Last fall, when it was time for my quarterly get together with my high school girlfriends, one of my friends made a suggestion for a sushi restaurant located in our neighborhood. Apparently, this restaurant was named in our local county newspaper as the best sushi restaurant in Orange County by the resident restaurant critic. That’s high praise for Yorba Linda where eateries are few and far between, and those that do exist are generally chain restaurants. After hearing the news that we may have this amazing sushi restaurant, Japanese food restaurant in our own backyard, we all agreed to meet there for dinner and give the restaurant our own stamp of approval.
Sushi Noguchi, located in an unassuming strip mall in Yorba Linda, is the life’s dream of Hiro and June Noguchi who opened up the restaurant and sushi bar in this location more than 6 years ago. Serving high-end, high quality fresh fish, and an eclectic Japanese menu that reaches beyond sushi, the restaurant’s reputation has continued to grow. Beautifully decorated in a minimalistic style with bright lights and clean lines, the open and airy dining area is anchored by a large and inviting sushi bar situated right in the middle of the restaurant. Most known for their omakase menu, they actually offer two different omakase menus, one designed and chosen by Hiro Noguchi, the head sushi chef, and the other is a smaller fusion style omakase chosen by Hiro’s wife June.
After looking over the menu, one of my friends decided to order June’s omakase menu option, while my other friend and I each decided to order a la carte items off the menu. While I originally had planned to sample some of the sushi, I found so many amazing and varied options on the menu that I didn’t want to pass up that ultimately, I skipped the sushi for some more traditional Japanese food instead. My starter was the agedashi tofu. Agedashi tofu is cubes of tofu that are deep fried and served in a tempura sauce topped with green onions and nori. Light and crispy, the tofu cubes are delicious. Tofu itself generally doesn’t have much flavor of its own, so serving it with the tempura sauce allows the tempura sauce to soak into the tofu and infuse it with its light soy flavor. The green onions and nori add flavor as well, the slight bite of the green onion and the saltiness of the nori balance out the sweetness of the tempura sauce as well as adding texture to the dish. It’s amazing how filling these small tofu cubes can be. This was a light, and vibrant starter dish and one that I enjoyed very much.
For my next course, I couldn’t pass up ordering the grilled yellowtail collar. I’ve had grilled yellowtail cheeks at other Japanese restaurants and have always enjoyed the very delicate, and sweet flavor of the meet in the collar of the fish. Yellowtail is quite a delicate fish to begin with, grilling the collar brings out some of the sweetness of the meat and adds a beautiful char flavor. It’s also amazing just how much meat is in the cheeks of the fish. This is like an entree in and of itself rather than a small appetizer dish. The beautiful grill marks bring out the wonderful natural flavors of the fish, it’s delicate flaky white meat carrying with it a sweet and tender flavor that’s easy to enjoy – or rather devour. These grilled yellowtail collars were considerably larger than any other yellowtail collars I’ve ever seen before and I was pleasantly surprised. Even with all this meat on the collar, it was still just as delicious and flavorful as I remember yellowtail collars being. There’s a reason I can’t say no when yellowtail collars are on the menu.
Finally, my other friend who didn’t order the omakase meal and I both opted to order the USDA prime beef tataki. Made with USDA prime skirt steak which is seared, it’s served thinly sliced and topped with thin sliced red onion, finely diced tomatoes and finely julienned green onions with a special house ponzu sauce. There’s also a small baby spinach salad served on the side also dressed with this special house ponzu sauce. The beef tataki was perfectly cooked, seared on the outside, and a nice medium rare on the inside. The grill flavor of the beef was prominent, but the inside was tender, flavorful and juicy. The special house ponzu sauce was the perfect complement with a little bit of a citrus tang and bite, but also mixed in with some sweetness, so it was both tangy and sweet and cut through the richness of the beef. The bite of the thin sliced red onions and the acidity of the tomatoes also combined to create a great combination of tangy, acidic, sweet and sour in one bite. The nice side spinach salad was a terrific addition for something vibrant and bright, but with that same wonderful special house ponzu sauce that added the tanginess needed to cut through the spinach. This was quite a filling meal, and since I didn’t realize that the grilled yellowtail collar would be as filling as it was, I was having a tough time finishing off my beef tataki entree.
While we were all quite full from our individual meals, my friends and I decided we couldn’t pass up taking a peek at the dessert menu. Ultimately, we decided to split a dessert between the three of us. Our choice was the mille crepe, which June, the owner, who was also our waitress that night, explained to us was made daily by two chefs working together, one makes 25 crepes and layers one on top of the other, while the other chef spreads a thin layer of sweet cream on to of each layer of crepe before the next freshly made crepe is layered on top. What you end up with is essentially a round, 25-layered cake that you cut out cake slices when a guest places an order. The serving plate is prepared with a drizzle of homemade reduction of balsamic vinegar, honey and red wine. The mille crepe is slotted atop this balsamic reduction and then the crepe cake is topped with some whipped cream. The end result is a gorgeous slice of what looks exactly like an airy sponge cake, but is actually a very delicately constructed crepe cake made with 25 layers. It’s like a work of art that you’re about to destroy by devouring it. And it tastes just as delicate and fantastic as it looks. When you take a forkful, you can taste each individual layer of crepe and sweet creme. The cake is so delicate and delicious and surprisingly, not too sweet at all. It’s amazing to think about how it was created. But that homemade reduction of balsamic, honey and red wine is amazing, it was part sweet, part tangy all completely delicious. The combination of the mille crepe and the balsamic reduction was heavenly, and though all three of us were full, we couldn’t get enough of this delicious dessert. It’s almost worth coming to Sushi Noguchi just for a taste of this mille crepe.
My friends and I all enjoyed our meal at Sushi Noguchi. Although one of my friends and I never tried any of the fresh sushi, it was clearly the most popular items on the menu amongst all the other diners in the restaurant. My one friend who ordered June’s omakase really liked the selection of various sushi dishes brought to the table – there was a wide variety of different types of sushi and various kinds of fish being served. Regardless, we all enjoyed our meals, whether traditional sushi or other types of Japanese cuisine. The service we received from June herself was fantastic and everyone else at the restaurant was friendly and attentive. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and was a perfect location for my friends and I to sit down and catch each other up on our lives after having not seen each other for a few months. It was clear to see, all the way through our dessert course, why Sushi Noguchi has received such a terrific reputation for food, as they put care and thought and creativity into each and every dish that they present. I came home and raved to my husband immediately about Sushi Noguchi. You can bet that one day soon, I’m going to take him to dine here.