First you take Palms, to Centinela... (sorry, really obscure reference
here. Mostly to amuse a certain reader.)
We found our way and arrived for lunch at the California Sushi Academy
where you get 2 pieces for 2 bucks... because it's the students who get to practice on you!
Now, don't fret - these students are being trained by some very serious experts. And Sensei was there the whole time (just off screen to the left of what you see here), supervising and making them nervous, as any good sensei is wont to do.
The students were very friendly and attentive. Greeted us properly with loud Irashaimase!
and got to work on our order. First we had a very nice bowl of miso soup that I have to say was better than even most upscale Japanese restos. It had a smoky dashi base, I am assuming made by way of bonito. And generous seaweed. Really delicious.
As for the sushi
, there was not a lot of variety - no expensive stuff, as I ascertain it's mostly about their assembly skills. Everyone who listens to his or her Sensei knows that you can't do fancy until you have mastered the basics. And even then, it's about the zen of doing the basics with perfection. But I digress. For $2/2 pieces one really shouldn't be nit-picky. We had salmon nigiri, lightly seared albacore nigiri, tobiko gunkan-maki, tamago nigiri, a california roll and two salmon skin temaki.
I didn't take any photos of the food... suffice to say it looked fine, like average sushi, cleanly presented. The fish was fresh and well-cut. My main constructive criticisms are as follows...
1) I am not very knowlegeable when it comes to this type of roll, but I like when salmon skin in a salmon skin roll is crispy and quite warm. Part of the fun is texture and temperature play between that warmness and cold ingredients like cucumber. Today's was flubbery and just slightly lukewarm... as if it had been microwaved? I assume in a larger operation they place the skin in the fryer (where the tempura goes)... right? Or maybe on a very hot grill. In any case, I missed the crispiness.
2) The rice was not properly prepared. It was either undercooked or dried out. I am not expert enough to tell you which, but it was distractingly dry. And as Partner in Crime noticed, it also did not seem to be seasoned at all - needed some vinegar and some sweet undertone. Not sure what happened here, but you gotta get the rice right. As I once heard it said, true sushi is about
the rice - the slices of fish in nigiri are actually "condiments" eaten to compliment the rice which is the main feature.
All of it was most certainly edible. And inexpensive. And we would go back on another day purely out of continued curiosity about the process of learning this tremendous skill. I mention these details because these are students and are learning, and you can tell they care! I think opening the door to lunch customers is a super idea.
Here is their wall of fame with all the graduates of the Academy. Onward, fine students! We shall return!