Sweet Fish’s new chef balances Japanese tradition with California creativity
By Angela Matano
Sweet Fish Sushi Bar & Restaurant has been serving delicious Japanese cuisine and a delightful array of sakes for about ten years with admirable consistency. The space manages to be both casual and fun, punctuated throughout with fire engine red chairs.
But even tried-and-true restaurants can benefit from a little freshening up once in a while. The recent addition of a new chef, Chef Taka, only ups the restaurant’s game — his meticulousness and attention to detail elevates the dishes to an even higher level of perfection.
As Sweet Fish co-owner Alan Watson puts it, Chef Taka is “fantastic — creative, traditional and authentic.”
If that doesn’t persuade you, some small tweaks to the menu might.
One of the splashiest additions is the Lamborghini roll, which features spicy tuna and avocado wrapped in soy paper and topped with seared whitefish, gobo (burdock root), yuzu paste and a yuzu ponzu sauce. As delicious as basics like yellowtail remain, sometimes it’s fun for sushi aficionados to try something new.
Another fine addition is the octopus carpaccio. The cephalopod comes very thinly sliced, and lightly dotted with yuzu and herbaceous basil. The basil, especially, serves as a surprise — I don’t think I’ve ever tasted any in a sushi restaurant. Commonly associated with Italian food, the herb instantly brightened my palette, acting as a welcome foil to the salt and spice I usually associate with Japanese food.
The sushi sampler is also new, and offerings rotate depending on what’s fresh and available. One of the bonuses of a chef like Taka, who takes a lot of care with his cooking, is the assurance that the ingredients are thoughtfully chosen, the dishes given consistent and loving attention. For those who harbor concern for the provenance of their meals, such fastidiousness can be a huge relief.
There are a few other changes to note at Sweet Fish as of late. The hours are now, incredibly, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. That should cover just about all of your cravings — that is unless you wake up at 6 a.m. with a hankering for smelt eggs.
Happy hour(s) are equally generous. There are three in total! Come in early, from 11:30 a.m. to noon, 4 to 6 p.m., or 9 p.m. to close for 20% off everything. If that doesn’t foster some goodwill, well then nothing will. Sweet Fish caters to just about everyone’s schedule.
Drinking, while maybe not the central focus of Sweet Fish, certainly deserves a spotlight of its own. The sake flight features four unique flavors, each delightful in a different way. If you’re not a sake lover, or you are looking to expand your knowledge, sampling a few options at once helps to highlight the differences and similarities among the many varieties of rice wine.
I particularly appreciated the Mio, a sparkling sake reminiscent of Champagne. The Shochikubai Nigori was also memorable. It’s a cloudy, milky, unfiltered variety, conjuring visions of coconut, melon and other tropical fruits. The result is quite unusual and works wonderfully with waitress/manager Angie Asij’s favorite thing on the menu, the Runway roll: “It is mouthwatering, and has a kick,” she enthused.
For a neighborhood joint, Sweet Fish serves up a lot of authentic and winning flavors, playfully twisting old standbys into something new while preserving the integrity of dishes that call for the utmost simplicity. After all, sometimes you want a spicy tuna roll, and sometimes you want a Lamborghini.
Sweet Fish Sushi Bar & Restaurant is at 13020 Pacific Promenade, Ste. 8. Call (424) 228-2298 or visit sweetfishsushi.com