Anything But Meh
By Bill Gerdes
Sushi Kawa will make you think twice about the baked roll
Heard of the “Meh” meme? Something’s not great, not terrible, could even be considered even good, but forgettable, totally forgettable. Meh is huge these days, even getting a weekly blurb in the New York Times, due mostly to the fact that most stuff is kinda meh: your last date, the latest superhero film, many craft beers—just meh. Most sushi and Mexican restaurants are sort of meh. Both cuisines are ubiquitous in SoCal, in every strip mall, that there’s a blizzard of blandness to them.
Sushi Kawa is not meh. Although you might be forgiven for thinking so when you first walk in. Its décor is meh: flat screens, a non-descript booze-bar that adjust an equally non-descript sushi station. Three of the flat screens tormented me with news of the Laker’s penultimate loss on what appeared to be an endless ESPN loop. It’s in a meh mall in a meh part of Corona. But Sushi Kawa is not meh.
Especially when it comes to sushi. While the restaurant is part bar/part Japanese restaurant, Sushi Kawa shines when it’s serving up the rolls. Its head chef Gilberto Placentia has been cutting up raw fish at Kawa for over 10 years, and his extended tenure is evident in rolls like the Ceviche, an elegant tribute to Mexican-style ceviche, that combines ono, cilantro and imitation crab, topped off by slivers of tomatoes and sesame seeds. Yeah, the imitation crab is a bummer but the roll comes off, even offering up a small kick on the way down. Then it was on to the Sunshine Roll, a baked concoction (baked is like tempura—it’s cheating) that went a ways towards changing my mind about baked rolls. The Sunshine is really a piece of salmon, and a rather tasty one at that, with salmon that’s not overcooked (a plus) mashing nicely with petite fried shrimp and scallions and a quirky, thick, sweet, unagi sauce.
And these weren’t even the pop hits on the menu. I could eat the Creamy Calamari at Kawa until . . . well for a long time anyway. This squid is perfectly cooked, not squishy, not rubbery, but with enough of a hint of both to know you’re eating calamari. And this isn’t your typical calamari in an Italian or Spanish joint. The stuff is covered in sauce, so wet and creamy it might double as a dish at a Chinese restaurant. It’s yummy though, half sweet, half spicy, almost drinkable, a tad trashy, a bit decadent.
But the star of the show here is the Ryan Wrap, a “wrap” in where finely sliced peppery tuna takes the place of bread, and crab, avocado and thin wontons. The overall combination works—who needs bread when you’ve got tuna as marbled and fresh, with a nice bit of heat. It’s innovative and delicious. It’s worth noting that Sushi Kawa has an enormous menu, full of specialty rolls and a whole other menu (non-sushi Japanese) that I didn’t sample. My next time back I’ll check it out. I doubt it’s meh.
Sushi Kawa Sports Bar & Grill, 469 Magnolia Ave., Ste. 101, Corona, (951) 280-0398; sushikawasportsbar.webs.com. Mon-Thu, 11:30am-9:30pm; Fri, 11:30am-11pm; Sat, 12pm-11pm; Sun, 4pm-9pm. AE, D, MC, V.