Innovative Dining Concepts Expands into Orange County With a Stunning New Eatery at Fashion Island
On a brisk Sunday morning, shoppers at Fashion Island strolled by the new addition to the center’s dining scene. While this Newport Beach location just opened in June, the Sushi Roku restaurants, owned by Innovative Dining Concepts, perfected this luxe style of dining decades ago. With locations in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena and West Hollywood–and another at the swanky W Hotel in Scottsdale–Sushi Roku knows how to blend a hip ambiance with decadently refined Japanese fare.
Passersby can’t help but peer in from the sidewalk through the large glass windows that reveal an open dining room with touches of dark wood and a festive row of ornately shaped bonsai trees. Clean white paper lanterns hang above the entryway in front of the maître d’ desk. It’s as if the lanterns signal that once you pass through this area, you are in a serene space where relaxation and trust in the chef go hand-in-hand. Whether fresh fish offerings from the sushi counter or savory, hot dishes, such as the restaurant’s signature truffle miso glazed Chilean sea bass, customers will find a variety of awakening flavors.
Succulent chunks of delicate blue crab enrobed in a creamy aioli are tempting enough, but in true Sushi Roku-fashion, the dish is elevated to the next decadent level. Fresh uni that tastes like a refreshing splash of the sea and delicate beads of caviar garnish the crabmeat, while a pool of rich truffle sauce swims beneath. The dish is elegantly served, chilled over a bed of ice, with bright edible pansy blossoms and red rose petals encircling the plate. Another simple, albeit beautiful, plate of fluke sashimi topped with bright orange slices of candied kumquat, surprises and delights our tablemates. Cilantro leaves brighten the dish and a yuzu vinaigrette lends an acidic bite to the translucent slices of fluke.
Surprising sushi options shouldn’t be that much of a surprise once you discover that Sushi Roku’s Executive Sushi Chef, Hiroshi Shima, spent the past four decades perfecting his craft as a Japanese food maven. His signature roll blends the flavors of a classic ebi (shrimp) maki roll with a Vietnamese spring roll. Wrapped in a thin sheet of rice paper, the roll is topped with slices of fresh shrimp. While this at first seems like a predictable spicy tuna roll with avocado, what really brings this dish’s flavors together are the cilantro leaves and dots of Sriracha chili sauce that grace each bite.
For those diners averse to raw fish, the “Farm” and “Katana’s Robata Skewers” offer a hot alternative. Spears of fresh asparagus are wrapped in paper-thin sheets of savory ribeye beef. The teriyaki-like sauce that accompanies these asparagus stalks makes this dish almost impossible to stop eating. A friend of mine who dined with me coyly asked, “Who should finish the last one? It would be a shame to waste.” And, at Sushi Roku in Newport Beach, it’s easy to over order. Each dish is plated with such visual panache that when another table orders a sashimi salad or a flowering plate of vegetable tempura, we can’t help but follow suit. We’re not disappointed.
If you can save room for dessert, and this is especially difficult if you’re dining at lunch, the interactive s’more is the one thing you should share. The dessert elevates the s’mores you knew as a child and refines it for a decidedly adult palate. The graham crackers are crushed into a sand-like consistency before the chef beautifully spreads them out across the plate, grooming each granule into place like a Zen garden. Stacks of dark chocolate, Matcha green tea truffles, house made marshmallows and a vessel filled with gooey marshmallow spread make up the four quadrants of the plate. Positioned in the center is a bowl filled with miniature charcoal cubes. As our server lights the tiny fire pit set on our table, we can’t help but coo at the sweet treat. While we know we started the meal at Fashion Island, by the time we walk past the white lanterns-fixture hanging above the door, we realize that we’ve been transported a million miles away.