Citysearch Sushi Roll!
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Citysearch is a website that provides reviews and recommendations for restaurants, bars, shopping, events, etc. It is quite useful and I've written restaurant reviews for the site for years. Recently they've been inviting members to dinners and tastings, so I guess all my reviews have paid off! :)
The Citysearch Sushi Roll event was their first large event, and the concept was great. We were all to meet at a parking lot, get on to a double-decker party bus with an m/c and then taste sake and sushi at various joints along Ventura Blvd. The problem was that it was freezing!!! Had this event taken place during the summer or even a month ago, it would have been fantastic. Thus, instead of enjoying the kitschy pleasure of being on an open-air bus and drinking sake/beer, I was terrified I would catch a cold right before my weekend in Santa Barbara.
The first stop was at Vendome Liquor - a large, extensive wine/liquor/sake store - for a sake tasting. We must have tasted 7 sakes - ranging from $14 a bottle to $73 a bottle. It was super informative and interesting. I never realized they made so much sake in the U.S., but apparently Oregon is quite a large producer given their crystal clear waters (necessary for making good sake). We also had sushi catered by Sushi Dan (spicy tuna and avocado rolls, tempura shrimp rolls, yellowtail and jalapeno roll - ok, nothing special).
We then got back onto the bus and were provided with plastic trays so we could eat sushi aboard the bus. At this point, we all felt warmer due to the sake so we were all in a better mood. We parked on the street and sushi was delivered to us on the bus from Midori (spicy scallop roll, shrimp tempura roll, crispy tuna roll) (again, just ok). A second stop brought us more sushi - this time from Shiki ("Sexy Roll" - a cucumber wrapped roll with tuna, salmon, crab - it was quite large, almost too large ... and another spicy tuna/albacore roll, which didn't seem too fresh). A third stop brought us to Yen - which I think was the best of the bunch, even though most of their rolls should have been served warm (but because we were outside, were cold and a bit congealed)(my favorite was the "Green Train Roll" with spicy crab, shrimp tempura).
I guess if the sushi were better it could have made up for the cold, but at the same time, it's always good to try new places. If anyone is visiting this area, the best sushi places are really Nozawa (where the sushi nazi resides) for traditional sushi and Katsu-ya for trendier sushi. I don't think I can really recommend any of the places we tried on this particular adventure (except for Vendome for tastings and to buy wine - very extensive supply).
Despite the logistical problems, I still stand by my love for citysearch. Based on reviews there I was able to find my hair stylist (awesome and affordable) and my tailor (super professional, reasonably priced) and loads of restaurants to try!