Any Fish You Wish
By Bill Gerdes
Malls give me the skeevs. On the few occasions I need to venture into the Tyler Galleria or Ontario Mills I tend to sweat, shake and look furtively toward the exits as I scan for the nearest and best escape route. It’s not, for the most part, snobbery, but more a sense of claustrophobic horror. I might, after all, be crushed under a horde of shoppers looking for the closest Cinnabon. It’s different though at Victoria Gardens. It’s outside. It feels a bit like a big city street. It’s got more interesting shopping options I can’t afford, like an iPhone 5 at the Apple Store or hipster socks at Urban Outfitters. And it’s got some rather tasty sushi at Kabuki Japanese Restaurant.
Kabuki sits at the back end of the Gardens, next to Outfitters, with an understated little sign announcing its presence. It’s muted on the inside, too but only in terms of décor, white concave ceilings and some tasteful Japanese prints. The place itself though was popping on the Thursday evening we dropped by—happy hour had just ended and the entire joint had a festive feel.
Hoping to join in we ordered up a couple of “signature” mojitos, mine blood orange, the wife’s a lychee version and waited for food. I may have wondered about the trend in restaurants to call every drink they make on site as “signature.” I may have called it insipid. We surely had some appetizers. The Garlic Edamame was well . . . edamame, with a small hint of garlic and sea salt thrown in. Much more interesting was the Grilled Calamari, a break from all the fried calamari I’ve eaten over the last ten years, fresh and with a smoky grill aftertaste that went well with the fiery chipotle dipping sauce.
And then it was sushi-time. I want to be a sushi purist. I want to only order eel, tuna, whitefish, sashimi style, with not a speck of avocado, dippy sauce or hint of frying. But I’m a sushi sinner, and I fall again and again. Therefore we started off with the Sunkissed Roll, a subdued affair featuring spicy tuna, thin wedges of a somewhat bland avocado, and some quite nice salmon on top. It’s a damn nice roll. The presentation is stunning as the colors of the salmon and tuna combine with the small rivers of chipotle sauce and avocado to make the roll seem a bit like a sunset. The Kabuki Roll is a sampler of some of the restaurant’s more popular rolls. Bigger than your average roll, crunchy on the bottom, with mounds of varying fish on top, the Kabuki is a chopstick challenge, but one worth stepping up to. The Spicy Tuna was delicious, the Sweet Shrimp even more so, and I left feeling reinvigorated about the menu at Kabuki.
You see, I had been a bit bummed at Kabuki. Kabuki is a chain restaurant—there are quite a few Kabuki locations in SoCal and there’s one in Phoenix. No food writer wants to write about the new Sizzler opening in Pomona. On the other hand, Kabuki is no Sizzler. And on another hand, even Nobu is a chain these days. Kabuki has some tasty raw fish in a great location. Nice eel and a chance to buy an irony-laden lunchbox next door, that’s Kabuki.
Kabuki Restaurant, 12595 N. Mainstreet Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 646-8555; www.kabukirestaurants.com. Mon-Thurs, 11am-10:30pm. Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm. Sun, 11am-10pm. AE, D, MC, V.