It has been almost five years since I last visited Ikko. I remember the reason why we didn’t come back was due to their inflexibility when we dined with my son who wasn’t as savvy an eater as he is today. Ikko was one of those places which didn’t allow substitutions of any kind, nor will they make an exception when you’re dining with children. We ended up venturing to other Japanese restaurants which were more kid-friendly and I guess, just didn’t come back again.
Last night, we came here for a friend’s birthday. It really upset me a lot for me to stay up all night to write this. I took a look at my old Yelp reviews and saw that I had lavished them with a 5-star rating two times before, but sadly, after this visit, that had to be dropped immediately.
It started off rather well. The Carpaccio of Salmon ($15.75) with squid cartilage rolled within the slices was delicious with a sour plum sauce which brightened the salmon and enhanced its flavor.
Assorted Fish Bones and Fish Skin Crackers ($2.95) — which we were told when ordering is only fish skin and no fish bones — is really tasty. Crispy like chicharron, but so much healthier for you. This I would totally order again.
Then came an array of miso soups. Mushroom Miso ($3.25), Baby Clam Miso ($3.85) and Shizimi [sic] Clam ($3.50). The mushroom miso was overly salty but both of the clam miso soups had a balanced flavor. My only issue with the baby clams was that they were gritty. I got mouthful after mouthful of sand from eating the clams.
We also ordered both the chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) choices offered. Sea Urchin sauce & Black Truffle Chawanmushi ($8.75) was a waste of uni as the sliver was steamed along with the egg making it a crusty mess. Its texture was awful and was more for show than taste.
Chawanmushi with Crab & Mochi ($7.50) was bland and frankly, the simple version I make at home from time to time is better than this.
I was glad to have a decent dish arrive at the table. Japanese Eggplant Tempura with Wasabi Smelt Eggs and Spicy Tuna ($13.95) was a nice mouthful with beautiful textures and good flavors.
Black Truffle & Seared Beef Tongue Carpaccio ($20) topped with a soft boiled egg on top was literally, four mouthfuls. I remember lamenting about the four pieces of wagyu we had at Ink but this is far worse because tongue is not an expensive cut of protein. Perhaps the minuscule bits of truffle warranted the price of this dish, but my mouth doesn’t agree. The tongue was overcooked and chewy and no amount of seasonings could take away from that.
We also ordered some sushi including uni, blue fin toro, welk and black sea bream. The total of our sushi order alone was $76.90. The only thing I liked was the welk. The uni and toro had no umami whatsoever. The sea bream was okay, but none of it was seasoned correctly and they do not allow soy sauce at this restaurant.
Smoked Orange Clam Adductor with wasabi ($4.50) was nothing special. It tasted like overcooked scallops.
One of the best items of the night was Carpaccio of Octopus ($10.50) topped with a yuzu kosho vinaigrette topped with fried leek shards. I love yuzu kosho so the flavors were very pleasing. The octopus was also nice and tender.
Deep Fried Soft Shell Shrimp ($11) was also good. There were quite a few things layered on top of roasted zucchini rounds including three cheese sauce, sweet and sour red pepper and green tea salt, then topped with a fried soft shell shrimp.
The biggest disappointment of the night was Grilled Channel Rock Fish ($12) with saikyo miso (a yellow miso paste from the Kyoto/Kansai region of Japan) and plum soy milk espuma (foam). The fish was overcooked and very tough. One would think with miso and plum soy milk, the end result would be one that was salty with some tartness, but the overall product was just bland. The fish needed salt and was such a let down on the palate.
I think the general consensus was, if you’re going to be dictatorial about soy sauce (they do not allow soy sauce) or other condiments on the table, or even when asked, then season your food properly. It is highly frustrating when you are in the hands of chefs who do not salt proteins correctly.
We did end with two desserts, the Rose Ice Cream ($4.75) with rose petal tempura topped with rose sugar sounded good on paper. I did not like the icicles in the ice cream at all. The rose sugar was devoid of any rose, not even a hint.
The Black Sesame Ice Cream ($4.50) with hot coffee and sesame seed paste sounded so good and I think we expected it to arrive like affogato would. Unfortunately, the plate arrives with a small scoop of ice cream already inside the pool of hot coffee. The ice cream was melting rapidly and I was lucky to get a shot of it before everyone dug in before it disintegrated.
A subpar meal paired with lazy service just puts me over the edge. I don’t expect you to be at my table every five minutes asking me if my food is okay, but what I absolutely DO expect is that you check to see if my water needs to be refilled every 15 to 20 minutes. Or perhaps you can stop by to see if any empty plates needed to be removed? When our desserts arrived, our table was filled with empty plates which I had taken the liberty to stack, hoping they would take them away.
What really was the icing on the cake (not in a good way) was the $300 check at the end of it all.
735 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626