Sushi Planet
2001 Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo
383-7666
www.sushiplanet.net
$1-$35.95

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon when we were driving around Old Towne Camarillo and came across Sushi Planet.

Though I had seen it several times before, coming and going from the valley, the time had finally come to give it a shot. With two other locations, in Moorpark — its flagship restaurant — and Woodland Hills, this particular restaurant, now two years old, sits perched above the 101 and is nestled smack dab in the middle of Old Towne.

When we walked inside, several golden kitties greeted us at the door, mechanically and methodically waving their metallic paws at us as they sat atop the counter. To the left of us was a quiet little nook for guests, and to the right, the restaurant opened up to a half dozen tables and sushi bar with a black granite countertop and comfy bar stools.

The restaurant was what I would consider to be mainstream, on the hip and trendy side, with pop music filling the air.

We opted for the sushi bar and a server promptly asked us for our drink orders — two Sapporos, please!

Along with our menus, we were given the standard checklist to order sushi. Both my companion and I were parched and famished, ready to scarf down a couple of hearty meals. To our surprise, the regular sushi and rolls were half price — nearly 30 items. Spicy tuna and California rolls for no more than $3.50 each were great options. Right away, we ordered three discounted items — the Mexican roll, a crab mixture wrapped in seaweed and rice, topped with slices of jalapeño and a dab of hot sauce; the salmon skin roll, wrapped in seaweed and rice with a slice of cucumber; and the spicy tuna roll, wrapped as the others with a slice of cucumber.

As our first order was being prepared, we wrestled over which one of the numerous fancier rolls we would order next — the menu was quite extensive. Our final selection: the magnum roll, crab steak and gobo rolled in rice and seaweed then fried tempura-style and topped with a crab mixture with eel and sesame goma sauce; and a special salmon roll, the standard rice and seaweed wrap filled with crab and avocado and topped with cooked salmon and scallions. We also had the sushi chef add some jalapeño to our salmon roll.

While we waited patiently but very hungrily, we were surprised that a complimentary appetizer wasn’t offered. Don’t get me wrong, 99 percent of all restaurants never give away food, but in our experience, most sushi restaurants offer free edamame or miso soup. But with so many discounted rolls, I guess we couldn’t complain. Instead, we ordered a couple of bowls of miso, which came with scallions and small cubes of tofu. Just enough food to warm our bellies and prepare us for the onslaught of rolls.

First came the bite-sized Mexican, salmon skin and spicy tuna rolls, all of which came neatly prepared. The Mexican roll, though good enough, failed the heat test. The raw slices of jalapeño and dab of hot sauce did little to raise the temperature. But with sushi, it’s really only important that you want to eat another bite. And we did. The salmon skin was perfectly crunchy with a smoky aftertaste, and the spicy tuna roll was pretty standard, delivering a mild heat in its tasty, minced ahi tuna mixture. The best part — three rolls for around $10.

As we waited for our premium rolls, we chatted with the friendly sushi chef. I asked him about the various ingredients in our rolls, but his accent was very thick. As he came to realize I was having a hard time understanding him, he instead gave me a sample of one of the ingredients — gobo — to try, for which we gave him a few extra brownie points. Since I had never had gobo, a long slender burdock root, outside a sushi roll before, it was nice to know and taste what it was — similar in appearance to a carrot, but a bit stringy and tart.

The magnum roll was up next. Crab and more crab, fried and served with two sauces, was what I would consider indulgent — the sweet eel sauce serving as the icing on the proverbial sushi cake. The final culprit was the special salmon roll. Familiar in texture and flavor to that of a California roll, but the cooked salmon on top took it to a different level, as if having it cooked made it more like a dinner meal than just another roll. The salmon was flaky and moist as the roll soaked up its rich buttery juices.

The problem with sushi is the same as the problem with potato chips or chocolates — each bite is filled with just enough flavor that you want to continue to tantalize your taste buds. And this was the only frustrating part of the meal. I couldn’t tell if I was still hungry or just wanted to keep trying more rolls. But after five rolls, we decided that was enough.

For a fun atmosphere and a big variety of inexpensive rolls as well as specialty rolls, you can’t miss Sushi Planet.    

michael@vcreporter.com