Sushi Holic's flights of fancy are deliciously over the top
By Nancy Shaffer 06/12/2014
669 W. Channel Islands Blvd.
The freshest fish, crispest vegetables and most well-formed rolls go a long way toward making any sushi restaurant a winner. Not every offering has to rise to great creative heights — indeed, simple yet expertly crafted Japanese food can be a sublime experience. Nevertheless, when a chef chooses to go the artful route, it can be a fun experience, provided he or she is up to the task. Sushi Holic in Port Hueneme boldly strides on the wild side — and for the most part, it walks the walk.
The décor, best described as sushi chic, is unextraordinary: ebony wood chairs and tables, dark hardwood floors and bamboo mats to block out the sun. It’s a cool and comfortable place to enjoy a meal. This dark, serene touch of Zen is a welcome respite from the busy Mandalay Village Marketplace.
Wandering into Sushi Holic on a Wednesday night, we were its sole customers. I’ve found that slow nights can lead to lackadaisical service, but happily this was not the case here. The server was friendly, attentive but not hovering, quickly seating us and taking our drink orders right away. The extensive menu includes descriptions and pictures of the rolls, but some of the more unusual appetizers left me scratching my head. Not a problem, as the sushi chefs (two were working the bar) were happy to explain the Monkey Ball (ground meat and mushroom deep fried and topped with spicy sauce and roe), Asparagus in Kimono (battered and fried with a special sauce) and Yummy Crunchy (fried rice paper, spicy tuna and a smattering of flavorful sauces) in detail. That Yummy Crunchy is quite the crowd pleaser as it turns out, providing a pleasing contrast between the crispy fried bits and the tender (almost mushy) fish bits. The server told us it was a customer favorite; we joined those ranks.
Seaweed salad has become something of a litmus test for me; if it’s good, I’m optimistic about everything else. Sushi Holic met my standard. Fresh, bright green, a hint of rubbery texture, with the right balance of sweet and vinegar flavors — exactly what wakame should be. Next time I’ll be ordering my own; I resented having to share.
We’d brought our two children (8 and 5 years old) so I was pleased to see plenty of Japanese standards on the menu. We ordered beef teriyaki, which came with tempura and rice, and I was pleasantly surprised. The beef may have been a bit oversauced, but was delicious and much appreciated by the kids. The tempura had panko bits that I wasn’t expecting (I’m more accustomed to the traditional egg batter) but we devoured every bite, unorthodox but damn good. Udon, yakisoba and katsu are also available; this is a great spot even for sushi skeptics. Prices are reasonable: $10-$15 for special rolls, appetizers around $10, most combos $15 or under.
The main attraction, of course, is the sushi itself. My expectations for sashimi are basic: If the fish is fresh, you can’t go wrong. And the yellowtail, salmon and ahi were just that — superfresh, totally delicious. We didn’t go overboard here, but I’m looking forward to trying the toro and mackerel next.
The rolls are where the chef shows his prowess … and where things get a little weird. The menu is several pages long, and with so many ingredients mixed up in so many different combinations it can be a bit overwhelming. Not every roll is served as a cut-up log, either; Sushi Holic really does treat the plate as a canvas. Baked, fried, broiled, raw, cream cheese, different chills and vegetables — they all get their moments in the sun. We tried the 007 from the specials board: shrimp tempura, five types of fish, avocado, asparagus and a few other things I can’t remember — this roll had a lot going on. To top it all off: crispy fried onions, sweet eel sauce and a spicy mayonnaise. The Ninja and Samurai are like a two-for-one special: rolls with shrimp tempura, crab, avocado and asparagus are topped with salmon on one side, yellowtail on the other — every bite irresistible. The relatively simple CTHD, filled with spicy tuna and topped with avocado and eel, was a refreshing touch of simplicity, and also delicious. Spice lovers should give the Red Blossom a try. Rolls are generously sized; so many options to try, so little room in the belly. Plenty to look forward to next time.
Purists will probably find the baroque menu excessive and exhausting. I love me some flamboyant sushi, and even I was a bit daunted. But the flavors and quality are indisputable. Do try this strip-mall treasure, with a note of caution: The crazy can be addictive.