December 26, 2007

Tabento [Costa Mesa]

Another holiday season spent in the OC and another unassuming Japanese sushi joint in a nondescript strip mall--a fairly uneventful holiday, but also a new interesting find.

The short story on Tabento is that it offers your typical sushi rolls with an added wow factor and some atypical creations that are a cut above the rest. While our albacore nigiri warranted an instantaneous mmm and a raised eyebrow in delight, the hamachi was a tad fishy and probably less fresh than it should have been. Over the course of three days and two meals here, this was the extent to which I delved into the nigiri choices.

The Shrimp Boat first caught our attention in the picture menu before captivating our taste buds with its textural combination of creamy quail egg and crab and crunchy mentaiko (cod roe) and ama ebi (raw prawns). The tangy piquantness of the ponzu sauce is a welcome surprise for your taste buds, since you almost expect the combination to be sweet and mellow.

The Soft-Shell Crab Roll ($10), Crunchy Roll ($8.50), and Caterpillar Roll ($10) were all similarly good, though not outside of the realm of what you'd expect. They are, however, visually stunning in their magnitudes and constructions with proportions that awe.

I didn't grab a photo from last time, but the Spicy Tuna Crunchy Roll was also a must-order, with spicy tuna piled atop a crispy rice onigiri ball and topped with a thinly sliced jalapeno. The heat was subtle, striking the back of your tongue in the most pleasant way possible.

Next time, I'll venture into the appetizer portion of the menu, where there are some interesting picks to choose from. Don't forget to flip through the photo albums sitting on your table, since it'll offer a lot of inspiration for your ordering.

This is what I miss most about moving to Northern California--there's nowhere near the same caliber of sushi restaurants and especially ones that are as off the radar as the places you'll find here in good ol' Orange County.

Tabento Sushi & Sake
1525 Mesa Verde Dr. #E
Costa Mesa CA 92628
(714) 545-0600

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