We came to visit the new Okura Robata & Sushi restaurant which took over the Katsuya location in Laguna Beach. I was never a fan of Katsuya so I was curious about this new place. The restaurant’s received a slight face-lift from before but still maintains a lounge-y feel in the bar area. The restaurant’s chic and modern feel extends even to the patio area and I can see girls’ night out happening out here with cocktails and a lot of fun. We were seated in the main dining room where I was able to get a good view of the sushi bar and the rest of the restaurant. The menu is very safe, with sushi selections, familiar appetizers and a nice array of entrees which will appeal to all. Okura’s Executive Chef Jun Heo was named one of the Best Chefs in America by Best Chefs America 2013 and since it was our visit, the humble young man stopped by to give us some suggestions.
We started with Serrano Hamachi Carpaccio ($11), sushi grade hamachi (Japanese amberjack) bathed in a well balanced soy yuzu dressing without overpowering the subtle fish. The addition of fresh Serrano peppers tied the dish together by adding a little kick. Mango Seared Tuna Salad ($10) was surprisingly good. I wasn’t sure I would like the mango dressing with the tuna, but the sweet tart mango actually worked well without masking the tuna at all. Searing the tuna was a smart choice because it combined the delicate raw taste with the smokiness of the seared adding another dimension to it. At first glance, it looked like there was too much arugula kale salad on top but my son loved it and ate most of it. Guess there wasn’t THAT much after all. Since the restaurant possessed “robata” in its name, I wanted to try the robatayaki (grilled) items generally referred to items grilled over a charcoal grill strung on skewers. We tried the beef, chicken and the salmon, but my favorite was the latter. Salmon Robata Skewers (3pcs/$11) were beautifully prepared chunks of very moist and tender salmon. The topping of jalapeno salsa was absolutely delicious with a mix of salty, spicy and all around punch of salivating savoriness. Grilled Vegetables ($9 ) were nothing special, but who doesn’t like grilled zucchini, squash, shiitake mushrooms and asparagus. I was very interested in the Vegetable Toban ($15) and had an idea in my mind from the description on the menu: “homemade vegetable broth with fresh seasonal vegetables and tofu”. I expected there to be more broth, more like a soup which the vegetable medley would be swimming in. The shallow dish it arrived in had a sauce which was bubbling away when it arrived at the table. There wasn’t much of it to begin with so most of it evaporated by the time we proceeded to eat it. A perfect dish for vegetarians to enjoy. Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Mushroom Sauce ($13) was calling out my name and I absolutely had to eat them. I was very surprised at how generous this dish was. Two large crabs were split in half and fried to perfection. I was afraid the sauce would be too cloying but it was not. I would definitely order this again! I loved the use of a fried enoki ‘fan’ as a tasty garnish. My son wanted to try some sushi but I was too full for the sushi sampler. Instead Chef suggested the Seared Albacore Roll ($13) which I actually enjoyed. I’m not a big fan of rolls, but this one comprised of seared albacore and spicy snow crab, tobiko, gobo root and cucumber. The combination came together rather well and the various textures made it very enjoyable. There are still some hiccups here and there. Hopefully, after a few months, they would have worked them out and it will become a favorite in Laguna Beach.
Okura Robata Grill & Sushi
858 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651