...at Nozomi in Carlsbad.
Seriously, folks, this place is amazing. It occupies the same spot where Cafe Sevilla used to be, but it's been completely, and I do mean completely, redone.
You walk in on the 2nd level, containing the hostess stand and seating. If you go downstairs, there's a turtle pond (real turtles!). Upstairs is a sushi bar and more seating. I think there may be another sushi bar and maybe tables by the turtle pond, but I didn't look too closely.
All the waitresses were clothed in black, and all in very short skirts, but they weren't too short as to be trashy (but short enough so the men's gazes lingered). The hostess was the only one in a brightly-colored Asian-style blouse. Everyone was very cute, and mostly Asian.
The decor is typical Asian fusion, with bamboo, statuary, and (don't forget!) the real turtles in the real pond. On the upstairs level, a glass fountain wall and two flat-screens placed so that any diner could watch college football (muted).
But enough of all that nonsense....on to the food.
Our appetizers were Jalapeno Poppers and Spicy Seafood Soup. The poppers were served sushi-roll-style, 1 inch circles of pepper, stuffed with cream cheese, tuna, and krab, panko-crusted, and topped with 2 sauces, one a spicy mayo and the other slightly teriyaki-like. When the plate came out, I did a double-take, as I was expecting your typical poppers, not something that looked like sushi. They were amazing! Not too spicy, not too cheesy, perfect temperature, perfect crunch on the outside. The only thing I wasn't too sure about was the krab (same as you get in CA rolls), I think it may have been better without it. But that's not saying I wouldn't get them again.
The soup was served in a cute little pot with a lid, a lime segment resting on top. The broth was citrusy and spicy, containing a tender and sweet scallop, a delectable mussel, one perfectly springy shrimp (QQ), and 2 small clams, along with a cluster of (maybe) baby enoki mushrooms, and little shreds of something light green (seaweed?). I believe (unverified) that they get their shellfish from the nearby Carlsbad Aquafarm, in which case, we ate something as local as possible, and absolutely delicious. Aside from one piece of sand in one of the clams. But I'm not holding that against them, sand happens, no matter how meticulous you are.
Our two sushi rolls were the Surfs Up and the Hula. Surfs Up is described on the menu as a "spicy cilantro tuna roll, topped with fresh tuna, finished with a surf clam ceviche and jalapenos". I did't really see the jalapenos, but the rest of the description is accurate. It was good, but I think I would prefer my surf clam ceviche next to the roll, rather than on top, as I discovered that I really don't care for tomatoes in my sushi. But that's not their fault, it's mine. All the ingredients were super-fresh, the slices were rolled perfectly and cut to just the right size.
The Hula roll, which Hubby talked me into ordering, and I'm sooo glad he did, was the highlight. The menu describes it as "shrimp tempura, krab, avocado, and cucumber on the inside, topped with spicy tuna, drizzled with spicy kabayaki sauce, and sprinkled with crushed Macadamia nuts and green tea crunchies". Green tea crunchies, people. I don't know how they make them, but I want a bag. With a little side container of the kabayaki sauce. My favorite part of this plate was, after the roll slices were gone, little crunchie tidbits mixed with the sauce. Culinary genius, your standard "specialty roll" elevated to new heights.
We also sampled the Teriyaki Angus Sirloin Steak, ordered for the non-sushi eaters. Completely different from any teriyaki steak I've ever had before. This was grilled to your desired doneness, sliced (a little too thickly, I thought), and drizzled with teriyaki sauce. It was served atop a mound of rice, which was floating on a butter sauce (mmm...), accompanied by stewed carrot and daikon radish. We had to ask what the radish was, because we had never tasted anything like it before. I believe it was pickled, then stewed, but don't quote me on that. However it was prepared, it was good, as was the entire dish.
For dessert, MIL ordered 2 pieces of nigiri sushi, surf clam. Fresh, springy, chewy, tender. A great ending.
(Oh, and free ice cream for my birthday, vanilla topped with a chocolate lattice and a raspberry. Yum.)
You can bet we'll be going back to Nozomi, I'm thinking for an omakase dinner at the sushi bar.