I’ll have to admit, Buena Park isn’t one of my usual eating destinations, but I am always game to try something new. Several weeks ago, I was invited, along with two other writers, to visit this restaurant serving both Japanese and Korean fare. The plaza it is situated in is busy! Extremely busy! I won’t lie, parking is a struggle and I am lucky to find one after circling around several times. Once inside, the restaurant is modern, chic and comfortable with beautiful wooden tables finishing off the decor.
Whole Grain Salad ($9) screams modern Korean fusion marrying black rice, Indian millet, lentil, kidney beans and Job’s tears (Chinese pearl barley) together. This is also the basis of multi-grained Korean rice you can purchase at the market. I love the nutty texture and its nutritional value, but most of all, when tossed together with the mesclun leaves, fresh mozzarella bits in a soy vinaigrette, it is a delicious vegetarian dish to share or enjoy on your own.
I absolutely adored Siraegi ($7), a rice bowl topped with dried radish greens, baby anchovies, masago and radish sprouts. Soy dashi (stock made from dried bonito shavings) seasons the radish greens, making this not only light, but refreshing. I love anchovies and radish greens so for me, even though this isn’t typically Chinese, I find it extremely comforting and satiating!
Jawanmushi ($4/$16) is a Japanese steamed egg custard which I often make at home. I usually make it plain, but at Dami, they make it the traditional way with shrimp, gingko nut and shiitake mushroom. The custard was just a tad too firm for me but the flavor of the dashi used was spot on.
A side dish we tried was Buta-Ka-Kuni ($6.50), braised pork belly, with bok choy and green onion. I didn’t care for the under-seasoned pork which also needed more color as well. It was beautifully presented, but was underwhelming.
One of my favorite items was Yoshi’s Owari Chicken Wings ($10) Perfectly deep fried chicken wings with Yoshi’s secret seasoning are so crispy on the outside, and so moist on the inside. I couldn’t stop eating these. There is nothing more pleasing than well-cooked chicken wings.
Because the restaurant had “izakaya” in its name, I insisted we try some yakitori. Asparagus Maki ($3), Enoki Mushroom Maki ($3), Quail Egg Maki ($4) and Chicken Gizzard ($2.75) were all stellar, especially the enoki wrapped inside slices of pork belly.
Chicken Wing ($3.75) skewers are also delicious, but then again, I love chicken wings and these possessed a nice smoky flavor. However, between this and the Yoshi’s Owari chicken wings, definitely choose the latter.
Cast Iron Rainbow Rice ($11) consists of assorted fish topped with tempura crunch and masago (flying fish roe) is grilled in an iron skillet and drizzled with a sweet unagi sauce. This isn’t a dish for me, but if you don’t care for raw fish, it is definitely for you.
I really enjoyed the low-carb Dami Special Roll ($13) which doesn’t involve any rice whatsoever. This crab roll sees tuna, salmon, albacore, crab meat and avocado wrapped with cucumber instead of rice and nori. So light and those on a low carb diet can enjoy as well.
For me, the piece de resistance of the meal was the Live Uni with Sushi Rice ($12), presented in the uni shell, layered with rice around the delectable uni (sea urchin), and topped with sesame oil, pickled radish and masago (capelin roe). Beautiful to look at, and like butter in my mouth.
If you’re indecisive, then Dami Seafood Box ($40 recommended for two) with eight dishes including assorted seafood and sushi is just the thing for you. If you are sharing, you will definitely need to order more food because I can easily polish this off all by myself. The chef will prepare your box with the freshest fish available so the variety of fish will change from day to day.
On the day of our visit, there was lobster available and this is the icing on the cake. Definitely order this if it is offered. Lobster Two Ways ($30) is presented as lobster sashimi, and then, the carcass is used to make a lobster stew that you can enjoy after you’ve eaten all your sushi and sashimi dishes. The raw lobster is sweet and filled with umami. I wish I didn’t have to share.
The lobster stew arrives in a pot that continues to simmer at the table and is so umami-filled I wish I had enough room to enjoy it over a bowl of rice. But I brought the rest home and loved eating every minute of it the following day. I loved the chrysanthemum leaves used to fragrance the broth already perfumed with the intoxication scent of lobster.
Dami is one of those places I can go with my son, and we’ll both be very happy. The food is good and the surroundings extremely pleasant.
This week I have two $50 gift certificates to Dami Sushi for two of you to WIN. Leave me a comment with why you would battle the parking situation to dine here. Entries close Sunday. Best of luck!
Dami Sushi & Izakaya
5151 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621