OoToro has been on my radar ever since its opening months ago, but the price point was a big deterrent. In OC, I am accustomed to paying double digits for pretty great sushi, but OoToro touts a triple digit price tag for omakase. The reviews from its original location in Walnut are stellar, but it was still hard for me to swallow paying $100-200 for sushi in OC. I mean, I’ve done it, and only really regretted it once. OC just never seemed the place for super high end sushi like I’ve experienced at O Ya, MF Sushi, or Kusakabe. Mama H.o.P.’s birthday served as a perfect excuse to splurge for the omakase here. We opted for the all sushi “Japanese traditional” omakase at $160/person.
This is not a common item at sushi places. The guts of these small guys really bursts in your mouth and can be a little off putting without some sort of sauce or squeeze of yuzu to temper the strong oceanic taste. So, it would have been nice to eat these dressed up instead of plain like this.
Seaweed and Uni
The strongly vinegared and slimy Okinawa seaweed was nicely offset but the subtle creamy sweetness of the the Santa Barbari uni.
Kumamoto Oyster ponzu, radish, green onions
Always my favorite oyster. Well done.
Seabass wasabi, yuzu, salt
The sushi is served in an methodical organized way, as families of fish. First up, the “white fish.” This was the lightest of all of them.
Medai yuzu, yuzokosho, salt
Kinmedai wasabi, yuzu, salt
This trio shared that same clean flavor of white fish, but of course the kinmedai was the richest in subtle fattiness.
Next up, the “yellowtail family.” Yellowtail is already pretty darn good, but as belly. Man oh man, clean but fatty at the same time. Wow.
I’ve not had kanpachi belly as much, but I really loved it here. YUMS!
Striped Jack truffle salt
This was the least fatty of the 3, not being belly, but had a noticeable touch of truffle salt that sent my tastebuds soaring. YUMS!!!
While they prepared our shrimp heads, we enjoyed the “tuna family” next. The maguro was particularly luscious for being lean. I really began to appreciate their housemade nikiri sauce which leaned a little sweeter than others.
The medium fatty tuna had a similar lusciousness, but just a tad more sinful.
The otoro was just out of this world crazy fatty good. No hint of fishiness that can sometimes accompany fatty tuna. YUMS!
Shrimp Head two ways
The Annoyer opted for the miso soup version. Simple and spot on.
Mama H.o.P. and I opted for the deep fried version. Crunchy with just enough meat to satisfy me.
Octopus is notoriously chewy, but this was probably the second most tender octopus I’ve had in the States, MF Sushi being the most tender. I mean, it was still chewy so you knew it was octopus, but it had a wonderful silky mouthfeel almost like scallop. Delicious.
It would be really hard to fault anything in this omakase, but I would say the scallop could have been better. I prefer to have a whole scallop as a opposed to a giant scallop that is cut into thirds or fourths. Ohshima still wins.
Giant Clam wasabi
Aji (left) ginger, green onions, ponzu
The “silver fish” family was well represented. In my experience, aji and toro can be the weak points in omakase because they can be fishy or mushy. Of course, Ootoro served perfect versions of each.
Sayori (right) ginger
The needle fish was clean and fresh. Excellent.
Both were on point and flawless.
Seared Otoro yuzukosho
At this point, the items were about to get heavier, but certainly more memorable. I thought this was seared beef, but it turned out to be seared fatty tuna. It was insanely delicious especially with the pairing of lightly picked radishes that laid between the rice and tuna. That crunchy, sweet sour component balanced out the whole bite perfectly.
Miyazaki Wagyu Beef
At this point, Mama H.o.P. was getting pretty full, but I encouraged her not to stop short of the wagyu beef. The best description I can come up with for that dollop of sauce would be a Japanese-like A1 steak sauce. It made the seared fattiness of the wagyu even better. Seriously, YUMS!
It was a hefty piece and very meaty.
Unagi always takes the cake for me, but the anago was pretty darn good. Sometimes anago can be a mushy texture compared to the firm meatiness of unagi. This was nice.
Blue Crab Hand Roll
Mama H.o.P. didn’t eat the ikura because she doesn’t like ikura. She only had a small taste of the last 2 pieces. And she had 1 bite of the hand roll. All her leftovers made its way to The Annoyer who really seems to be a bottomless pit when it comes to sushi. I can’t find one bad thing to say about the hand roll. The blue crab was sweet, fresh, and unadulterated. No mayo, no sauce. YUMS!
Clam Miso Soup
If that wasn’t enough food already, the miso soup with plentiful amounts of little clams put Mama H.o.P. and me over the top.
Taro Ice Cream & Cheesecake
You get a choice of cheesecake or ice cream. Since it was Mama H.o.P.’s birthday she got to have both. This was taro ice cream, but The Annoyer got plum wine ice cream, which was pink and fruity. I definitely preferred the plum wine. The cheesecake was not too sweet or heavy.
After 3 appetizers, 21 pieces of sushi, 1 hand roll, miso soup, and dessert, I was bursting at the seams. Not only was the food plentiful, it was extremely high quality. For the majority of omakase I’ve experienced, there’s always at least 1 piece of fish that’s a tad fishy, though not necessarily bad. I can confidently say that in this regard, OoToro completely nailed it. Every piece of fish was clean. No off flavors or textures to be found here. Also, the cuts of fish were a good size with a small rice ratio. I enjoyed the subtle chewiness to the rice as well as the slightly sweet nikiri sauce. When it comes to something as simple as sushi, every small detail really makes a huge impact.
While many, myself included, really balk at the price tag, the meal actually turns out to be a good value. With 27 items in the omakase, you could estimate each piece of sushi at $6 a piece. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any sushi place in OC serving this quality at the same price point. While I simply loved OoToro, it would be hard for me to put it in the same “high end” grouping with O Ya, MF Sushi, and Kusakabe, mainly because the ambiance feels a lot less fancy. All the sushi chefs seemed a bit stressed and hurried, and didn’t seem to have the time to really engage with the diners. The location, a strip mall surrounded by nondescript business offices, is a bit random as well. Everyone is dressed pretty casually. Fancy schmancy or not, OoToro is still deserving of your patronage if you are a sushi lover with change to spare.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here