Only a few more reports to go from our Southern California trip in December. We ate sushi at Nozomi in Torrance the day after we arrived and we ate sushi at Koi in Seal Beach two days before we left. One meal was a little more expensive than the other and one meal was not as good as the other, by some distance. Alas, the more expensive meal was the less good meal and that meal was this dinner at Koi. It was not bad per se—and, again, it was far better than anything available in Minnesota—but we were left wishing we’d just gone back to Nozomi for one more meal.
You might not expect this from the crowds that wait outside Koi even on weeknights (they are only open for dinner). They do not take reservations and so you show up and put your name on the list and wait. We were there on a Wednesday evening and we waited for about an hour. The restaurant is large on the inside, with a dining room with booths on one side, and a large sushi bar and some more tables on the other. When we finally got called we were given a booth at the far end of the room. We sat down and got right down to business.
They have a large menu with more than just sushi on it. We began with an order of fried calamari. The fry job was not very good. The missus and I shared an order of their chawanmushi and liked it a lot better. For the meal proper, one boy got their chicken teriyaki dinner and the other got their set sushi dinner. Both came with decent miso soup and pretty good salad. The older boy liked his sushi set, which comprised tuna, albacore, yellowtail, salmon, cooked shrimp, squid and clam plus a mix of cucumber and tuna rolls. The younger boy said his teriyaki was not the best he’d had but he enjoyed it.
The missus and I put a meal together via selections from their nigiri list—the nigiri comes two pieces per order. Their list reads pretty well, especially when complemented by the daily specials board, but in practice they didn’t have a number of things that were on it.
What did we get?
- Ama ebi/sweet shrimp
- Uni/sea urchin roe/gonads
- Ikura/salmon roe
Of these snapper, halibut, octopus and shrimp were anonymous; the kanpachi, hamachi and scallop were fine; the salmon was good; and the uni and salmon roe were disappointing. Not a very good hit rate. And the pieces were small and the rice hard.
A duo of salmon for the younger boy rounded out the order (along with tea and a soda).
For a look at the restaurant and what we ate, click on a picture below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service, to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.
Between how crowded it was and the fact that our server was new to the job, things were a bit ragged. Luckily, she was being shadowed by a more experienced server and this kept things from falling apart completely. Price? With tax and tip it was almost $270. For comparison, Nozomi was $260 for much better fish. I guess you pay a bit of a Seal Beach tax? At any rate, this is clearly a beloved local restaurant and its customers obviously don’t object to the price. Our disappointment may be somewhat besides the point. But if you’re looking for good sushi in the area; or even decent sushi at a good price, I would not recommend Koi. If you do go you’re better off sticking to the combinations and non-nigiri items.
By the way, Koi is the family restaurant of Chef Brandon Go of the much more lauded Hayato in downtown LA. I believe he got his start here a long time ago. Well, I can only assume/hope Hayato is a lot, lot better.
Alright, only two more reports from this trip to go and I might just knock them out next week. Another Japanese meal along with a couple of Korean meals eaten at the same place. Before that I’ll have a report on a ramen meal we ate yesterday in Bloomington.
Just looking at these pics of the fish, and obvious just no comparison to here. Except the messy gun kan style one, which around here you can barely find, and if you ask for it no one knows what you mean.