Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ROC - Nana San

There are many sushi restaurants in Orange County. Fortunately, there are a significant portion of them that serves authentic preparations of sushi. If I need to have sushi elsewhere other than my go-to place Ikko, I come to Nana San. Nana San literally translates to "Seven Three" as the restaurant's next to the 73 freeway.

Ikko preseasons the majority of their sushi, the atmosphere's more intimate, and they absolutely don't served Americanized rolls. Nana San does have that saucer for soy sauce for you to dip most of their sushi in, the atmosphere's much more casual, and they have American rolls for a good portion of their clientele who aren't exposed to traditional, authentic sushi due to their fears of it being fishy. Granted, most people in the US aren't familiar with traditional sushi and etiquette (dipping into the soy sauce fish side down (I understand it's very difficult for some people who aren't used to chopsticks), not mixing the wasabi into the soy sauce as the sushi chef already added wasabi between the rice and the fish, and not rubbing chopsticks together). I do eat California rolls from time to time for its nostalgia but then quickly opt for its traditional counterpart soon after. It's like a 40 year old man smoking a joint to reminisce the days of his youth but then immediately going for a single-malt scotch... or blow as he realizes that he's too old to be getting high like a teenager. Be that as it may, I hope that the Americanized sushi serves as a transitional medium in order to get people into the joys of eating real, traditional sushi and also into sushi etiquette as well.

However aside from the rolls, Nana San serves plenty of authentic sushi and items on the menu; they do an amazing job in that regard. There are times where they serve stuff traditionally served in in Japan where at times Ikko does not offer such as bonito for the majority of the year and Shirako which is Cod Sperm Sac that Anthony Bourdain raves on "No Reservations" (by the way, it's actually very delicious as ponzu is added to it). It's also known as "Cod Milt" in order for customers to not imagine themselves as the star of a bukkake flick. But then again, the double standard is that we eat eggs which happen to be gametes of the female.

Back to Nana San. I,  of course, opted to sit at the sushi bar. Unlike Ikko where a list is provided for you to select all of your sushi at once, you tell the sushi chef what you would like one or two orders at a time and serves you them before ordering more (Yes, they do a great job in remembering what you had plus this is very common at most sushi bars in Japan).  I order a large Sapporo beer for my meal and off with the sushi experience.

I first ordered the Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) appetizer with daikon, scallions, and ponzu. I actually prefer their Ankimo prepared traditionally over Ikko's which is served with a mousse and other stuff that didn't work with it. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take a photo of it.

The first sushi I've received was European Sea Bass (Suzuki) with an acidic seaweed-like topping. It was very delicious as it was seared on the outside.

Next was Sayori (Half Beak) as I was curious after first hearing this from the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi". It tasted meaty and fishy like Mackerel.

 Next was Aji (Spanish Mackerel) topped with ginger, scallions and ponzu. One think I like about Nana San was their usage of ponzu with Aji and white fishes.

I ordered Hirame next in it's plain preparation as is. I had expected it topped with ponzu and scallions but they probably made it plain because I didn't want it with their other preparation with jalapenos. Once again, I forgot to take a photo of it.

Next was Chu-Toro (Medium Fatty Tuna). I originally requested O-Toro (very Fatty Tuna) but they only had Chu-Toro. This was really delicious that I actually prefer it here than Ikko.

Kanpachi (Amberjack) was next topped with fermented yuzu and yuzu juice where soy sauce wasn't necessary. I remembered mid way which is why there was only one piece in the photo.

Next was Katsuo (Bonito) which is unique for Nana San as they have it most of the time. It was topped with scallions, ginger and ponzu. This was very delicious.

Next was the Tai (Japanese Red Snapper) topped with Yuzu juice. This tasted very clean and refreshing.

I then ordered the Amaebi. However, I had wanted the live shrimp/prawns but they were all sold out. They did give me the non-live prawns instead. Nonetheless, it still tasted pretty fresh. I also requested to have their heads fried instead of put into a miso soup.

Next came Uni (Sea Urchin Roe). It came in a Gunkan (battleship roll - seaweed wrapped horizontally) preparation. This of course was good but I felt it was watery in texture. I prefer Ikko's Uni much more.

My final sushi was Ikura (Salmon Roe). It was standard with me having to dip it in soy sauce.

Overall, my meal at Nana San was good. The restaurant gets crowded over Fridays and Saturdays. They're closed on Sundays. The following is their Yelp link with their address, phone number and hours: http://www.yelp.com/biz/nana-san-newport-beach. If you want a casual place to dine while enjoying authentic preparations of sushi, or if you want to have also the option of rolls as well, especially for a dining companion who's not yet comfortable with sushi; head over to Nana San!

Nana San on Urbanspoon

Marché Moderne

Marché Moderne is one of the popular French restaurants in Orange County. It's located in the Penthouse (3F) of South Coast Mall with all the glitz and glam of the posh and luxurious shops such as Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton. However, if you're used to having some of the Modern French restaurants say in Napa/Sonoma County, Las Vegas or New York; unfortunately the food served at Marche Moderne is no where near the refined caliber of those restaurants although the dining area's elegant and upscale with modern tones of black, beige and ivory that's certainly not tacky. Be that as it may, it's one of the better French restaurants in Orange County.

I will say that the service is amazing at Marché Moderne. Our waitress (who I happened to know personally from college :)), in addition to the rest of the waitstaff, was very kind, attentive, and knowledgeable of the menu.

I first started out with a Sapphire Martini made with a Lemon Twist as that tends to be my starter drink at nice places such as Marché Moderne with a full bar. They have appetizers and small plates to start out with. The difference between the appetizers and small plates is that even though they are similar by quantity, the food of the appetizer consists more of something being given for a first or second course whereas a small plate would be like a smaller main course. As recalling from Anthony Bourdain saying that Bone Marrow spread on toast would like to be his last meal ever plus with me never trying it before, I've ordered the Bone Marrow appetizer for the first time as it would come off to me as quite an adventurous activity. In addition, I ordered the Alaskan King Crab with butter, citrus, and a cillantro and radish salad topped with a vinaigrette. I will say that the appetizers we've had were pretty good.

The Alaskan King Crab was delicious, full of flavor especially with the citrus and butter complementing the crab. It was also refreshing to have the cillantro and radish salad to cleanse the palate as well.

I moved onward to the Bone Marrow. With the recent ban on the sale of foie gras served from restaurants in California (You can still buy foie gras from online stores such as D'artagnan outside of California and consume it prepared at your own home (not selling) for sure) I was devestated of how Marché Moderne could not sell foie gras anymore. It was because of that on why I had opted to try Bone Marrow as Foie Gras tends to be my go-to appetizer at French restaurants. I'm so glad that I did because when I first put the Bone Marrow on top of toast in my mouth, I felt that the bone marrow had very similar textures, richness, flavors as foie gras. The bone marrow was amazing so that it was, dare I say, divine as it was my first experience trying it. It came with some grilled Asparagus spears in order to balance out the richness on the palate without acidity.

In addition to ordering their special Mojito which was delicious and refreshing made with a vanilla bean rum (sorry, I forgot what else they added exactly as it seemed like a berry syrup was added). Our main dishes had arrived. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in my main course. I ordered the Long Island Duck Breast with stuffed figs and a Cassoulet of Fava Beans and my dining companion got the Coq au Vin with pasta on the side. I hate giving negative comments and this was my only negative experience at the restaurant but I personally felt that my duck breast was very dry and the sauce was bland. The Cassoulet of Fava beans had a bit more flavor but was still bland nonetheless.  I would also like to add that the last time I came to Marché Moderne, I ordered the Short Ribs and it was actually not bad as it seemed like one of their signature mains.

However, my dining companion had said her Coq au Vin was very delicious.

I concluded my meal with a Camus VSOP Cognac which was a great way to end the meal. Overall, although they have some pretty good appetizers and cocktails, I just couldn't get over the fact that their main dishes were not as good as their appetizers. However, I do see myself in the future coming back for a return visit hoping for a much needed improvement of their main courses.

Marche Moderne on Urbanspoon