Cafe Fusion Sushi
Miki Izumisawa with her exotic "Lava to Flow to
Green Hill" roll with crab, salmon, tuna and
Macadamia nuts rolled in organic red chard.
_Imagine arriving to work everyday to a blank canvas. It's your
job to create something new; your original idea inspired
by your environment, your friends, your family, the
movies you see, the books you read. You inspire others,
many of whom are strangers, by sharing your creation.
Sounds like the quintessential description of an
artist...and a female sushi chef who's living out her
dream in Laguna Beach. Miki Izumisawa associates food
with the earth. And it's her obvious zeal for life and
this planet that has her making the most exotic and
artistic sushi I've ever eaten.
_It's show time when you arrive to 242 Cafe Fusion Sushi.
Prepare to be wowed. Miki is performing center stage
under the spotlight in this small theater with just four
tables and a long bar. The celebratory mood is set with
balloons and everything from salsa to reggae coming
through the speakers. This rare talent is equipped with
sharp knives, a propane torch, the freshest sushi and
most importantly, a passion for her profession.
_Just as the bread is a precursor of the meal to come in many
restaurants, here the strong, fresh-brewed green tea
gave us a good indication. Her opening act is
pepper-crusted salmon and albacore sashimi served in a
spicy marinade. There's no need to dress this dish up
with soy sauce, or for that matter most of the dishes.
Her fusion flare is flavorful enough. Act two is
yellowtail with spicy Miso sauce ($12) exquisitely
presented with finely sliced jalapeno, garlic and
cilantro. You won't find this one on your next trip to
Japan. Miki also puts her spin on Spicy Tuna Tartar
($8.50) stacking layers of chopped Tuna, avocado and
cucumber with rice chips. She expresses her connection
to the earth with the "Moon and the Sun" -
salmon, shrimp and tuna sashimi. Each piece is topped
with a peppercorn representing the moon and a dab of hot
sauce symbolizing the sun then seared with the torch.
_Miki is a protege of famed sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. While
she may have learned much from this master while working
under him at his Las Vegas restaurant, she's definitely
evolved with her own unique style.
_The show is in full swing when the sushi rolls arrive. This
is where Miki has even more fun with titles and unusual
concoctions that pleasantly surprise the palate; such as
the Conifer roll with albacore, Japanese pickle, pine
nuts and curry sauce. Or the "Lava to Flow to Green
Hill" roll with Macadamia nuts, organic red chard,
crab, salmon, and tuna. There's the "Sexy Hand
Roll" which you'll have to see for yourself (blush)
and the "Enjoy Shitake Feeling" (with the
famed Japanese mushrooms). Miki is always changing these
specials, inventing something new, so expect a slightly
different show each time. She says her goal is to
create, "a festival in the mouth." She uses
mint in the Cherry Blossom roll and mango in the Aloha
roll. Hawaiian shirts inspired this tropical-theme. It's
sweet, colorful and also includes tuna, Japanese mint
and Macadamia nuts; a fantastic finale.
_There's a small staff of women who assist at 242, but Miki makes
it all, monitoring each dish that's served. Her
attention to detail and creative endeavors are apparent
throughout: ginger and wasabi served on an oversized
banana leaf, chopstick holders made out of rock, an herb
garden in the window, artfully-destroyed forks on the
wall and scattered stones and crystals. It's no surprise
when we discover Miki also creates permanent works of
art that are now on exhibition. It's her fusion of life
experiences that will have you not only satisfied, but
also inspired after a meal at 242.
_242 Cafe Fusion Sushi, 242 North Coast Highway, Laguna
Beach. (949) 494-2444. Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-10 p.m.