As if you needed another excuse to eat raw fish, June 18 is International Sushi Day. We celebrated early by lunching at a favorite Strip spot, Sushi Roku—the LA-launched institution celebrating its 18th year—to get a taste of what the Forum Shops location will have available on Thursday.
First up: a must-try new menu item, blue crab tartare ($39), splashed with wasabi truffle soy and topped with uni and Ossetra caviar. Mixed together, the four flavors formed the ultimate summer snack, light but with a massive mouth payoff.
Next: another new cold appetizer, Roku Crudo ($28), featuring six two-piece sashimi tastings (tuna, sea bream, salmon, octopus, yellowtail, albacore), gorgeously presented and each with a unique preparation. The salmon, capped with tongue-tingling chopped wasabi roots, was the superstar for me, but the others were worthy contenders, too. It makes for a great cold-starter choice for a party of two, as does the toro and jalapeño roll ($14.50) that arrived next, which packed a nice moist/crunch texture punch.
From there, we moved on to uni udon ($19). The rich pasta might have been a questionable choice on a hot summer day, but as an urchin fanatic, I was determined to try every uni dish in the house, so try it we did. Sure enough, the thick noodles and plentiful urchin bits were a bit heavy mid-sushi lunch, but weren’t anything short of delicious. I’d suggest it for a dinner course, if you arrive famished.
And to finish: a plate of a la carte nigiri—salmon, ocean trout, masago with quail egg, sweet shrimp and, of course, uni. For me, nothing on Earth beats perfect nigiri, and Roku’s certainly qualifies. The trout and sweet shrimp were especially scrumptious, and the uni delivered an earthier flavor—and a darker color—than the urchin I’m used to eating around here. GM Johnny Seo later explained that the recent Refugio oil spill has made Santa Barbara urchins tough to come by, so Roku has been bringing its uni in from Japan. Good to know, and always nice to try something different.
Note: In addition to its main menu Sushi Roku will offer an $18 “Special Ume,” featuring varying preparations of tuna, yellowtail, salmon, shrimp, halibut and albacore as part of its International Sushi Day celebration on June 18.