Pigging out is not often encouraged, but it's a welcome and apt approach to eating Balboa Barbie-Q's Big Pig sandwich. Starting with hearty heaps of pulled pork and hot links, the sandwich then takes on four slices of bacon and a flood of BBQ sauce. Like all of Balboa Barbie-Q's meats - including ribs, chicken, and brisket - the Big Pig's pork and hot links are slow-smoked daily in a custom-made smoker. From there, the meats fill sandwiches or team up with house-made sides like potato salad and slaw on a platter. And due to the freshly made dishes, the tangy aroma of BBQ sauce wafts throughout Balboa Barbie-Q, encouraging patrons to chow down in bayside eatery's indoor and outdoor dining areas, which offer stunning views of Newport Harbor, the Pacific Ocean, and poker-playing seals.
Multitudes of sushi, sashimi, and sake selections grace candlelit tables in Sushi Zen Bistro's spacious Triangle Square lounge. Eager diners and Jungian analysts will adore an appetizer of Jalapeño's Dream ($9.95), a piquant fried pepper stuffed with crab, spicy tuna, avocado, and cream cheese, wrapping taste buds in spice and an odd sensation of weightlessness. Choose a robust recipe such as the yaki beef, thinly sliced rib eye marinated in teriyaki sauce ($14.95) or dive into rice-laden sushi and sashimi delicacies. Savory selections include the baby lobster roll (cut roll, $11.95; hand roll, $9.95) with avocado and cucumber wrapped in soy paper, and the baked halibut roll (cut roll, $12.95; hand roll, $7.95) packed with crab, avocado, and asparagus. More particular palates can curb carbs with rice-free rolls ($9.95), soy-paper snuggled and filled with a tasty medley of flavorful ingredients, or keep voracities vegetarian with fish-free options such as the veggie Zen roll (cut roll, $9.95; hand roll, $7.95), loaded with yam tempura, avocado, cucumber, fried jalapeño, and gobo, a Japanese root vegetable. Innovative cocktails ($7.95), red and white wine ($6.95–$9.95), beer ($4.50–$8.95), and more than a dozen varieties of sake ($3–$17.95) complement chopstick choices and make for lavish beginnings to evenings at the movies, dancing dates, or the courting of a comely kraken.
After spending more than 20 years in the fine-dining industry, the duo behind Roll It Sushi & Teriyaki saw a need in the market for tasty sushi that is both affordable and fresh. Today, their eatery features 17 classic and specialty rolls along with a fun build-your-own sushi roll station. There, clients can choose from two wraps, nine veggies, and either eight cooked meats or four types of raw fish. In addition to sushi, the restaurant offers teriyaki-style bowls, plates, and sandwiches.
Make lunch or dinner into a fun foodmersible with submarine-shaped appetizer rolls such as the seared ahi tuna variation with mango, mint, avocado, and wasabi-ginger soy sauce ($7), or yam-tempura-coated fish sticks ($7). Meat goes best with meat, which explains why bold dishes like the rau ram salad with chicken, cabbage, green mango, and apple ($11) and the braised anise shortrib ($22) stand out so well. Quietly confident plates such as the tofu with eggplant, mushrooms, and Thai basil ($12) or the lemongrass jalapeno wok (tofu, $13) are equally delicious, but are more susceptible to noogies.
Japanese-European Fusion | Award-Winning Cuisine | Upscale Sushi Bar | Imported Drinks | Tasting Menu
Where to Sit: To get a view of the sushi maestros in action, request a seat at the sushi counter.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Wasa Sushi at the Market Place (13124 Jamboree Road, Irvine) serves fish so fresh that, according to the Orange County Register, "[it] tastes like it was just snatched from the sea."