Been a bit lazy with the frequency of posts (what’s new?) – sorry! Anyways, as I mentioned in my Bruxie post, I went down to the O.C. on a Saturday a few weeks ago – first to visit Greg, then Han. So I went to Bruxie for lunch that day, then I met up with Han and Natalie in the plaza next to the one that housed Tsuruhashi, for some needed karaoke. This couple claims that they’re quite the karaoke pros. They sure are passionate about it, I’ll give them that much. Although it’s a bit disturbing Han sings as many show tunes as Natalie…
After a couple of hours at karaoke, Han said that we were going to a Japanese BBQ places he’d heard good things about in the adjacent plaza. For some reason, Tsuruhashi immediately came to mind. I’m actually not familiar with the restaurant at all, but I remember reading about it on KevinEats and LA in Stilettos, and coincidentally, even read about it on OC Weekly’s 100 Favorite Dishes post not too long before that day (at #4 for their Kobe beef). The fact that we were in Fountain Valley helped my wild guess, since this is the only restaurant in the city that I know of.
The Han-thom of the Opera
Upon entering the restaurant, the aroma of the meats being grilled immediately reached me. It was hard not to drool from that point on. But like us, there were plenty of eager diners waiting their turn at the fairly small restaurant, and we ended up waiting 45 minutes for a table. But I was comforted by the majority of the diner being Japanese – kind of lame, I know, but seeing such native clientele usually assures me of a good time forthcoming at ethnic restaurants. That brings us to the question of: was it worth the wait? The answer: you bet!
Let me start off by briefly summarizing the concept of Japanese BBQ, or yakiniku. It’s basically the Japanese take on Korean BBQ, where it isn’t all you can eat and the meats aren’t all drenched in marinade, but the meats tend to be of higher quality (like the use of “Kobe” beef here). Plus, no banchan. Most people are familiar with Gyu-Kaku and Manpuku, but this is the real deal. I’ll pay for quality, and the meats offered at Tsuruhashi are definitely of great quality. Let me break down the various things the three of us devoured that night:
Pork Belly ($6.75) – with some green leaf lettuce and miso sauce
This was their take on samgyeopsal, down to the accompanying lettuce and bean paste (not pictured). I have a weak spot for all things pork belly, and I definitely would give up the goodies for this. Delicious!
Fresh Tongue ($7.75)
Unfortunately, they were out of the premium version of the beef tongue. But the regular one was good enough. Another winner here. There was a separate lemon juice dip for these specifically, and a block of fat to rub on the grill before putting the tongue on.
Cap Rib Eye ($10.95)
This meat has a good balance of fat and tenderness. Yet again another winner.
U.S. KOBE Premium Short Rib ($16.95)
My goodness, this melted in my mouth! While Han mentioned (correctly so) that the amount of marbling on this makes it hard to eat too much of, this was arguably my favorite of the night. Too bad I got too impatient with the photo-taking…
Natural Sausage ($6)
These little wieners were good. Not as good following the previous meats that arrived at our table, but were juicy and well-seasoned.
Seared Raw Rib Eye Sashimi ($8.75)
While we were waiting for our table, a regular who was waiting as well recommended this beef tataki appetizer. I liked it, but it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.
Kimchi Fried Rice ($9.95)
This was much milder than I had expected, but that was good because it ended up being a nice compliment to all the meats. It also came with an egg drop soup of sorts (not pictured), which was surprisingly decent as well.
Prime Outside Skirt ($8)
At this point, we had finished our first wave of ordering. Han asked one of our servers (very helpful) on what else to try. This was one of them. Similar to the cap rib eye, but a bit meatier.
Tsubo Kalbi ($11.95) – short rib marinade overnight w/ our secret sauce
Their take on the galbi. While the other meats we had were served as is or lightly seasoned, this one was marinated and came in a small pot. There were four big, thinly cut slices of meat, full of flavor.
Kurobuta Pork Rib ($4)
Last, we have the pork rib. This was just one rib, but came pre-cut. A lot of meat for a single rib, and tasted like a meatier version of the pork belly.
I was very impressed with our dinner at Tsuruhashi. Everything we ordered was great, and some were just downright amazing and delicious. Also of note: the service was great as well. All the servers were courteous and gracious, and water was constantly filled. In the end, those 45 minutes of waiting seemed like nothing. Sure, we had to do our own grilling, and in the end it’s just Japanese BBQ. Not much skill and variety involved. But it’s amazing how good quality meats can make such a difference. Of course, it’s pricier than your AYCE Korean places, but all the food we had above still only came out to around $30-something per person. I’ll happily pay the extra for such quality every time. Too bad Tsuruhashi is so far away…
Chris Hei grade: A-
18798 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708