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Paperless iPod orders, light up plates, tweeted discounts and pop jams?

Traditionalists take heed: Sushilicious is not your standard kaiten sushi bar.

In fact, it’s unlike any sushi joint you’ve seen.  It’s more like the Yogurtland, Apple or In-n-Out of sushi bars – modern and hip, approachable for any palate and efficiently focused on what the customers want.  If you can put aside the Korean-versus-Japanese sushi chef debate and the hunt for exotic fish for an evening, you’ll have a fun and entertaining time as you belly up to the conveyor belt and watch sushi-filled plates go by with friends.

About three weeks onto the scene, Sushilicious has gone from merely testing a soft launch to fully opening with its impressive, growing following on Facebook and Twitter.

Set in a modest and quiet blast-from-the-past strip mall on Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive, the restaurant stands out with a full glass front revealing a brightly lit interior and dinner crowds.

I visited Sushilicious on a Thursday and snagged a prime seat in one of the booths next to the snaking conveyor belt of tasty treats.  Inside, the atmosphere was light and airy, and with green walls and a blue ceiling, they definitely brought the outside in. We received a warm welcome from Heather, our concierge (as the wait staff are called), who took our drink orders on an iPod touch.  Before she had left our table, another concierge had brought over our beverages.  Yes, there’s an app for that!

As for the sushi, the system’s simple: plates are color coded indicating price points from $1.50 to $4.00, and the accumulated plates are counted at the end of the meal.  The rainbow of plates are perched on stands with amusing names and descriptions, real “conversation pieces” Daniel Woo, co-founder, describes. The fare is both classic and eclectic, from avocado rolls to WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Worried about freshness?  Each sushi plate is equipped with a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, which signals when the plate has been out for an hour and is ready to be removed.  The founders decided to specialize in the fish and rolls that are in high demand by customers – tuna and California rolls – to ensure quick turnaround, low cost to customers, and daily fresh fish.

Service was absolutely top notch, and the “concierges” earn their titles.  One of my friends is a non-fish-lover, and our concierge was very helpful with recommending dishes and extremely attentive to see that he was satisfied.  My friend enjoyed the beef yakiniku bento box, a gargantuan combo of slow marinated, spiced beef — which he likened to Italian beef sandwiches — mixed greens, steamed rice and a generous helping of vegetable tempura.  Other non-sushi items include a handful of different bentos, contemporary appetizers like sweet potato fries and tempura-fried green tea ice cream.

The young founders of Sushilicious are passionate for their distinctive, startup company approach.  Inspired by his daughter, Woo set out to create a comfortable alternative to the traditional sushi bar.  “Everything you see here is unconventional.”  Jeromy Chan, the “Ringleader” (manager), reflected on successful companies before forming the team.  Enterprisingly, Woo and Chan sought out supporters through social media, which has garnered great results.  “Not only can we connect with people to come to Sushilicious, but we can also promote and support them as well.”  This humble and community-oriented perspective makes you want to return.

Recommendations:

Definitely try the Sushicalifragilisticexpialadocious roll, heralded staff favorite and quite a mouthful of shrimp in creamy, sweet sauce on soy wrapper. Also try the beef yakiniku bento box, a couple meals’ worth of food for the best deal in recent memory ($7.99).

I had to have seconds of the Irrational Exuberance, a baked California roll topped with daikon, spicy aioli, scallops and caramelized onions, which was an unexpectedly sweet and savory explosion of flavor.

The Sake Salmon was spot on. The  perfectly seared salmon nigiri was marinated in a little cooking sake with a side of ponzu sauce.  If you like it spicy, you’ll love the Napoleon Dynamite, a five-alarm roll with red snapper, fresh jalapeno and a spicy chili dressing.  For a sushi bar standby, the Medusa roll (spider roll) hits the spot.

Insider Info:

Want something you don’t see?  Ask “Sushi Guru” (Chef) Taka and he’ll make it just for you.  Special discounts to UCI students are tweeted and posted on Facebook during the day.  This place will fill up, so be sure to go early to snag a seat.  But don’t worry, with the conveyor belt, every seat is the best seat in the house.

Sushilicious

Where: 15435 Jeffrey Rd., Suite 119, Irvine 92618

Current Hours: Lunch through Late Evening (11 p.m. or later) without close

Contact: www.sushilicious.com

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