While O Fine Japanese Cuisine used to be associated with a more traditional Japanese restaurant experience, it’s now offering a refreshed approach with new menu items, staff members and decor. The restaurant began implementing the changes in summer of 2015, bringing the successful concepts from its Irvine location.
“One of the things that we’re doing is we’re bringing the sushi bar experience to the table,” says founder Charles Cheng, explaining that sashimi specials are now available. These “izakaya signature” dishes are updated seasonally and weekly, and showcase the restaurant’s new fusion approach to cuisine: “Almost like a little bit of French, a little bit of Italian, combined with Japanese ingredients, so we make it our own,” Charles explains. One of the latest offerings, the wild red snapper sashimi, is sprinkled with sesame oil and sea salt before being torched to encourage those flavors to sink in. It’s topped with grated ginger and garlic, jalapeno and a house-made yuzu miso dressing, and finished with fresh microgreens and ikura (salmon roe).
A variety of new signature rolls were also introduced. The eight-piece Secret Garden Roll, for example, includes vegetables like avocado, asparagus and cucumber wrapped in sushi rice and topped with albacore tataki sashimi. “There are a lot of microgreens on top, so when you look at it, it looks like a garden,” Charles says.
Diners will also enjoy another new addition to the menu: the omakase (chef’s choice) multicourse meals, which highlight a variety of cuisine. They include sashimi trios, along with a hot plate or sushi platter, salad, mini noodle bowl and dessert. Two offerings are available, one that Charles says is a customer favorite and remains consistent, and another that showcases different items each week.
While the physical space has been updated with booths, white stone tables, TVs and more, many of the restaurant’s fundamentals—such as the dedication to classic Japanese cooking styles—remain intact. Charles notes that while the establishment’s decor is distinctly modern, in the kitchen the chefs follow some old school techniques. “Our sushi rice is very authentic … it’s close to a three-hour process,” he says. The practice involves washing, soaking and cooking the rice before mixing it with vinegar and passing it to the sushi chef for serving. And this is a daily routine—Charles says that the restaurant never uses “overnight rice.” The same is true for its seafood: Fish is delivered daily, so whether you’re in the mood for traditional sushi or a new fusion dish, the ingredients are sure to be super fresh.
—Written by Katherine Duncan | Photos by Jody Tiongco