Sushi Fresh Ventura
Also known as Sushi & Grill
5920 Telegraph Road
$1.50 – $42.99

If there is any indication of a good restaurant, it is that if something similar can be found closer to home and people opt for a restaurant all the way across town, then you have found a keeper. That’s what I experienced when I reviewed Sushi Fresh Ventura.

It’s a quaint little place, nestled in the Vons shopping mall at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Telegraph Road. The décor is very clean and simple — plenty of booths, a flat-screen TV tuned to whatever popular sports event is going on, the standard sushi bar and just a few cultural items. Not so lured in with the ambience, but shortly after we sat down, I was particularly surprised to see my Pierpont neighbors had taken the booth beside us. If they deemed it worthy to pass up a handful of sushi bars closer to us, then the place must be good. And my assumption was correct.

While we showed up during happy hour, the only discount was half-off drinks. We ordered a couple of Sapporos ($2.15 each) and a glass of chardonnay ($4.40) and started with bowls of miso and edamame — both of which we paid for as neither comes free as they do in some sushi restaurants. They were the standard dishes — miso was warming and went down easy and the edamame came sprinkled with salt. We also ordered salmon eggs, which are always fun, with a burst of salty, fishy juice to jump-start out taste buds.

Typically in many sushi restaurants, the menu always seems a bit limited, with only the regular rolls, like Philadelphia and dynamite rolls. But Sushi Fresh Ventura offered some unique rolls that we couldn’t resist. First up, the crazy roll and the tropical roll.

The crazy roll came with a spicy, crunchy crab mixture neatly rolled with seared albacore and avocado and splashed with a tart vinaigrette. To say the least, the crazy roll was indulgent. It had the perfect tastes and textures — the albacore was anything but fishy and had a smooth texture, the avocado was ripe to perfection, and the crab mixture and the vinaigrette accentuated each other. It was rather difficult to share but it was also tough not to leave a piece for my companions since the flavor combination was such a good blend.

The tropical roll also surprised us as it is rare to see fruit in sushi dishes — it came rolled with mango and white tuna, sprinkled with sesame seeds, topped with salmon and an olive-oil, citrus vinaigrette. Again, Sushi Fresh Ventura nailed it with the crunchy, tangy mango, the melt-in-your-mouth thick slices of fresh white tuna and salmon; and the vinaigrette, again, just moved that roll into a whole new world for my taste buds. I’m no fish expert, but that was some of the best-tasting tuna and salmon I’ve had in a while.

Though we were stuffed, we decided to push ourselves over the edge and ordered yet another creative and unique roll — the rocket roll. It is a lovely dish, Cajun shrimp in a spicy tuna mixture rolled with bright, dark-pink ahi tuna and avocado, splashed with a tangy vinaigrette (that must the key to making these rolls so tasty), formed in a circle with a mound of fried onions — no batter, just onions. I really hate to sound so fluffy about these rolls, but again, pretty delicious dish with so many different flavors, textures.

My only complaint about this place — well, I really don’t have one. Perhaps the service was a bit slow, but the servers were friendly and the food was just top-notch so that it didn’t really matter how fast the food got to our table. The place does get swinging around 7 p.m., even on a typically slow Wednesday night in Ventura, so be sure to get a booth early. My only wish — open a Sushi Fresh Ventura in Pierpont.