With apologies due to a host of local great sushi restaurants, mention the word “sushi,” to any number of longtime Pasadena residents and among the first responses is invariably Sushi Roku.
Nestled into the northwest corner of One Colorado in Old Pasadena, it’s been a first date, birthday, graduation, anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day perennial since the chain of restaurants was first opened by Michael Cardenas, former Matsuhisa general manager, in Santa Monica, in 1997.
Setting itself apart from so many other sushi establishments is the sense of style and adventure presented by the eatery and by their longtime sushi chef, Jiro Kobayashi.
While Sushi Roku’s (“Roku” means “Six.” That’s as far as we got) menu is traditional and adventurous at the same time, which is part of its charm, something special usually awaits. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We began the journey with Brussels Sprout Chips, cooked in truffle oil and salt, which were far too appetizing than Brussel Sprouts really have a right to be. I mean they’re Brussel Sprouts. Those disappeared fast, but then, so do everything else.
These were followed by American Wagyu beef Gyoza potstickers. No Asian cuisine fan needs an introduction to Pot stickers, but what made these distinctive, was of course, the Wagyu Beef, which likely makes every dish special. Lighter than many pot stickers, they were chewy and flavorful, a major step up from the usual pork pot stickers.
My companion also opted for a slab of the baked cod, served like a steak. But deliciously nothing like a steak.
We then opted for the sushi plate and deluxe sushi plates, which was a bit like filling up with unleaded as well as premium. The standard plate featured Yellowtail, Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp, Albacore & Baked Crab or Spicy Tuna Cut Roll, while the Deluxe Sushi Plate added Japanese scallops, as delicious as they were massive, along with Sea Bream, and a Toro Jalapeño Cut Roll. And one more spicy tuna roll.
Along with the plates we also ordered yellowtail kampachi, as well as Uni, the special sea urchin delicacy, available only occasionally, and more of a stronger mouthful for true sushiheads. Flown in from Japan only occasionally, we were told, and for serious fans only.
Given the creative reputation and the fact that it’s been some years since our last visit, we then asked if there was anything we might have overlooked.
I think they were waiting for us to serve that pitch.
Our server brought out the Fluke Kumquat, which, no mystery, is exactly as it is named—thinly sliced fluke covered with a sparkling clear, fruity kumquat jelly. As our server informed us, Jiro, the aforementioned sushi chef’s mother, loved kumquat jelly, and like a good boy, Jiro figured out how to make it, and, even better, how to incorporate it into a sushi dish.
At least two staffers mentioned that that was their favorite Sushi Roku dish, but really, how can there be such a thing?
We ended the evening with their Chocolate Lava cake, another crowd favorite, of course. As we stepped out into that good night, we were dizzy and giddy with a mixture of soy, wasabi, and general sushi-osity. Which is how every great sushi dinner should end.