fishy / by laurel

Sushi of Naples' Sweet Sixteen roll

Sushi of Naples' Waikiki roll

When I was growing up, there were a myriad of foods I swore I'd never eat, never try, or never like. Luckily, I've been able to shed many of those culinary inhibitions as I've gotten older, though I suspect most would classify me as a picky eater even still. However, one of the foods I was adamant about disliking is sushi. Raw fish, blech!

However, through a bit of experimentation (most of it taking place at Japengo/Gapengo/Apengo on 2nd street, the venerable always-empty sushi establishment whose name has changed no less than three times in the past few months), I discovered that what sours my tastebuds and causes them to shrivel and run to the back of my throat isn't the raw fish. It's the seaweed. Luckily enough, most sushi restaurants will make their rolls with soy or rice paper, so I've been able to enjoy my share of crunchy shrimp rolls (I know, I know. It's not 'REAL' sushi. But whatev. I put ketchup on my tacos, okay, people? So let's call this progress). 

And speaking of sushi, I've had it three times this week. I know, I know. One trick pony. But I'll have you know that I did switch it up one of the three times (last night, feeling particularly adventurous). So if you live in the Long Beach area, here's your official guide to a Novice Sushi-Eater's 3-Day Sushi Binge.

Sunday: Apengo (formerly Japengo, briefly Gapengo), 5325 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90899.

Ate/drank: The Super Spider Roll (fried soft shell crab, shrimp tempura, masago, cucumber, avocado and sprouts), diet Pepsi

Verdict: The roll is enormous (seriously, it's like a burrito. But Japanese.), so it's very filling, but nearly impossible to eat with chopsticks. Do not order this if you are at all shy about having crab legs hanging out of your mouth. Luckily, I'm not shy about that at all, so I enjoy this roll very much. 

Monday: Mamma's Sushi, 5679 Woodruff Ave, Lakewood, CA 90713.

Ate/drank: Edemame, miso soup, crunchy shrimp roll, water

Verdict: This place rules. The crab (whoops, just wrote 'crap' on accident. Freudian slip much?) meat tastes a little bit fishy on the crunch roll, but the eel sauce is tasty. Also, all their specialty rolls are just $6 after 6 p.m. and miso soup is a buck. A dollar! Can't beat that. I am determined to branch out one of these days and try their Sexy Roll. I know. Adventurous. 

Tuesday: Sushi of Naples, 5470 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90803.

Ate/drank: This is the motherload. Jeff and I each got a roll but split, so here's the complete lineup: Waikiki roll (Jeff, crab meat, avocado, masago wrapped with seared tuna and served with ponzu sauce), Sweet Sixteen roll (me, california roll with salmon and sweet cream sauce on top then lightly baked), filet mignon skewers, a pitcher of Kirin, and a Salty Dog (soju, grapefruit, salted rim)

Verdict: Sushi of Naples has the best sushi I've ever tried, anywhere. In addition to the rolls I mentioned above, their crunchy shrimp roll is worth the trip alone. Trying a warm roll (mine) and a traditional cold roll (Jeff's) was a great way to mix up the textures/temperatures in our dinner. The beer was great, and the cocktails (half price on Tuesdays) were really tasty. In fact, I'm drinking grapefruit juice this morning in an attempt to recapture the magic of the Salty Dog, but somehow it's just not the same without soju. Also, it's not the same at 9 in the morning. The best part about Sushi of Naples is that you can sit at the sushi bar and chat with the chef while he prepares your food, and they're open till 10:30 or 11 p.m. all week. Our food was so good that Jeff texted me near midnight confessing that he was still thinking about all the sushi goodness and I agreed that I had also been laying awake, fantasizing about raw fish.

So there you go. A bit of sushi review to wet your palate.