Yama Sushi and Grill
27782 Vista Del Lago
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
It seems to be happening with a lot more frequency all of a sudden. Katie is starting to crave sushi with a lot more regularity. To be honest, when she requests sushi, I always try to steer her towards something else. Not that I am anti sushi, but there are lots of other things that I'd rather be eating. The only time I am usually okay with eating sushi is when it is an all you can eat restaurant. I feel that it takes way too much for me to fill up on sushi, and it also empties out my wallet quickly. A night at a non-all you can eat sushi bar can easily go into the triple digits, and still leave me feeling like I need to stop at Del Taco on the way home.
When we made plans to meet up with our good friends, and fellow food bloggers, Tom and Danielle, Katie got all excited because they wanted to take us to one of their favorite restaurants, Yama Sushi. If you happen to read Toms Foodie Blog or Dani's Decadent Deals you have probably heard of this Mission Viejo restaurant. I follow both Tom and Danielle on Facebook, and it seems from their numerous check in's that they are quite fond of this sushi place overlooking the lake. After giving them the very quick tour of our new apartment, we were off to Yama, with me looking for places to stop on the way home to get more food.
We arrived at Yama Sushi on a recent Friday night. Yama is located in the Plaza Del Lago shopping center, which used to be home to the infamous Tortilla Flats. Tortilla Flats is no more, now it's called Hacienda on the Lake. Other than Yama and Hacienda, this was a very quiet shopping center on this Friday night. It does seem that Danielle and Tom are regulars here. Almost everyone knew them. We were greeted warmly by the owner of the place, Don. We made our way out to the heated patio, that I hear has great views of the lake during daylight hours. On this night we were just excited to be warm though.
Don came out and greeted us armed with a bottle of Hana White Peach Flavored Sake. I must confess that I had never had flavored sake before. I'm not really even a peach fan, but this went down nice and easy. Much better than the sub-par sake I have consumed before. Don is very proud of his sake list here at Yama, and he has recently become an official sake sommelier by the International Sake Service Institute. There are very few of these in the US, so this is a pretty big honor. So if you have any questions about sake, I'm pretty confident that Don will be able to answer them. After sipping some sake, I was ready to tackle some sushi here. We put in our order, and this is how it turned out for us.
I'll apologize in advance for our sushi selection on this evening. If you are a reader of this blog, you know I like the baked and cooked rolls more than the traditional sushi. I do occasionally eat sashimi, but I like the big pops of flavor that you get with the specialty rolls. This Mexican Roll ($12.95) really packed a punch when it came to spiciness. Spicy crab meat and avocado rolls are topped with albacore, onion, cilantro, karashi (a Japanese mustard), and a jalapeno sauce. Katie could only handle a few pieces of this, due to the spiciness, but I was happy to take the rest. Really well put together, I liked the sauces used here, the crab was still present even with the sauces, and the avocado had a slight cooling effect. I would definitely get this roll again.
A roll that came recommended by Don, was this Shichimi Maki Roll ($13.95). This spicy crunch roll comes topped with albacore yellowtail and seven flavors, which include; onion, cilantro, eel, spicy mayonnaise, shichimi (seven flavor pepper), sriracha, and jalapeno. With so many flavors in one bite, you would expect this to be too much, but the predominate spiciness shoved its way to the forefront. I liked this roll, even though the albacore and yellowtail got lost in the shuffle here.
We must have been in a Mexican food kind of mood on this night, because almost everything we had could be considered a fusion food of Japanese meets Mexican. This Hero Nacho ($7.95) pretty much is the antithesis of a fusion food. A crispy won ton chip is topped with spicy tuna, masago (processed roe of the capelin fish), a jalapeno, and their secret sauce. These were just okay for me. I liked the spiciness, but they were a little boring. The tuna did not stand out too much, and they could have used a little more sauce on these.
When Katie saw Crispy Rice Guacamole ($9.95) on the menu, she immediately ordered it. Spicy tuna, guacamole, and a special sauce is piled on fried sushi rice. This was a big hit for Katie and I. The fried rice was not greasy at all, the guacamole and tuna was very fresh, and I liked the contrasting textures with this.
Whenever we are nearing the end of our meal at a sushi place, Katie always insists on us getting another round, just as I am starting to near my capacity of sushi. This time she wanted to get the Philly Roll ($7.95) and the Spicy Tuna Roll ($7.50) for our grand finale here. I'm not really into cream cheese, so I let her consume those. The spicy tuna roll was good, with just enough spice. Nothing really too earth shattering with these though.
I did not really catch what Tom and Danielle got to eat, but I wanted to show you since I took the time to take the pictures. Danielle usually gets the same thing whenever she comes here, and Tom seems to veer towards the specials. I believe the last item is a Squid, which was a special they were running on this night. They both seemed pretty pleased with the food they got.
Yama Sushi impressed Katie and I. I'm sure a lot of you sushi purists winced reading this review, because we got some pretty nontraditional sushi, but that's what we mainly like to order when going out for sushi. The items we had that said spicy on the menu really were spicy, which is a good thing in my book. Yama is of course not as good a value as those all you can eat places, but the quality does seem to appear better here. Not sure this would be a destination dining spot, where you would drive from say north OC, but if you're in the area, this could be a reasonable sushi option for you. We had great service on this night, as we were with local celebrities Danielle and Tom, but the staff seemed to be on their game with the rest of the customers as well. We left Yama for $75 plus tip, but I did leave the restaurant full. No need for us to stop at Del Taco on the way home.
Out of five snow shovels, (because Yama means mountain in Japan, and if you live in the mountains, you should probably have a snow shovel handy), five being best to zero being worst, Yama Sushi and Grill gets 3 snow shovels.
For more information about Yama Sushi and Grill, go to their web site here: http://yamasushionthelake.com/sushi/