Sushi Wasabi - Tustin

14460 Newport Avenue, Suite E
Tustin, CA 92780

You would not believe that one of the best sushi places in Orange County is located in the same plaza as AutoZone, 7-11, and even a check cashing place.  But "trust me!" as Chef Katsu would say. There is nothing fancy about this place as you can see from the picture below. The real gem is inside.

Fresh quality fish is what Sushi Wasabi is all about. Sushi and traditional hand rolls.  No California rolls, no spider rolls, no rainbow rolls.

Sitting at the bar gets you omakase - which means you are entrusting the chef to serve you the best and freshest fish he has to offer.  If you want to order items off the menu, you would have to sit at the tables. After serving about 7 courses, the chef will ask if you want to continue.  He'll suggest some or you can request if he has certain items.

Albacore Sashimi
My omakase experience started off with a bang! This Canadian albacore is served chilled with ponzu and scallion. The tangy, citrus ponzu was excellent that I wished for a spoon to drink it. The albacore was most soft and tender that I could softly chew with my tongue. The fish just melted away so quickly, leaving me wanting more. (I ordered another one of these dishes at the end of my meal). By far, my favorite!

Mebachi (Bigeye Tuna)
The tuna is from Tahiti and glowed such a richness of the red color.  Absolutely fresh, soft and smooth.

Tai (Red Snapper)
The New Zealand Red Snapper is served with tobiko, scallion, and a spritz of ponzu. It had a very light, citrus and delicate taste to it. Very good.

Blue Crab Hand Roll
This is Sushi Wasabi's signature dish.  The skinny seaweed wrapped roll is filled with real crab meat and a touch of mayonnaise. Seeing another customer dip the crab hand roll into the soy sauce, I copied her move.  Wrong move. It was too salty for me. The hand roll stands on its own... (maybe just a quick dash of soy sauce if you really need it). But nonetheless, this was definitely tasty and deserves a second order!

Baked Scallop
The shell is filled with baked scallops, sauteed onions, creamy mayo and scallions, floating in soup-like warm ponzu.  Again, I wish I had a spoon to scoop it all up.

Hamachi (Yellowtail) 
The yellowtail is from Japan.  On the left, is the stomach, which is very soft and tender. To the right, is the back of the yellowtail and is quite firm, yet still has that buttery taste.

Hirame (Halibut)
I don't remember where this halibut was from, but it was very nice and had more of the ponzu. It was thinly sliced. If you look close, you can see through to the wasabi underneath.

Sake (Salmon)
The Scottish Salmon was wonderfully fresh and buttery and was embellished with some kind of flexible, sweet film and sesame seeds. It was well-balanced and I enjoyed the extra flavors to the salmon.  Another favorite.

Hotategai (Scallop)
These are fresh scallop from northern Japan. With a squeeze of the lime (not too much though), the scallops had a nice fresh, not seafood-y tasting. I usually am hesitant about eating scallops, but after trying these firm scallops, it's beginning to grow on me.

Uni (Sea Urchin) 
The uni is from Santa Barbara and had a smooth, sweet and delicate flavor.  Sushi etiquette says that sushi should be eaten fish side down, with the fish touching the tongue first to appreciate the taste. I didn't think of this as I ate my first piece because naturally the uni would probably fall off. But my husband suggested I eat it like other sushi - upside down - with the uni touching the tongue first.  Oh my, it was a totally different taste. With the first piece, I tasted only the seaweed and barely tasted the uni.  It was okay, nothing special, But upon the second piece (upside down), the taste in my mouth was predominately of the creamy uni.  Yum!

We were sitting next to one couple who got excited over us taking pictures of each dish.  They used to document the foods, especially here at Sushi Wasabi. But they stopped, after going every week for the sushi. (I'm jealous!) They commented how Sushi Wasabi was their favorite (and they mentioned that in their opinion it was better than Sasabune in LA, Honolulu, and NY).

As I was enjoying my meal, I realized it's been about 3 years since I last ate here! And I gave my husband a look and questioned him.."So...why don't we eat here more often?" Oh right, he doesn't eat seafood, but he doesn't mind watching me eat. I guess he'll be watching me eat more often...


Native Foods - Tustin

2453 Avenue (The District)
Tustin, CA 92782
Vegan Chef: Tanya Petrovna

Why is eating healthy so difficult? It's expensive, hard to find, inconvenient. So when an organic/vegan/vegetarian restaurant opened nearby, I was ecstatic! (I'm not vegetarian, but I like healthy).  This innovative Chef Tanya's mantra is "fresh and local foods using organic ingredients whenever possible." And her foods are homemade each day.   

Ensalada Azteca (9.95) - Fresh avocado, cucumber and jicama salsa atop organic quinoa, romaine and mango lime vinaigrette. Topped with currants, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro.
I've eaten here 3 times already, and all 3 times, I ordered this Ensalada Azteca (I know, unadventurous). But the salad has so many different layers of flavors and textures.  Crunchy jicama, sweet currants, smooth avocado, citrusy dressing, and other fresh ingredients make this a hearty salad that made me full and satisfied.

Portobello and Sausage Burger (9.95) - Juicy grilled portobellos, homemade Seitan sausage, pomodoro, caramelized onions, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo.  
I was a little hesitant to order a faux meat item for the first time in my life. This portobello and sausage burger was actually made of seitan, a wheat gluten. I am happy to report that the seitan was actually pretty good. It was almost as though I was eating real meat, though not quite. The flavors of the seitan, portobellos, onions, garlic, pesto, and mayo went well together.  I am not going to say this was one of the best burgers I have ever had, but pretty good considering it is a vegan burger.


Native Foods also has a rewards card and when you sign up, you get a free drink. By the way, Native Foods does not serve any soft drinks! They have some very nice refreshing lavender lemonade, watermelon fresca, and native ice tea, which are sweetened either with organic sugar or agave.  I enjoyed the lavender lemonade the most. Beer and wine are also available.

We recently attended one of Chef Tanya's tasting demo at the District where she introduced her recipes of possible new items for her menu. Throughout the whole demo, she kept emphasizing going meatless one day a week which would greatly reduce our carbon footprint... Anybody dare to try this with me?


Osteria Mamma - Los Angeles (Mid-Wilshire)

5732 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Tel: 323.284.7060
Chef: Loredana Cecchinato

Mamma and Filippo are back! I've been lucky to have dined here a dozen times already and each time is a special treat for me.  The dishes are real and authentic, made from Mamma's heart. She serves simple, yet elegantly tasteful Italian dishes that takes me back to Italy.  The pastas here are homemade and it makes a huge difference. There are just too many wonderful dishes to name here....and the specials are amazing too.

The place has a traditional European homey feel with the nostalgic photographs of Mamma and her family on the wall. I like how the restaurant's decor is simple because it helps us appreciate what really shines here:  Mamma's cooking!

Happy Cristina...and Mamma stepping out of the kitchen to greet her customers.

Here's fresh bread with daily homemade spicy marinara sauce. The selection of breads have been different each time I come here. 

Tagliere di Formaggi (15.25) - a selection of imported Italian cheeses, truffle honey and wine jelly
A nice presentation of 3 different kinds of cheeses, olives, artichokes, grape tomatoes, and arugula.  And the truffle honey and wine jelly are excellent touches to finish the goodness. I especially enjoyed the truffle honey on the cheeses. 

Burrata Felice (13.95) - Di Stefano Burrata with organic eggplant and heirloom tomatoes
Eaten all together, this taste so fresh and light. The burrata is soft, light and creamy that works wonders in your mouth with the the eggplant and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil.

Gorgonzola Salad (8.95) - baby wild arugula, caramelized walnuts, brown pear, imported gorgonzola
A very light and refreshing salad. When eaten together in one bite, you'll find it very tasty with all the different textures and flavors from the pears and walnuts and gorgonzola.


Artichoke Soup (special of the day)
Mamma is starting to do soups now which are comforting and satisfying.  The soup hits the spot on a cold day with its creaminess and flavors of the caramelized onions and artichokes.

Fried squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese (special of the day)
The cheese was surprisingly mild and went well with the lightly battered squash blossoms and zucchini. A very interesting concept. 

Bacon wrapped scallops (special of the day)
The scallops were nicely cooked and the bacon had a wonderful caramelized crisp.

Reginette della Mamma (16.25) - cream sauce, guanciale, sausage and Treviso radicchio
This dish reminds me of homecooked comfort food. The guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon) and the sausage really adds to the flavor, making it really hearty and tasty.

Linguine al Pomodoro (12.25) - linguine with fresh tomato sauce
Sometimes you're in the mood for just simple, no nonsense homemade pasta and fresh tomato sauce. Each bite is just so satisfying.

Linguine alla Cristina (12.95) - linguine with spicy tomato sauce
And this one has a bit of that spicy kick to it. Very fresh and delicious!

 Trenette Nere alla Bottarga (17.95) - black squid ink trenette, organic cherry tomatoes, shrimp and bottarga
Another special dish of Mamma's.  This whole dish represents the sea. There's plump shrimp, bottarga (which is Mediterranean cured roe) and black squid ink pasta.  The homemade pasta has a light and nice "ocean" taste to it.

Gnocchi del Boscaiolo (14.75) - cream sauce, baby green peas, ham and white mushrooms
This is my absolute favorite dish!! A heaven's delight... Seriously, it's a soft, pillowy cloud that just...melts...in your mouth.  And the cream sauce with the mushrooms, peas and ham complements each other so well. I can't even describe how good this dish is. I have also ordered gnocchi with the pink vodka sauce which I also recommend.  My mouth is watering just writing this description.

Gnocchi with artichoke cream sauce and pancetta (special of the day) 
Again, I can't reiterate enough how wonderful Mamma's gnocchi are.  The artichoke cream sauce just helps the gnocchi melt in your mouth...

Linguine with pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes (special of the day)
This pasta dish was very light and tasty with the pesto sauce and fresh tomatoes. The pasta was cooked al dente and the portions were just right also (no need for a huge sized portion when there are so many other dishes to try)

Lauriano Pizza (14.75) tomato sauce/mozzarella/parma/prosciutto/ricotta/arugula
The pizzas at Osteria Mamma are just another species.  They have the right balance of sauce, mozzarella and the other ingredients. Here, the Lauriano pizza is quite flavorful.  The prosciutto balances the arugula so well.  And the dough is light and crispy that just makes me want to eat another slice too many! 

And as for desserts, the panna cotta and tiramisu are my favorites.  The texture of the panna cota is smooth and creamy and has just the right amount of sweetness complemented by the berries and berry sauce.  I'm not a tiramisu person at all, but when I took my first bite of the tiramisu, I couldn't get enough of it.  It was fluffy and not heavy or too sweet. 

I don't think I can ever get tired of Mamma's food.  The flavorings of each dish are wonderfully put together. Each time I eat here, I feel like it's a new experience.  The pastas and pizzas are just mouth watering.  And the people running this restaurant are friendly and heartwarming.  I definitely walk out of here with a big smile and hoping to come back soon.