No. 12: Blowtorch-Seared Mackerel At Izakaya Ku


The menu said the mackerel would be seared tableside; but I didn't expect the hand-held flamethrower. I admit it:I was nervous. I inched away in my seat a little when the waiter lit it and the thing whooshed like an acetylene torch. We were sitting in an all-wooden booth shrouded with noren, the traditional Japanese curtain made of loose fabric, and I imagined the whole thing becoming kindling, the entire restaurant coming down in heap of ash. But in the middle of devising an escape plan, I became mesmerized.

The blue flame licked the slab as tenderly as a lover's tongue, the oily skin sputtering and hissing. Fine spatters of grease flew like sparks, and just as the smoke began to rise, the waiter was done. In the end, I was worried for nothing. Our mackerel was the only thing that suffered fourth degree burns and was made delicious by it.


He pushed the still-fuming plate toward us and advised a dip in soy sauce was all it needed. I noted how delicate the fish was, how surgical the cuts were so that each piece came loose from the whole, as if I were taking apart an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. In the middle of each morsel was a shallow slit in which I could tuck in a dab of mustard. The welding torch may well have burned itself a permanent spot in our retinas, but so did this dish in our memories.

The list so far:

13. Any Octopus Dish At Broadway By Amar Santana
14. Tri-Tip Benedict at Rocq Cafe
15. Porkabello At Bacon-A-Fair
16. Soba and Curry Combo Special from Miyabi Tei
17. Sashimi sandwich at North Shore Poke Company
18. Kotlety i Zrazy at Moscow Deli
19. Meyer Lemon and Honey Duck Wings at St. Roy Chef's Pub at VINE
20. The Karma Burger at Mick's Karma Bar
21. Breakfast Hash and Eggs Waffle at Bruxie
22. Fried Bologna Slider at The Burnt Truck
23. Chowder Fries at Slapfish
24. Nemesis at The Viking Truck
25. Tuna Empanada at Puerto Madero
26. Suckling Pig Dinner at Haven Gastropub
27. Any Fried Spuds at Umami Burger
28. Lunch at Playground
29: Calamari at Three Seventy Common
30. Four-Course $7 Lunch Special at Olé Spain Delishop
31. Starving Artist Sandwich With the Fixins' at the Crosby
32: Mac 'n' Cheese at Chapter One: The Modern Local
33: Chocolate Dome Cake at AnQi
34. Neff Ranch Orange Juice from That Guy at the Saturday Irvine Farmer's Market
35. Carlsbad Aquafarm Oysters at Slapfish
36. Hu Tieu at Pho Crystal Noodle House
37. Chocolate Soufflé at Bistro Bleu 
38. "15-Minute Wings" at Simmzy's
39. Hot Pots at Boiling Point 
40. California Burrito at Taco Pronto 
41. Kohryu Ramen at Kohryu Ramen
42. Meyer Lemon Curd at Irvine's Lucca Cafe
43. Cola Braised Pork at Haven Gastropub
44. Shao Shan Tsai at 101 Noodle Express
45. Any Sandwich from Paninoteca Maggio
46. Any Vegetable Platter at Tana Ethiopian
47. Bun Cha Ca Thang Long at Vien Dong
48. Comida Corrida at Lindo Michoacán #2
49. Gordita de Tinga at El Rincón Chilango
50. Lobster Waffle at Bruxië
51. The Scone at Coffee, Tea and Tulips
52. Huarache de Carnitas at El Paraiso
53. Chivito at Puerto Madero
54. Brizio Combo at Brizio Chicago Style Pan Pizza
55. French Toast at Starling Diner
56. The $7 Three-Item Combo Plates at Yu's Garden
57. Gudeg at Indo Ranch
58. Salted Caramel Gelato at N'Ice Cream
59. Live Amaebi at Sushi Imari
60. Any Burrito from Dos Chinos
61. Olive Tree's Iftar
62. Sonoran Dog at Rubalcava's
63. Sizzling Hiramasa Sashimi at The Catch
64. Yakisoba Dog from Dogzilla
65. Crispy Pork Belly from Lucca Cafe
66. French Toast with Bacon at Flurries Shaved Snow Bar
67. The Venetian Roll at Sushi at The Venetian Gentleman's Club
68. Okaki Asparagus at Hamamori
69. The "Fried Egg" at Eat Chow
70. Nam Kao Tod at Vientiane Restaurant
71. Chicken Ramen at Jinya Ramen Bar
72. Pig Snout at Tacos & Carnitas Sahuayo
73. Kale and Mushroom Flatbread at 320 Main
74. Congee at King Lobster Palace
75. Fish and Chips at Slapfish
76. Fries at Playground

77. Carne en Su Jugo at La Cocina de Mi Abuelita
78. S'mores at Ti Amo Biscotti & More
79. Broken Rice at Dat Thanh
80. Bulgogi and Potato Pizza at Chicken & Pizza Love Letter
81. Braised Bacon at Break of Dawn
82. Cake Donut at Cream Pan
83. Bistec de Pollo at Mercado El Rey
84. The Rhino at Rancho a Go Go
85. Cabernet Brownies at Blackmarket Bakery
86. Cookie Monster at Lola Ice Cream and Deli
87. Polenta Board at CUCINA Enoteca
88. Falafel Taco at Taco Asylum
89. Wagon-Wheel Bread at THE RANCH Restaurant
90. Toothpick Tacos at Mexico Supermarket
91. Hoppin' John at Memphis at the Santora
92. Free Beans and Chips at Taqueria Zamora
93. Pig in a Blanket Waffle with Gringo Bandito at Cafe Calacas
94. "Pork Hash" at Huong Giang
95. Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla At Kogi
96. Licuados at Mil Jugos
97. Hawaiian Ahi Poke at California Fish Grill
98. Takoyaki at Takoyaki Tanota
99. Fiesta Noodles at Jollibee
100. Chilaquiles Verdes Con Huevos Estrellados at La Tablita California

Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2010!
Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2011!

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Location Info

Izakaya Ku

18120 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, CA

Category: Restaurant

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