I think I can safely say that NTR and UK’s favourite restaurant is Taiko Japanese restaurant in Irvine, CA. They have been going here for years and years…so much that they know all the servers and sushi chefs! They first took me here several years ago and I was completely wow’d by the amazing Japanese food. I was definitely looking forward to coming back here again.
We sat down at the sushi bar and were greeted by the sushi chefs behind the counter. Because NTR and UK are such familiar and repeat customers now, Ono-san, our sushi chef, started making dishes for us without even needing us to order. NTR told me that he will just automatically make what is the freshest for that day. Pretty cool.
First came the hamachi (yellow tail) belly. It is a bit firmer than the hamachi I am used to but slightly more fatty. This was definitely the freshest hamachi I had ever had.
Next came the giant clam and toro nigiri. I had never had giant clam before and really enjoyed its crunchy sweetness. The clam taste was also milder than the regular clams most of us are used to eating.
Toro is one of my favourite types of sushi and this was hands down the best I had ever eaten. The toro was bright pink and the fat was tightly marbled throughout my entire piece. You could really taste the richness of the toro but it did not feel heavy or have a fishy aftertaste at all. It was also firmer than most of the toro I have eaten.
Next came the salmon nigiri and the baby tuna nigiri. The salmon nigiri had some fresh onion slices and bonito flakes on top and was drizzled with Taiko’s special sauce. The crunchy onion slices contrasted nicely with the salmon and was all tied together by the sauce.
I have never had baby tuna anywhere but here at Taiko. It is slightly seared on the oustide and served with onions, chives, bonito flakes, and the Taiko special sauce. The baby tuna was so tender and has a nice mild taste compared to regular tuna. I think it is seared because the tuna is so tender that otherwise, it would fall apart.
Next came the uni. UK told me that this is from Ono-san’s special stash underneath the counter so it was extra good. I just have to say that the uni was amazing. It was so creamy, slightly sweet, and tasted like it was fresh from the ocean. Sometimes, uni has a bitter taste to it but this was not the case here at all.
Next came the tuna nigiri. This was made in a similar fashion to the salmon nigiri and came with bonito flakes, chives, and onions. I really enjoyed the Taiko way of jazzing up some of their nigiri with the special sauce and onions. It adds a nice contrast to the rice and fish.
Next was a special “creation” of NTR and UK’s. They found regular California rolls to have too much mayo so along with Ono-san, created a roll they called the Northern California roll. It was made with fresh crab meat but very little mayo and also had cucumbers, avocado, and carrots. Because there was so little mayo, you could really taste the fresh crab meat which took this to a new level. I also enjoyed the addition of the pickled carrots, which added a nice crunch.
After all these great rolls and nigiri from the sushi bar, we ordered something from the kitchen. Special No. 3 is a hot dish of fresh crab meat, avocado, and some other stuff that I can’t remember. The whole dish is than baked with Taiko’s creamy mayo-based sauce. This dish is really rich and best eaten with rice.
By now, we were starting to get quite full but decided to ask for one more item. Ono-san presented us with the soft shell crab roll and to make it easier to fit in our mouths in one bite, he made it thinner than the usual soft shell crab roll. I liked this much better than the usual short and fat rolls because the rolls normally fall apart after one bite. The soft-shell crab was also larger than normal…you could even see the meat inside instead of just shell!
We were also comp’ed with some spinach salad. The sesame dressing was not as creamy as I was used to but still very tasty.
I had a great time at Taiko. If it was possible, the food here was even better than I remembered, which was already super good. The food tasted so fresh and elevated the taste of all my usual favourites. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is in the area…but be prepared for the looooong waits. Taiko closes for an afternoon break at 2:30pm and when we left the restaurant, there were already people lining up and waiting for the dinner service!
14775 Jeffrey Rd Ste K, Irvine, CA