Capitola's Sushi Garden combines the best of traditional Japanese cuisine with creative fusion rolls
At Japanese restaurants I find it difficult to choose between traditional dishes, old school sushi, and the gustatory surprises that may be hidden in a fusion roll. And so it was at Capitola's Sushi Garden where all of the above are offered. Japanese ingredients like shiso herb leaves and burdock root gobo join jalapeños and macadamia nuts integrating cultures.
At lunch, when most entrées cost $9.50 or less, choose from noodle soups, teriyaki, and donburi rice bowls. Two- and three-item Bento Box combos ($9.50/$12.50) include a small selection of main dishes, potstickers, sushi, sashimi or a California Roll. At dinner, expect to add about $7.
After studying the extensive sushi menu I ordered a two-item Bento along with a specialty roll. I savored the salty blonde miso soup with an unusually rich broth, tofu, and translucent emerald strips of seaweed while gazing out the window at the pond. Goldfish and koi hunted for food beneath the water's rain-speckled surface, protected from herons by a graceful mushroom-shaped maple.
I was surprised by the next arrival, a piping hot bowl of bright green edamame which I hadn't noticed on the menu. Taking hold of the stem end I scraped the salt-speckled soybean pods between my teeth to release the toothsome vegan protein pellets.
The colorful Pinto Lake Roll ($10.50) with raw salmon, fresh basil, slivers of bitter lemon and crunchy nuts, was rolled and capped with candy apple-red slices of maguro tuna. The toasty macadamia flavor was surprisingly complementary.
The bento box held a large flattened pork cutlet Tonkatsu, ever so lightly breaded and fried for a crisp exterior. Salmon Shioyaki, typically salt-rubbed and broiled, was moist and tender. Mixed green salad was drizzled with creamy sweet-tart dressing. The box too had a surprise of its own. Two pieces of sushi roll, which appear to have been lightly tempura-battered and fried to a light golden color, had an enjoyable crunchy texture.
Sushi Garden, 820 Bay Ave., Capitola, 464-9192. Beer and wine. Serving lunch and dinner daily 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Visit sushi-garden.com Also in Watsonville at the Target shopping center, 728-9192. ★★★
Speaking of raw, Scotts Valley's Mint will host a class on the science and art of Raw Foods on Sunday May 16, including tasting and Silver Mountain’s organic wine.
The instructors are accomplished chefs and leaders in the raw food movement. Robyn Boyd, author of "RawSome Recipes" is herself evidence of the benefits from the eating of RAW foods with SOME cooked foods, overcoming numerous health issues after changing her diet.
Melissa Mango, author of "Melissa Mango's Green Cuisine," delivers raw vegan meals to local homes and businesses.
While the scientific jury is still out with respect to some raw foodist beliefs, it's clear that cooking destroys nutrients like vitamin C, that heating meat above certain temperatures creates carcinogens, and that additives in processed foods just aren't as healthy as freshly harvested local foods. Pass the salad!
Raw Foods Workshop at Mint, Sunday May 16, noon to 3 p.m. Cost $125. 4652 Scotts Valley Dr., Scotts Valley, 438-5900. To reserve a spot in the class, call Robyn at 566-0500.
One Fish, Two Fish, Green Fish
Three years ago I interviewed Dave Greenberger, owner of Dave's Gourmet Albacore in the Harvey West neighborhood, where he cans flash-frozen, line-caught fish. Recently I noticed they've added a large deli complete with tables, as well as numerous canned products.
Dave's albacore has so much flavor that it can be enjoyed undressed. Each piece of prime fish is cut by hand, individually canned, and then cooked, retaining all of its flavorful and healthy juices. The Tuna Bagel Melt ($8) showcased this mildly flavored white fish with tomatoes on two bagel halves, topped with thin slices of cheese and broiled. Salty, smoky albacore was pulled from the case to fill another tender bagel with cream cheese and capers ($8).
The crab Roll ($10) featured a cylinder of sweet, shredded, naked Dungeness crab, cradled in a soft sesame-seeded bun with romaine lettuce. It was served with sides of spicy aioli and a salad with big pieces of potato mixed with shredded carrots and herbs in a creamy dressing.
The retail shop and deli operate on Fisherman's hours, so you can stop in for coffee or chai and select a pre-prepared sandwich on the way to work. On Saturday mornings, celebrate a Little League or GALS game with lunch and a Polar Bear ice cream sandwich, or sip a mocha during the kids' midweek practice.
From the retail shelves, choose cans of albacore with pesto or garlic, alder- or mesquite-smoked salmon, and seafood chowder. Shrink-wrapped pieces of frozen and smoked fish are also available. You may pay upwards of a dollar per ounce, (as you might for a martini), but for the flavor and the elimination of by-catch, Dave's offers the tastiest, greenest canned fish I've ever popped a top off of.
Dave's Gourmet Albacore, 310-A Coral St., Santa Cruz, 457-2250. Open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit davesalbacore.com
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