By Allison Hata | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Over the last year, Newport has welcomed a diverse assemblage of restaurants bringing their brands south from LA. One of the latest, Sushi Roku was a highly anticipated arrival that made its debut June 1. The restaurant has a location in LA on Third Street near the Beverly Center, as well as other outposts in Santa Monica, Pasadena, Vegas and Scottsdale; all are known for the quality seafood and innovative fusion concept found throughout the menu.
You can find more of the same at Fashion Island, with a contemporary Japanese element reflected in everything from the menu to the interior design. In our shiny new space, it’s all sleek lines, low-lit candles and high ceilings.
The first thing to jump off the menu is a list of around 10 specialty cocktails. Servers are happy to suggest the signature drink: Roku’s Fusion, a fruity pink potion of berry, citrus and regular vodka with pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew. It’s shockingly sweet at first sip, but offers a soothing contrast to some of the spicier dishes. If you prefer something that scorches—in the best way possible—try the Passion & Spice. The heat builds with each swallow thanks to the fresh jalapeno complementing vodka, muddled orange and lemon.
Some may choose to just enjoy a drink on the patio while nibbling on a bowl of edamame, but that would be a mistake—there are options for nearly every palate and appetite. Those indecisive about what sashimi to try should begin with the roku crudo, a sampling of six varieties. Served on a long white platter, individual plates contain two small pieces each; standout bites include Scottish salmon with garlic ponzu and a halved heirloom tomato, as well as albacore with sweet chili garlic aioli and tiny garlic rice crackers.
Also in the sea section of cold appetizer offerings, the yellowtail with diced chilies brings a subtle spiciness and texture to the palate. Thin slices of fish are dressed with olive oil and garlic ponzu, then garnished with diced red and green jalapenos, fresh ginger and daikon. The restaurant’s to-die-for dish, however, is the hanabi. Four pieces of warm, crispy rice are a comforting juxtaposition to spicy tuna that rests on top.
It’s hard to make your way out of the appetizer section, but if you’re interested in a good example of sushi with Latin American and Californian flair, try the signature rolls. The tuna jalapeno roll marries avocado with a spicy tuna mixture, topped with a slice of tuna, cilantro and a pepper. It’s also served with strips of crunchy fried onions on the side, but the fresh seafood has more than enough flavor to stand on its own.
Sushi Roku’s fusion concept is at its most playful with the plate of Japanese-style s’mores. Resting on a bed of graham cracker crumbs is a flaming bowl; roast your marshmallows, spear a green tea truffle, dip it all in cream, roll around in the crumbs and enjoy.
327 Newport Center Dr.; 949-706-3622; innovativedining.com