The first was the Spicy Tuna Taco, consisting of spicy tuna (surprise!) and pickled vegetables and seaweed on a crispy wonton. Sounds simple, but these were tasty enough to require a rock, paper, scissors battle for the last one. The second appetizer was the somewhat humorously named Monkey Balls. These were deep-fried mushrooms with cream cheese and salmon. My dining partner doesn’t even like salmon, but agreed that these were delicious. I do like salmon and could have easily wolfed down a second order. While we needed to save room for the main course, other appetizers also looked interesting, such as the Clam Miso Soup, Jalapeño Bomb, and Salmon Mango, as well as a variety of salads.
In an effort to bring you, the reader, the most comprehensive review possible, we commenced checking off a variety of items on the fresh roll, tempura roll, and baked roll lists. After reviewing our selections, our server politely asked when the rest of our party would be arriving, but managed to not blink an eye as we told her it was just us. If you are wondering just how much sushi we ordered, it was a boatload. No, seriously, when it arrived, it came in a beautifully arranged wooden boat!
Riding in the middle of the boat were the Cajun Tuna Roll, Red Crunch Roll, Mexican Roll, and Rock and Roll. All were delicious, and the Rock and Roll was different in that it was essentially the roll ingredients assorted fish, crab, and avocado – wrapped in sliced cucumber. It will test your chopstick skills, but was fresh and tasty. The bow of the boat held a Mission Roll and a Three Amigo Roll, with the latter covered in fried onions – a first for me at any sushi place. Again, both of these rolls exhibited interesting combinations of flavors that did not disappoint.
The stern of the boat was taken up by the large Asparagus Tempura Roll. This one had been recommended by those that know this spot and it would be worthy of designation as one of Samurai’s signature offerings. Swathed in tempura batter and deep-fried, this roll brought crab, avocado, cream cheese, asparagus, and spicy tuna together in delightful harmony.
We only ordered one item from the baked roll list, mainly because it seemed different than the traditional sushi offerings. With no room left in the boat, the Spicy Baked Craw Roll came on its own dish. Decidedly unique in appearance, this warm roll comes with crab and avocado inside, and an interesting combination of spicy crawfish, carrots, squash, mushrooms, and onion on the outside. I could see this as another potential signature roll and cemented my perception of Samurai as different from most other sushi restaurants.
Based on the freshness with everything we experienced across the various rolls that we ordered, I am highly confident that the straight-up sushi and sashimi are also excellent here. I think the army of regulars would back me up on this. There are also a number of combination plates, entrees, and kids’ meals to round out the substantial menu.
As far as beverages, those who know my love of craft beer will understand my disappointment in the lack of any draft offerings, but the usual suspects (Asahi, Sapporo, etc.) are available, as well as a number of wines by the glass and a decent sake list. Having said that, the food is the center of attention at Samurai, and the beverage choices are adequate in their supporting role.
So, don’t be put off by the location amongst a bunch of auto repair shops near the intersection of La Paz and Marguerite. Samurai offers an opportunity to shake up your everyday sushi experience, so don’t miss the boat! Oh, and look for my picture on the wall soon…
27230 La Paz Road, Mission Viejo