Sushi Imari - Costa Mesa, CA
Do you ever avoid a place because of interesting reviews, but still want to try out of based on pure curiosity? Sushi Imari is one of these places. According to reviews on Yelp, it has received great reviews on "sushi" rolls and everyone is excited about the "freebies" you get while dining. Don't get me wrong. It sounds all gravy, but I'm typically not a sushi roll person and freebies..I question why it's free. Is it day old food? Maybe they just have a surplus of everything and are extra nice? Whatever it is, it wasn't that bad AND they are very friendly, nice and surprisingly quite tasty, both "free" appetizers and their sashimi selection. I wouldn't say it's the best of quality, but passes just above mediocre sushi with a few great cuts I didn't expect. Here's the sushi list we were offered and although I couldn't snap a picture, they also have a chalkboard of specials - fresh selection of fish for the day. They also have a short specials list at the bar.
Decided to try this place out with my brother and glad to say I can finally check this place off my bookmarked list. Korean owned and operated, Sushi Imari is quite cozy and has that home vibe. Even though it was our first time here, it was strangely comforting. It could also be the free giveaways. Maybe that's their purpose to begin with? Anyway, the patrons here mostly order rolls and I can see why. They are just so punny!
Sorry guys, I rarely order rolls so I'll leave it up to Yelp to fill you in. haha. We racked up quite the list of nigiri.
Maguro - Tuna lightly brushed with soy sauce.
Hirame - Halibut. We have had halibut countless times and for such a delicate fish, it was strangely tough with a bit of chew.
Tai - Red Snapper. Ever since my friend Natsumi introduced me to this, it's always one of my backup choices when something else runs out. I normally like it with a bit of shiso leaf, but this one was just seasoned with a bit of yuzu and salt. Mmm..that yuzu always gets me.
Amberjack. I don't quite understand the pairing with red pepper, but the cut was a bit tougher than I remember, as if I was biting against the grain. In terms of flavor, it was light with a hint of sweetness.
Aji (Spanish Mackerel). This was a beautifully presented, but I wasn't one to taste this. My brother typically orders Spanish mackerel since I'm not a huge fan of the taste, but he said it was good.
Freebie Time! Midway through our meal, we received gyoza (just 2 pcs) and a set of baked mussels in mayo. They were just alright, nothing fantastic. The baked mussels were a bit tough and chewy as if they were overcooked. Was it cooked on purpose or old? Bahaha..I haz no idea guys, but I still ate it. It's kinda hard to say no to free.
Seared Salmon. This was surprisingly tasty! Lightly torched and left with a touch of smokiness, the salmon was melt in your mouth. Our chef had given us an extra nigiri while my brother waited for his next piece. It was a really sweet gesture.
Ono - White Tuna. It was a little bit drenched in more ponzu than I would have liked, but it was still really noms. So tender!
Toro - Medium Fatty Tuna. I'm starting to like tuna (specifically bluefin) a bit more than I used to, but toro really changes the game. I love belly cuts because the texture is so silky and buttery and the taste..always so short lived.
Uni - Sea Urchin. If a place has it and they have been serving me great sushi, I usually order uni. I mean, how can you not? These were plump and creamy, but my brother disagreed since his selection was a bit less than favorable. Womp womp..mine was great, but it's a hit or miss based on what they got.
Overall, I would return when I'm craving sushi and in need of a cheaper alternative. Most of the patrons that are regulars prefer rolls. How do I know this? Took a quick glance at the room and kitchen, and that's pretty much what's been flying out. Even our neighbors at the bar glanced over and commented, "What you're having is "real" sushi, right? And I'm having sushi rolls." And then they proceeded to ask for recommendations. So I suggested Tai, but then realized maybe I shouldn't have because not everyone can adjust to raw fish right away. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask their thoughts. Oh well. They took the chance to try something new! haha. That's the beginning of it all..Taking the first step! Be spontaneous!
375 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626