Bluefin highlights luxurious Crystal Cove Promenade between Newport and Laguna Beaches.
Lauded sushi chef Takashi Abe opened his latest restaurant in Crystal Cove Promenade, a high-end strip mall just north of Laguna, naming Bluefin for a prized tuna variety that can weigh as much as a small car. I trekked from Los Angeles to experience his Omakase (chef’s choice), a $35, five-course tasting menu that changes daily, depending on what’s fresh and what inspires Chef Abe.
Chef Abe utilizes a four sushi chef attack to meet the demands of fawning crowds that face a shimmering water-wall backdrop.
The first course contained four small appetizers. 1) tender baby squid with basil-flecked mango oil, red pepper, mushrooms, and dime-sized cuts of daikon; 2) a trio of velvety sweet shrimp topped with Osetra caviar and gold leaf; 3) King salmon spring rolls, wrapped in daikon and filled with julienned daikon and carrot, for crunch; and 4) white asparagus topped with a single jalapeño cut, served over sesame miso sauce.
Baby squid and sweet shrimp aren’t ingredients found at typical sushi houses. It’s obvious Chef Abe is skilled with sourcing.
Chef Abe was wise to prepare King salmon and white asparagus simply; these ingredients both have natural advantages, so why get in the way.
Seared tuna, Alaskan salmon, and halibut highlighted the sashimi course. There was also a salad with cherry tomatoes and a dab of creamy roasted vegetable paste. Halibut topped a cucumber-wrapped daikon cut roll. The entire dish was plated on a caramelized onion sauce. On top: a single fried lotus root chip, which resembles the face of a old rotary phone.
The cooked dish of the day was seldom seen flying fish, baked and paired with uni sauce. Orange sea urchin roe flecked the creamy sauce. I even ate the flying fish’s “wing.” Deep-frying rendered tiny bones crispy and edible, though its decorative properties impressed me more than the taste.
The sushi course featured a piece each of bluefin (seasoned with a layer of hot mustard), red snapper (set on an aromatic shiso leaf), sweet shrimp, tuna tataki (marinated in spicy soy sauce), plus two pieces of seasoned rice wrapped in a thin omelet. I was so excited to eat the sushi, I started eating before taking a photo. Ironically, the only item I didn’t capture on film: bluefin.
Green tea crème brulée paired with a fresh fruit cluster to form a satisfying dessert.
It took about two hours of driving to travel to and from Bluefin…and it was worth it. The strip mall setting didn’t have much personality, but there was certainly plenty of personality on the plate. Chef Abe has a well-deserved following. I got to eat baby squid, sweet shrimp, flying fish fin and bluefin tuna, in one sitting, for only $35. That’s a lot to spend at lunch, but it’s an indulgence I can enthusiastically recommend.
Leave a Comment