You know when you’ve been going to a restaurant for close to ten years, it’s good.
That is what Sushi Sho Japanese Restaurant is for so many people in Orange County. It’s the definition of good sushi. It goes far beyond having quality fish (which they do). It’s the experience, and the people.
The two owners, Shiro and Nipon, truly innovate with what they make. Never order off the menu and always sit at the bar. Talk to the chefs. Let them know what you like, or don’t like.
These little gems are known as Salmon Wraps. Trust me, get two orders per person. No rice, simple but oh so tasty.
The Sho Special Handroll is a staple to end your meal with. Sweet and savory… It’s like desert. I like to get it on soy paper. The roll at the top of the page and below are completely custom. They don’t have names and they’ll probably never make the same thing twice… It really is an experience.
I’ll leave you with sushi nachos… Yes that’s right.
Sushi Sho Japanese Restaurant
2263 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA
Hours: M-F 11:00a – 2:30p then 5:00p – 9:00p. Saturday 5:00p – 10:00p. Sunday 4.30p – 9:00p
There is a small spot tucked in the back of The Camp in Costa Mesa called Ecco Pizzeria & Bar. It has received some fairly good press, specifically when it fist opened. You can see a collection on their site. Ecco is one of my family and friends favorite local joints. It’s small, usually don’t need a reservation and the food is pretty consistent. Their pizza’s are decent, love a few of their combinations, specifically their Diavola and Guanciale. However over the past few years I feel like their service has suffered a bit. They love to swoop in and try to clear your plates as quickly as possible… even if you just put your fork down to pause. Not sure why they feel the need to churn people so quickly, I haven’t ever seen a wait.
So took Mom there for Mother’s Day, we’ve gone many times and while it doesn’t inspire the same wow that it once did it still is a solid meal. Any place that has no fee for the first cork is awesome (it’s only $10 for the second).
I was going straight seafood and she was leaning that way but opted for pasta.
We both had salads which I didn’t take a picture of. She had a newer salad that was mixed greens, strawberries, pistachios, goat cheese and a vinaigrette. I had the Arugula with artichoke hearts, sweet onions, grape tomatoes, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette. Both were tasty and they make big salads here. I’m also a fan of their chopped salad (but you have to make a terrible chop for me to not like it).
From there she ordered the Orecchiette salsiccia with swiss chard, crimini mushrooms, basil and olive oil which I’ve had before and it’s pretty good. It has sausage (salsiccia) and that makes it pretty stellar.
Which has a sampling for seafood: salmon, a white fish (varies), shrimp and scallops. Not bad.
Their Marinated olives with olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and grilled ciabatta appetizer is pretty good and when they have them I highly recommend their arancini appetizer when it makes an appearance on their menu. Without a doubt, Zeppole for dessert, or you can roll with a simple Affogato if the donuts are too heavy.
Overall Ecco is a good OC restaurant (and we all know the OC is void of decent food options). Until Frank’s branches out or Carmelini ventures to LA it comes through pretty regularly. Wish the management would talk to their service crew about not rushing people, it’s pretty lame when there is food still on your plate and they’re salivating to clear the table.
Ecco Pizzeria & Bar
2937 Bristol St A103, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 444-3226 – www.eccopizza.com
Hours: Wednesday hours 11:00 am–2:30 pm, 5:00 pm–10:00 pm
If you follow the food scene, read anything in local publications that isn’t political you’ve probably heard of the Playground DTSA in downtown Santa Ana. It’s getting rave reviews across the board: Zagat, OpenTable, Yelp etc.
So going into it I had very high hopes… which of course means it won’t live up to those hopes. Just to fast forward I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t terrible, not even close. But if I’m driving to Santa Ana I’m going to Lola Gaspar around the corner.
When I think of downtown Santa Ana, the art district specifically, there is a certain vibe I come to expect. The Playground isn’t it. It’s an upscale Wahoo’s meets the Counter burger joint. It looks like the inside was thrown together in a weekend and the lights are cranked up way too high. When we arrived for our reservation at the Playground around 8.35p there were plenty of tables open (Friday night). When I made the reservations it was a big deal to get something at 8.30p because they were so full according to the person that helped me.
Overall the wait staff was great. They prop a door leading to the patio open and it was a little cold for one of our party members. Just beware. Most of their seating is communal tables, which are fine in theory but the execution here lacked.
I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite go to bottles on the menu, we ordered two.
The couple I was eating with is pescatarian so we immediately started ordering the vegetable and fish options. Turns out they were out of most of the fish items on the menu (8.45p on a Friday night!?!). One thing that the Playground knocks out of the park is their Brussel Sprouts. We ordered two of these as well. It’s actually a Vegan friendly dish described on the menu as served with a Mustard Vinaigrette and Baby Potatoes. They appeared fried and pan seared. My dinning mates insisted they were roasted and pan seared. Who knows… they were bananas though.
A few other items we ordered were the muscles, pan roasted wild mushrooms, spicy cauliflower and french fries. After eating the muscles at The Tasting Kitchen, the Playground was doomed. Nothing will hold up to TTK. The mushrooms were pretty good, and while I LOVE runny egg on just about anything it didn’t really add to the dish and was undercooked. The cauliflower was totally average at best and the fries we pretty bad, pictured below.
Overall it wasn’t a terrible meal and I have a feeling they excel at their meat dishes. So in all fairness I should go back with my carnivorous friends and try the other half of the menu. That said, the Playground didn’t inspire.
220 East 4th Street #102
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 560-4444 playgrounddtsa.com
The ever hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice is home to The Tasting Kitchen. Lets face it, this area is the cool kid spot. However this spot lives up to its name. Fantastic open air layout. Great wait staff and come on… Any place that bumps Oukast, Kanye and Jay-Z at primetime on a Saturday is good in my book.
Our waitress gave amazing recommendations. Perfect salad, the muscles were ridic. Honestly some of the best either of us have had.
For our meals I had the hanger steak and she had the whole fish prep of the branzino. You know a good steak when it literally falls apart in your mouth like chewing butter. A toothless person could have gum-chewed this steak is was so tender and perfect.
Her branzino was buttery and rich. Pretty much perfect as well. The whole fish prep was nice and they will filet it for you table side.
We split the tiramisu for dessert. And frankly I’ve never really had a tiramisu I’ve enjoyed. I can’t say I loved this one but honestly I took more than three bites so it really wasn’t terrible. What liked about it was the delicate balance between the espresso and the sweet.
Best meal I’ve had in Southern California since Osteria Mozza. Highly recommended.