Above; besides their giant, orange, neon sign is what you first notice about Ikko as they mean business in terms of authenticity of their Edo-Mae Sushi. Ikko doesn't serve any rolls such as a California Roll or a Spicy Tuna Roll. They've put that on their chalkboard on the front of the restaurant where they would used to post specials of imported fish. But seriously, they've had customers wanting and expecting these Americanized rolls: as soon as they would notice that they wern't on the menu, they would just flat out leave the restaurant. This is to save both the restaurant and those kinds of customers from dealing with the hassle.
Ikko is my favorite sushi restaurant in Orange County, CA. This post is a followup from my previous review. After seeing "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (Youtube Trailer Link) many, many times; it's inevitable that I would frequent Ikko as they're one of the only places serving pre-seasoned, Edo-mae sushi in Southern California, let alone Orange County. Living with new roomates and taking them to Ikko, I once again continue this infamous cycle of getting new people to try this hidden gem. Although it was their first time trying sushi of this style, they were very willing and adventurous of trying cuisines outside of their norm; any person with a passion towards food is greatful to be around people like them. An amazing thing about Ikko, compared to the other sushi restaurants, is that they have a very extensive list of authentic sake from Japan (Nihon-shu is what the Japanese call it as Sake actually is a general term for alcohol such as Nihon-shu and plum wine). From what I can remember, they carry brands such as: Otokoyama, Kubota (be sure to try Kubota Manju as that's like the equivalent to Opus One), Kamatsuru, Kikkusui, Taisetsu.
I had them start off with the dish that always hooks people I bring to the restaurant: the citrus vinaigrette carpaccio. The fish used this time was Hata (Grouper). With the acidity from the vinaigrette along with its refreshing tones and the sea salt, Yuzu Kosho (fermented yuzu), & peppercorn for the bite, this dish tasted amazing with its clean and refreshing flavors.
The next dish that came out was Chu-Toro (Medium Fatty Tuna) Sashimi. Ikko's beautiful presentation of their sashimi sets the bar against other sushi restaurants. As it's from the belly of the tuna but it being medium fatty versus its much fattier O-Toro counterpart, the Chu-Toro is buttery in flavor while carrying out the flavors of the tuna that you would find in Akami (lean tuna) sushi/sashimi. However, I do wish that Ikko would carry O-Toro as well. Be that as it may, this was my dining companions' favorite of the evening.
Onwards came the sushi segment of the meal. From left to right is the Katsuo (Bonito) topped with green onions and tare (pronounced "Ta-re", simmered seasoned soy sauce), Hotate (Scallop) topped with sea salt and yuzu kosho, and Okoze (Stingfish) with sea salt. The Katsuo tasted amazing as the tare complemented with the flavors of the fish. In addition, the Hotate and Okoze were delicous as well as the salt and the yuzu kosho on the Hotate brought out their clean flavors.
Next came Shiro Maguro (Albacore) and Akami (Lean Tuna). The Shiro Maguro was topped with green onion, tare, ginger, and a fried garlic chip. The toppings on the sushi is what brought out the albacore's flavors making it very delicious and having a refreshing aftertaste. On the otherhand, the Akami was lightly brushed with Tare. The tare complemented the complex flavors of the lean tuna thus bringing out its subtlety.
The roe sushi served "gunkan" style were next. On the left is Masago (Smelt Roe) and the right is Ikura (Salmon roe). Tare was added on top of the Masago giving it depth in flavor. The Ikura was of course very delicious as well. Both of these gunkan roe sushi tasted amazing as they wern't overtly salty as the salty characteristic is inevitable not to avoid when having roe of any kind.
After enjoying the Ikura and Masago, out came the pinnacle of the sushi segment: Uni and Chu-toro. The Uni at Ikko is divine as they use the best Grade A Uni off of the Santa Barbara Coast that's usually sent to Japan and for some restaurants here in the US. It certainly is the best Uni I've had ever, even compared to the amazing Hokkaido Uni I've had in Japan although I still have yet to try it at the high end sushi restaurants in Tokyo; the Santa Barbara Uni tends to be more bolder in flavor and larger in size whereas the Hokkaido Uni is smaller in size and much creamier in texture and flavor. Their Uni along with its Nigiri (fish on top of rice) preparation definitely makes Ikko stand out against the rest! Next to the Uni was beautiful, luxurious Chu-Toro as this sushi piece was more marbled compared to the sashimi. Usually at Ikko, they would sear the Toro with a blowtorch in order to carmelize the fat but I usually prefer it unseared. Both sushis were topped with tare. The flavor and texture of the Uni was certainly heavenly as it was served extremely fresh. In addition, the fat in the Chu-Toro along with the tare complementing it made the sushi elegant in flavor. As my dining companions were in the spirit of adventure to try Uni, they've actually enjoyed it as Uni tends to be more of an acquired taste. Although they wern't used to its texture, the freshness and its extreme high quality made them enjoy it for the first time. I'd imagine if they were to try Uni at another place where they didn't serve this quality of sushi, let alone Uni, they probably wouldn't have liked it at all.
The last piece of sushi for the night was the Iberico Ham sushi. It's was crosshatched with a knife, blowtorched to carmelize its fats, and then topped off with a garlic chip. This sushi totally worked as it's like eating Korean barbeque with rice: the unique combination of meat and carbs chewed up together creating sensations of Umami on one's tongue and releasing endorphins into the brain.
After the amazing sushi, it came to the end of the meal - dessert. I apologize for the terrible picture quality and angles for the following pics; It probably was from the buzz of the great sake we've all enjoyed. I've orded the Rose Ice Cream topped with Rose Petal Tempura and Rose Sugar. My dining companions split amongst themselve a Cinnamon Apple Dessert with Vanilla Ice Cream. I'd imagine their dessert tasted great but mine's was certainly very delicious. The Rose Ice Cream was loaded with flavor yet it was light and importantly not overly sweet which is why I like the desserts at Ikko as I'm not really a dessert guy whereas I would much rather end the meal with Cognac or Single-Malt Scotch. The not too oily batter from the Tempura gave the refreshing ice cream contrast which made it even more delicious.