The sushi Ozekii
1437 S. Victoria Ave., E
Ventura
477-9897
$3-$69.95

I never thought I would become a sushi connoisseur. As an adolescent, sushi was never on the top of my list. Well, it didn’t really seem to be on top of anyone’s list in the ’80s and early ’90s. Only the stuck-up, snobby types, such as the Breakfast Club’s Claire Standish (played by Molly Ringwald), whose fellow Saturday schoolmates mocked her lunch choice, would dare venture to the realm of the uncooked.

I am happy to say, though, that the small morsels of fresh fish and veggies wrapped up in seaweed and rice have become one of my preferred meals. While at most sushi bars, some rolls come standard, such as the California roll and the spicy tuna roll, what makes a restaurant worth visiting over and over again is diversity in its menu. Having eaten at sushi restaurants all over the country, I feel confident in saying, I know a good sushi place when I find one. And Ozekii, with its diverse menu of appetizers, salads, rolls, noodle dishes, teriyaki bowls and soups, is definitely a top choice.

Tucked away in a modest space in the Harbor Freight/99¢ Only Store shopping center along Victoria Avenue, this great sushi bar is quite a treasure. It is contemporary and clean, with large pictures of sushi rolls hung on the wall and a shelving system holding a variety of porcelain Japanese trinkets near the front door.

While I had been to Ozekii many moons ago for a friend’s birthday party — it was quite the experience as the lights were shut off and strobe lights were turned on and all took part in celebrating her birthday — my most recent visit was simply delicious.

Taking our seats at the sushi bar, we were greeted by a server and a dish of complimentary, freshly steamed edamame. We started with the American Dream roll, a tempura-style California roll with spicy tuna and spicy mayo wrapped in seaweed and rice with a crunchy cornflake crust. I have to say it was indulgent, but worth every calorie.

Next, we ordered Rock ’n’ Roll, a cucumber roll with kaiware (daikon radish sprouts), spicy tuna, salmon and cream cheese. What a dish! Low on carbs, big on taste! Since I am doing my absolute best, being human and all, in trying to stick to a low-carb diet, this was the perfect roll for me.

While I am certain we could have called it quits after those two rolls, there were too many interesting items on the menu to throw up the white flag. We ordered the mushroom soup, consisting of a dark, warm mushroom broth with five types of mushrooms, and the Monkey Brain, an avocado split in four and filled with spicy tuna and real crab meat, then deep fried.

The soup, at $4.50, was a deal. Brought to us in a small cauldron with two small bowls, it was rich and flavorful, pushing me past the brink of satisfied into pure ecstasy. Maybe ecstasy is a little over the top, but what could possibly describe the feeling that comes after complete satisfaction?

Given my state of delirium in my food coma, I could only find a little room in my stomach for just a couple of bites of the Monkey Brain. My companion, on the other hand, found plenty of room to finish what I couldn’t. And, not to be too predictable, it was just as good as everything else we had already tried. If you like avocados, tuna and crab meat, which I am sure you do if you are reading a review on sushi, then you must try this. Better to share this one, though.

It is rich, and the creaminess of the avocado could kill your appetite in the best of ways.

Including two bowls of miso soup and one iced tea, our meal came to a total of $35. It isn’t hard to rack up a huge bill eating sushi, so the total came as somewhat of a surprise. My companion and I have seen our tab get up to $80 and we still weren’t full. Along with an orange cut into the shape of a panda bear, the bill was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Though there was a little confusion as to who should order what from whom, the server or the chef, Ozekii is a definite must for those in search of some of the tastiest sushi in Ventura County.    

michael@vcreporter.com