I am a huge fan of sushi. There is something delightfully satisfying about wrapping your mouth around an uncomfortably large piece of raw fish stretched across rice, seaweed, carrot, avocado, cucumber, crab and any other vitamin-rich, low-fat piece of vegetable, mineral or animal that can be crammed into a roll. Friends and family alike have learned that conversation pauses after I take a bite of sushi.
Like any decent sushi aficionado, I have my favorite haunts. There is the neighborhood sushi-bar, just steps away from home; the authentic Japanese restaurant featuring the freshest fish in the area and the über-trendy sushi spot with a twist, always with three-letter monikers. Yen, no exception to the three-letter rule, is a regular stop of mine along the road to raw nirvana.
Last weekend, Long Beach experienced record-breaking heat for this time of year. Saturday evening's balmy weather just called out for a walk down Belmont Shore's Second Street to grab a bite at Yen. My friend and I were seated on the restaurant's sidewalk patio, which offers outdoor heaters for cooler nights and a lively atmosphere as nighttime strollers, bar-hoppers and culinary enthusiasts all take advantage of the area's many food and shopping-related attractions.
The service at Yen is nothing special. I've never had an ordering mix-up in my many visits to the restaurant but the servers can be fairly inattentive and clueless when it comes to pouring a bottle of wine. The food, though, makes up for the extra ten minutes that you sat waiting to put in your order.
This time, we started with a plate of edamame to stave off pesky hunger pains. Then, I ordered a garden salad featuring basic mixed greens tossed with a tangy ginger dressing. Small tempura vegetables added a little extra crunch.
The highlight of my dinner, however, was the Salmon and Spicy Scallop Roll. The eight-piece set came out served on a long, rectangular plate, like many of their sushi rolls. Scallops came surrounded in a thin layer of white rice and avocado while tender pieces of salmon tightly hugged the top. A white and a red sauce decorated one side of the long dish, adding to its elegant appearance.
This roll was truly a treat for the senses. The pieces were small enough to pop into my mouth in one bite and the rice was minimal, accentuating the dynamite combination of the scallop and salmon. The roll itself was not spicy until I dipped it in the red sauce. The scallop was melt-in-your-mouth-tender, contrasted with the firmer, denser piece of salmon, which requires a bit more chewing. The sauce added as much flavor and spice as I wanted, culminating in an exquisite texture and taste experience.