With a menu described as ‘California Japanese cuisine,’ Maki-Maki at the Irvine Spectrum delivers on its promise with fresh seafood, unique rolls, a full bar, shabu shabu (thin slices of meat that you cook yourself in boiling water) and plenty of hot food that accomodates even those squeamish about trying sushi or sashimi (raw fish). Christine (who doesn’t like sashimi) and I (who loves sashimi) were given the opportunity to sample the menu at the restaurant. It’s important to note for those unaware that not all sushi contains raw fish. Sushi simply refers to a roll of rice, seaweed and filling.
The restaurant has a modern, comfortable interior with high ceilings and views of the bar, the shabu shabu bar and an outside fountain. As far as actually arriving, parking was a pain due to the Spectrum parking structure construction. Take advantage of the free valet parking, if possible.
We were escorted to our table by a very friendly waiter named Joe, who suggested we try the ‘Iron Monkey Roll.’ It’s not on the menu but I’m told anyone can order it if they ask. At $14.95 it is the most expensive roll on the menu but Christine and I realized we had made the right choice when we saw the plate in front of us. We were greeted by a large roll with lobster and scallops on top of a large, sliced, spicy tuna roll, all baked to give it a crispy shell and then drizzled with eel sauce. I’ve had these ingredients in separate rolls before, but to have them all in one conglomerate was quite a treat.
Joe also suggested we solve our problem of choosing a drink by going with the sake sampler ($9). For someone without much sake experience, the sake sampler did a great job of introducing me to three different types of sake.
Next on our menu was the Hawaiian Chicken teriyaki roll ($5.95). This is a great roll because the teriyaki chicken is tender and well-marinated, accompanied by pineapples that are refreshingly crisp and cool.
We then decided to try some of Maki Maki’s hot fare and chose the New York Teriyaki Steak and Shrimp cooked medium rare ($18.95). The presentation and taste of this dish was excellent, with the meat cooked just right. The four shrimp perched above the steak with skewers looked good, but I would’ve preferred some more. The sticky rice under the steak soaked up the beef juices and tasted fantastic.
No visit to a sushi restaurant would be complete without some traditional sashimi. By that point, I was too full for a large platter, so I opted for the Trio of Sashimi Martini ($9.95), which was essentially tuna, white fish and salmon sashimi beautifully presented in a martini glass. I was happy with the quality of the fish in this order; they were all very fresh and crisp.
To finish our evening we had some hot tea to cleanse our palate before sampling the Mango Fusion Strawberry Shaved Ice Dessert. I was skeptical at first; after all, how good can shaved ice taste? What we got was a huge bowl (suitable for two to three people) with a medley of fresh mangoes, strawberries, raspberries and green tea ice cream on top of shredded ice soaked with condensed milk. After mixing together these ingredients, the dessert tasted very refreshing. The condensed milk was a nice contrast to the tartness of the strawberries and raspberries while the mangoes were very nice to bite into. The whole dessert was pleasing to the eye and is also considerably healthier than your typical dessert.
While we were only able to taste a tiny bit of the range of choices available at Maki Maki, the food and service that we did experience was superb. Some specials worth mentioning that we didn’t get to try include the Sunday seafood brunch, a buffet from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that offers all-you-can-eat sushi for $25 and unlimited champagne for $10 more. The shabu shabu looked great too.
Though not the cheapest choice, the quality of food, service and presentation make Maki Maki a worthwhile experience, whether you’re a seasoned sushi veteran or a novice.