A little over two years ago, the boy and I were driving to the supermarket when we noticed a new sushi place had sprung up across the street from it. The slot used to be a quiet little Japanese lunch place, but apparently it underwent a change of ownership and reopened as a cute little sushi place decorated with bamboo and tasteful swatches of purple fabric. We like Japanese food of all persuasions, and were still looking for a local restaurant to frequent, so in we went. They haven’t been able to get rid of us since 🙂
The unassuming but increasingly well-known Sushi Murasaki of Santa Ana. Housed on the bottom floor of a nondescript business center in a quiet and not-too-inhabited part of the city. Unrelated to any chain places by the same name, owned by the chefs behind the counter and managed by a very nice lady who now can afford to hire hostesses to do the job we’d gotten to know her from. We usually drop in every other week or so, almost always sit at a table for two across from the bar (so we can wave to the chefs), and most of the staff knows our “regular” order before we have to say it. It’s like the local diner, only much less greasy. If there’s one thing that can be said for our dining habits, it’s that we’re quite loyal.
Recently, we saw something new pop up on the menu. While we typically order a pre-set selection of sushi, we do occasionally order omakase when we can afford it. It’s always fun to see what the chef comes up with and I’m willing to believe that they have a better ideal of what’s good that day than anybody else. So now they’ve started doing a five-course meal option for $35ish that’s best termed as “beginner’s omakase” — it’s not as pricey as the real version, features a lineup of the “greatest hits” and still gets mixed up a bit depending on what’s in stock. We’ve done this twice and are quite fond the variety it presents. Some piccies behind the cut of our latest trip there ordering this item.
First course was a salad of baby greens and sprouts with crispy salmon skin. Mmmm, salmon skin. Their ginger soy dressing is light, generous with the ginger, and not as overly salty as some places do.
To the upper right is a bowl of light broth with cute little meatball-stuffed shiitake mushrooms. Front and center is braised black cod in a yuzu sauce. A piece of tamagoyaki (sweet fried egg) on the side. This dish was so fantastically soft and flavorful, we’ll probably have to order it on its own next time. Previously, we’d gotten a couple pieces of cooked tuna steak that were kinda meh because they ran out of cod earlier in the day. I can see why.
Some fried shrimp heads came out soon thereafter, customarily made available when you’ve ordered a shrimp sushi that utilizes the rest of the body. Crunchy goodness! Just don’t look them in the eyes or you’ll feel slightly guilty.
The main sushi platter. We’ve got tuna, halibut, unagi, scallop, arabian shrimp (fire-seared sweet shrimp that’s smokey on the top, firmly jelly-like on the bottom. yum.), uni, salmon, red snapper and toro tonight. Pardon my camera phone picture quality — I forgot to bring my digital Canon so these pictures aren’t as spectacular as the fish really was. The reason we keep coming back, of course, is that their fish has always been some of the best we’ve found out of the many places we’ve tried. Everything is buttery, fresh and has perfect flavor. It wasn’t until we went here that the boy really started to become a sushi snob — he realized afterward just how mediocre some of the fish in other places were.
Red bean ice cream for dessert. Red bean has been one of my favorite dessert flavors since I was in diapers, so I of course went for it the moment it was mentioned. The other option was green tea ice cream, which I like fine but you can get that in tubs at the supermarket these days.
I had green tea and the boy had some hot sake, bringing the final bill to $75ish before tax and tip. Considering the amount and quality of food we tucked away (I usually walk away with a little to-go box of leftovers), this was a great deal. It’s really no wonder that this place is always busy in the evenings and you have to fight off a small crowd on weekend nights. Based on the countless reviews it has amassed from various food critics and sites over the years, it’s also no surprise that people are starting to drive around here from different counties to try it out. All in all, we’re quite proud of our little local sushi place, and are amused to think back to the times when we were afraid that it wouldn’t stay open for long because of its inconspicuous location.
Other people and places that have reviewed:
Sushi Serenity in Santa Ana
My New Boyfriend: Murasaki
Monster Munching’s Pictorial
RawFishionado’s Ode to Ochazuke
Kat’s 9 Lives Review
Gourmet Pigs’ Hits and Misses
The Yelp Page