IGT Photo by: Heber Pelayo Let the good times roll: I Love Sushi has something for everyone.

What's not to love at I Love Sushi?

Let the good times roll

By Allison Costa 06/28/2012

I Love Sushi
5722 Telephone Road, #C-7
$2.50 - $16.90

You probably think you know everything you need to know about etiquette. Maybe you know how to set a proper table or how to signal you are finished with your meal (silverware placed on plate at the 3 o’clock position). But do you know the proper etiquette when it comes to eating sushi?

Haven’t we all been there — struggling with that piece of sushi that’s just a little too big to be held together by those two skinny wooden sticks, wondering if everyone in the restaurant is staring at your foibles?

Before our most recent night out for sushi, I did a little digging on sushi etiquette and was surprised at some of what I found.

I learned that chopsticks or fingers are appropriate for eating most sushi. I learned that it can be insulting if you rub your chopsticks together to get rid of those supposed splinters, and a bit of a faux pas if you mix wasabi into your soy sauce (in theory, the chef has perfectly seasoned your sushi with wasabi already).

Never dip the rice (or bottom) of your nigiri (that’s the piece of raw fish laid over rice) directly into the soy sauce — you are trying to season the fish on top, which you can do by turning the nigiri over and dipping it in. I was also happy for clarification regarding ordering when seated at the bar. All sushi items should be ordered through the sushi chef, but all others, like beverages and appetizers, should be ordered through your server.

After my research was done, I was ready to debut my new sushi etiquette at I Love Sushi on Telephone Road in Ventura. It was a Friday night and the restaurant was bustling and alive with chatter. We took two seats at the sushi bar, giving us a perfect vantage point for watching the sushi chefs at work.

We started with an order of the soft shell crab and the monkey ball, both from the list of appetizers (we made sure to order those through our server). The delicate crab was bathed in a crisp tempura batter, both offering just the right amount of bite. The batter was salty and glistening, and well-balanced by the sweet citrus-based ponzu dipping sauce accompanying it. If you’re wondering what a monkey ball is, it consists of a mushroom rolled with a mix of crab and tuna into a ball, dipped in tempura batter and then fried. They are served four to an order (cut in half to reveal the delightful insides) and finished with a drizzle of sweet sauce, again the perfect flavor complement.

Of the sushi rolls, we selected one from the low-carb menu, another from the list of baked rolls and a third from the list of tempura rolls. The baked dynamite roll is a California roll that is sliced and then topped with crab and scallops, and finished with a mayonnaise-based sauce. The whole thing is rich, dark and decadent and dominated by the sweet caramelization that comes from that lovely waltz through a hot oven.

For those looking for something lighter, there are a few low-carb rolls at I Love Sushi. From these, we selected the Channel Islands roll — filled with tiger shrimp, crab, avocado and greens and wrapped in crisp cucumber.  It was crisp and refreshing, yet still substantial despite the omission of the rice. I was glad I brushed up on my etiquette for this one because the pieces were a bit too slippery to grasp with chopsticks.

Of the tempura rolls, we chose the deep-fried Sexy Tempura roll, finding it just as feisty as its name. It was filled with spicy tuna, eel, crab and avocado before being battered and deep fried. It was finished with a drizzle of sweet eel sauce. In the past, I may have dipped these into my dish of soy sauce, yet for this meal I trusted in the sushi chefs, as they are the masters of seasoning. I found the rolls well-seasoned, and the hint of eel sauce was all they needed.

Beverage options at I Love Sushi include a variety of sake, a few wines available by the glass, and a small selection of Japanese beers. We shared an Asahi beer, light and crisp, leaving us more room to fill up on sushi.

Though I know that most likely no one was monitoring my manners closely that night, it was fun having a better handle on the do’s and don’ts of sushi eating. Maybe it was this new found confidence or the fun of sitting at the sushi bar, but on this particular night I was reminded why I love sushi. It’s about more than just the food, eating sushi is an experience.

Check out my food tasting tours at www.venturafoodtours.com where you’ll find information on our Eating Ojai Tour, gift certificates and information on upcoming special events.

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