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Due West of Japan

Dining_ImuraImura Japanese Restaurant serves sushi, shioyaki and some Korean specialties too

If you'd like to improve your sushi-making technique, Chef Jim Song stars in an informational five-minute video on the website of Watsonville's Imura Japanese Restaurant. In it, he makes rolling a compact, symmetrical California Roll appear error-proof. At Imura you will find this perfectly made roll along with other traditional Japanese dishes and locally uncommon culinary gratifications.

Contributing to Imura's uniqueness is its selection of Korean specialties including Galbi marinated short ribs ($17.95), Yukeh Jang ($14.95) with vegetables, vermicelli and flank steak in broth, and Duk Man Doo Gook ($13.95), a soup with Koreak rice cakes and meat dumplings. I chose the Hot Bibim Bab ($15.95), a rice bowl in which is arranged meat and vegetables, topped with a fried egg, and mixed together just before eating.

I had missed the fine print that read "served with Korean condiment," so was elated when a six-item plate of banchan arrived. The small plates of embellishments included sweetened shreds of carrot and white daikon radish, salty cabbage kimchi, sesame-scented, blanched broccoli florets, pickled vegetables, fat strips of seaweed, and chili-flecked bitter yellow squash that succumbed to the teeth with a soft crunch.


The Bibim Bab was served in a heavy black pot and might easily have served three as an entrée.  It had been mixed together in the kitchen, diminishing the presentation value of the dish. I spooned the mixture of soybean sprouts, sautéed greens, threads of toothsome vegetables and diced pieces of smoky grilled chicken into a small bowl and added bits of banchan. I topped it with darkly red Korean chili sauce, a spicy mixture, lightly sour, that hinted of salty fish.


I couldn't resist a couple of the Specialty Rolls. The Firecracker ($9.95) was lightly tempura-battered and deep fried, its top striped with chili sauce and sprinkled with white sesame seeds. Inside, rice and a sheet of nori seaweed held spicy tuna.


The lovely, subtle flavors of Moss Landing ($12.95) I dared not mask with wasabi and soy. Avocado and tempura shrimp were rolled uramaki-style with gleaming white rice on the outside. It was topped with sweet seared scallops, micro-sliced green onions, a drizzle of creamy mayonnaise-like spicy sauce and shimmering orange jewels of tiny tobiko fish roe.


Imura also prepares a full line-up of Japanese favorites such as Nigiri rolls ($3.50 to $7.95), vegetarian rolls ($3.50 to $12.95), Donburi rice bowls ($8.95 to $12.95), lunch salads such as seared Tuna Tataki ($14.95) with tobiko and nori and tempura, broiled fish shioyaki ($11.95 to $16.95), or teriyaki lunches ($9.95 to $12.95).

Lunch Bento boxes ($10.95 to $13) and dinner boxes ($16.95 to $18.95) include your choice of teriyaki plus two Japanese or Korean specialties. Most tables have a call bell if you need something more.


And if you'd like to end on a sweet note you'll find ice cream flavors ($3.50) from traditional green tea to Western chocolate fudge with Oreo cookies.


Imura Japanese Restaurant, 1994 Main St. (at Green Valley Road), Watsonville, 761-8799. Beer and wine. Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. Visit imurasushi.com.
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