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10 Great Japanese Restaurants In Orange County

3. Kappo Sui
kappo_sui.jpg
Jonathan Ho
While you nosh on that teriyaki bowl at Yoshinoya, your Japanese friends know better. They go to Kappo Sui--a Japanese restaurant meant for Japanese people. A list of specials is scribbled in Japanese script. Finding an English speaker in the house is a challenge. But before you begin to feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, the food arrives. The mucilaginous charms of mountain potato. The salty oiliness of broiled mackerel. Crisply fried kaki-age. Ebi korroke bursting with cream. Butterfish baked with miso. Enjoy all of these with plenty of icy Sapporo or Kirin, then plan to spend about $50 for you and your Scarlett Johansson.

20070 Santa Ana Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 429-0141.

2. Cafe Hiro
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for uni_pasta_bowl.jpg
Edwin Goei
There are as many subgenres of Japanese restaurants as there are kinds of Japanese food: izakayas, sushi bars, teppanyakis, yakinikus, ramenyas--and that's just naming a few! Then there's Café Hiro, a 10-year-old anomaly that not only defies classification, but also rises above them. The only thing you need to know is that chef/owner Hiro Ohiwa trained in France and Italy and worked a stint at LA's Matsuhisa. Do not expect teriyaki or sushi. Do count on everything being exquisitely prepared with a light Japanese touch and a few of its ingredients. His risotto is stirred to silk. His spaghetti has sea-urchin roe worked into the sauce. For dessert, he does a green-tea blancmange that possesses an unexpected depth and complexity. Still confused as to how to classify this place? Mull it over while staring at the big painting of Jimi Hendrix that dominates one wall. Call us when you figure it out.

10509 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 527-6090.

1. Honda Ya
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Edwin Goei
Slip off your shoes and sit cross-legged in the tatami room for that authentic Richard Chamberlain-in-Shogun experience, even if your legs lose circulation before the food arrives. And then order like you've never seen a teriyaki bowl before. The list is long and illustrious. Just about everything Honda Ya grills, steams, stir-fries, deep-fries and stews is a buffer for the ample amount of Japanese ales and sakes you'll throw back with the abandon of a salaryman after a hard day. Yakitori is the specialty of the house (as well as its equally excellent sister restaurant Kappo Honda of Fountain Valley), a subset of the kushiyaki that threads onto wooden skewers every part of the chicken, from neck to tail. Gizzards squeak like edible plastic; dark meat is paired with scallions. All are flipped ever-so-carefully just slightly above white-hot coals called bincho tan, a premium fuel that that imprints on the morsels a smoky carbon sweetness.

556 El Camino Real, Tustin, (714) 832-0081.

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Location Info

Kappo Hana

25260 La Paz Road, Mission Viejo, CA

Category: Restaurant

Kappo Sui Restaurant

20070 Santa Ana Ave., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Cafe Hiro

10509 Valley View St., Cypress, CA

Category: Restaurant

Izakaya Meijiya

1113 Baker St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant

556 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Fukada Restaurant

8683 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

Bistro Anju

22912 Pacific Park, Aliso Viejo, CA

Category: Restaurant

Habuya Okinawan Dining

14215 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Nana San

3601 Jamboree Rd., Newport Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Bluefin

6198 Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Coast, CA

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
27 comments
Curt Cook
Curt Cook

#6 and #1 are my goto but this list is missing some gems

Jenny Nguy
Jenny Nguy

Glad Honda Ya made to #1. Love that place!

René Bruce
René Bruce

Nah, I don't want any nuke in my food I will pass !

David Yeh
David Yeh

Spot on with your top 2, and that's all that really matters.

marina del rey sushi
marina del rey sushi

Rice is the main choice of Japoneses delicacies. It is also used to produce Benefit. This is the conventional drink of Asia. A conventional Japoneses mean includes rice and sides. The Japoneses believed that beating the rice made it more pure. They lb the rice to make rice desserts. Rice desserts are a part of every Japoneses food. Sushi is very finely cut up raw fish and hand combined therapy rice. 

Joey
Joey

How does Koi fly under the radar on this one? Best omakase in the county. You would have to shell out for Urusawa if Beverly Hills if you wanted to surpass this place.

Foodiest
Foodiest

The list is the what's what of OC Japanese food. Hm Honda Ya for its yakitori though I'm not 100% sold. Always was a bit bland to me. Doesn't have the smokiness of Shin Sen or its sister Kappo Honda. And with Shin Sens new items it's cutting a bit above the rest these days.

Kenlaysnotdead
Kenlaysnotdead

FUCK. I was working my down the list thinking WTF? Where is Honda Ya.

Well right where it belongs. Watch the schedule, when the Japanese come to Angels Stadium, the place goes BAT SHIT with Japanese baseball fans. Good times for sure.

SugeAveryLemonade
SugeAveryLemonade

I need to hit up every single one of these. Between this blog and Anthony Bourdain's show, I'm going to be eating good for a long time! 

BuggleB
BuggleB

I approve this list. :)

digkv
digkv

Edqin you still must try Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley, Japanese yakiniku at its best.  It is truly an amazing Japanese restaurant with Korean touches. Of course, now I have nearly 8 new restaurants to try that I have never heard of before.  Thanks for the list Edwin.

I got nothin'
I got nothin'

Solid List.  I'd also add Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori

JB
JB

However, I will admit the inclusion of Cafe Hiro is something to ponder, "light Japanese touch" and "green-tea" blancmange notwithstanding.  

The more I think about it, I think it does deserve to be on the list, but it is, truly, a fusion restaurant.  Am worried it might have knocked out another deserving traditional place and sent it to the NIT Tournament like Iona knocking out Oral Roberts and Drexel University. 

JB
JB

Finally!! Stick a Fork in It gets it right!!  Now this is what I'm talkin' about!!..My bags were packed and I was ready to move to Fast Food Maven!!! I even thought about reading Marla Jo Fisher's OC Deals!!!

wallbangr
wallbangr

Excellent piece, as usual, Edwin.  Thanks for demystifying a bit of what can be an intimidating cuisine for a gaijin like me.

Jay L.
Jay L.

Bistro Anju is in Laguna Niguel, ot Laguna Beach. Other than that, all looks good, real good

kottskerrynore
kottskerrynore

Do you mean Koi-San on Katella? Read the first sentence of the article above.

What--do people only look at the pictures any more?

I got nothin'
I got nothin'

 The first paragraph says they were not including yakinikus in this list of Japanese restaurants, as they want to do a future list about them.  I'm pretty sure Tsuruhashi will top the Yakiniku list.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I like Cheesy PoofsYou like Cheesy PoofsEven if we all liked Cheese PoofsThis comment would still be lame.

:-P

amyjo1
amyjo1

Edwin did the same thing to Bistro K months ago, he keeps putting our best restaurants in other towns, lol.  Your killing me Smalls!

Joey
Joey

No, I meant Koi in Seal Beach.

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