RA Sushi is spreading like wildfire because, like, hip never goes out of fashion. That may seem obvious, but RA—an offshoot of Benihana—vibes the youngish types who like their music audible through dish clatter (but not overly loud), their martinis stilted and dirty (not overly foo-foo) and their sushi/sashimi fresh (not overly, err, cooked). A modern gastronome can appreciate the elegant décor; red globular spheres dangling on cables like antenna balls in an opium den; dark woods everywhere providing cherry warmth; an incredibly unique—and possible feng shui sound—manmade tree with twisting rebar roots at the center.
Rock. And. Roll. Dude.
RA—pronounced rah—loosely translated from the Japanese means nothing specific, but is apparently how you enunciate a very specific Japanese character in the alphabet that is well beyond Western definition. I am confused, too. The newest of the chain restaurant that now has locations all over the US is the one at the Shoppes in Chino Hills. What stylish everything, is the first thought. Even the naked air ducts overhead seem stylized. Furthermore, all the servers are particularly good-looking; one is apt to wonder if that sort of attractiveness is a requisite to draw attention off the food?
That is, until the food starts arriving.
I went for a weekday lunch with a friend, and, at the whims of the carousel of servers who attended us, took to splurging with everyone’s suggestions and began with a bowl of edamame and a plate of pineapple cheese wantons. These arrived while we contemplated the menus—there are two, one for hot food, and the sushi bar selections. The edamame (steamed soybeans, to the laity) was lightly sprinkled with rock salt and better than French fries; the wantons were crispily fried and too cream-cheesy for me, though the pineapple sauce was interesting.
There was particular enthusiasm among the staff for something called the black pepper filet medallions, and so we ordered that. The Viva Las Vegas Roll is a signature at RA, a one-of-a-kind that packs in all the pride of innovation, and so we ordered that. Gluttons with eyes much bigger than our stomachs (like Uma Thurman), we also ordered an ultimate shrimp roll and a lobster shrimp roll as well, and braced ourselves. What came out at various and sundry times was something like art; large rectangular plates with oblong rolls drizzled with various sauces and sporting picturesque garnishes, and a plate of four steak medallions as thick as hockey pucks.
First, the Viva Las Vegas Roll, which is made of spicy tuna, crab and lotus root topped with an eel sauce and a spinach tempura flake, is a job. As any practitioner of sushi knows, some of these rolls are designed to challenge the capacities of your mouth. We managed . . . and it lived up to billing; a medley of textures and subtle flavors in league together—brilliant. The Ultimate Shrimp roll was good, too, light tempura shrimp with avocado, a crab mix and cucumber. But it was those damn medallions that stole the show—we never saw it coming. Here we have tender filets atop a dollop of wasabi mashed potatoes, cupped inside a flat shiitake mushroom, with asparagus tips and black pepper butter. I could throw down a bunch of ridiculous adjectives (amazing, haunting, disturbing) but you’d think me gratuitous and prone to fancy. I will say this though—addictively good, and whoever thought to place slabs of lean beef on such a bed of supporting ingredients deserves a raise.
Pricey? A bit, at least for the lunch we ordered ($80). There is a lunch menu though, for those who are more moderate, with bento boxes with miso soup, veggie spring roll and a choice of main for $6.75-$7.75. No matter what, worth every penny.
RA Sushi, The Shoppes at Chino Hills, 13925 City Center Drive, Chino Hills, (909) 902-0044. AE, D, MC, V