Tired, sweaty and hungry, I slumped onto my couch after a late work shift.
I was too lazy to cook for myself and hoped to run across something on the bike ride home. Since it was after 9 p.m., anything worthwhile in Irvine had already closed.
I went over my options: I could get back on my bike and head to Del Taco or In-n-Out. I could order a pizza and feel horrible for the rest of the night. I could go hungry.
Or, I could try a place I had found in the newspaper just the day before. A place that was trying to offer something different for a hungry college night owl. A place that delivered sushi.
Ippo Sushi is a new player to late-night delivery food.
Unlike pizzerias, they have no brick-and-mortar location. Unlike food runners, they deliver only during the hours between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. And, unlike everyone else, they don’t charge a delivery fee.
They also cater only to the extremely close-to-campus crowd. So, if you live anywhere outside of the area cordoned off by Jeffrey to the east, Jamboree to the west, Alton to the north and Bonita Canyon / Culver to the south, you’re out of luck. They will not deliver to you, no exceptions.
On paper, they sound like a perfect dream, operating during the hours when late-night munchies are at their highest.
Despite this, I was a little wary. Without a brick-and-mortar location, how could I be sure they weren’t just picking up Seven-Eleven sushi and driving to my house? But, bolstered by their surprisingly high 4.5-star Yelp rating, I decided to bite the bullet and order.
Their menu is not the most varied thing in the world. Currently, they only offer 12 different rolls — six of which are standard at any sushi restaurant — one appetizer and assorted candies and sodas.
Present are the ever-favorite edamame, California and Spicy Tuna rolls, as well as a few house rolls such as the “Ippo” roll, eel cucumber and masago covered in tempura flakes, the “Island Roll,” tempura shrimp and crab on the inside with salmon and lemon on the outside and the “Irvine Roll,” with eel, egg and cucumber on the inside. Unfortunately, there is no miso soup.
Pricing is just slightly above average, probably to off-set delivery costs.
Simple rolls come in under $5, nice rolls around $7, and premium rolls at around $9. Drinks and candy are priced fairly cheaply, none of them breaking the one-dollar mark.
They do offer 10 to 15 percent discounts roughly once a week if you follow their Facebook page. My order of a crunchy roll, an island roll and edamame came out to $20 after tax.
About 40 minutes after ordering, the driver was at my door with a plastic bag full of fishy goodness.
The driver looked like a UC Irvine student himself, somewhere around 5 feet 8 inches, Asian and wearing basketball shorts.
I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a group of students at Gateway study lounge.
The sushi was a little bit on the roughed-up side. While nothing catastrophic had happened to it, all the pieces were still together and in place, it was obvious that it had been delivered.
Packed in clear plastic take-out containers like the ones you can get at the pub, the rolls had slid around during their drive.
The ginger and wasabi were separated from the rolls only by space and could’ve easily collided with the rolls if I had gotten unlucky. The edamame was packed in a separate container and arrived perfectly fine.
Flavor wise, the food is nothing to write home about.
The rolls were noticeably better than anything you can get from Zot-n-Go but comparable to those at Gen Sushi. The rice was cooked well, the grains sticky yet individual, but lacking in the flavor department. They hadn’t used enough vinegar.
The tempura bits were crisp to begin with but slowly got soggy due to the steam in the container. The sauces were flavorful and used in the correct amounts. The fish did not taste overly fishy. Surprisingly, the edamame came unsalted but were fine with some soy sauce.
When compared with other sushi places, Ippo isn’t anything special. Their food is just slightly overpriced sushi, slightly damaged and perfectly average.
But, when compared with other food you can pay people to drive to you late at night, it can be pretty wonderful.
While I wouldn’t order it when I have the means to go out to Kula or Sushilicious, the UCI-specific service makes me happy and the Facebook discounts are a nice touch. The next time I’m awake late and hungry, I may give Ippo a call.
Because, while they are definitely not the best sushi in Orange County, they beat bread, cheese and grease pretty easily.