The Sushi House
1127 S. Seaward Ave.  

In the world of dining out, restaurants that are regionally specific typically have the usual suspects. American-style eateries offer burgers and fried chicken strips. Italian restaurants feature spaghetti and pizza. Barbeque joints are known for their ribs and steaks. Japanese restaurants have the standard California and spicy tuna rolls. With many eateries, creativity is often lacking. But luckily for locals, there is a new restaurant in town that trades some of the traditional styles of cooking for specialty dishes based on suggestions by customers. Welcome to The Sushi House in Ventura.

For those who had visited the former proprietor at the site where The Sushi House is now, they would note the remarkable metamorphosis that has happened for such a small spot. Joannafina’s was the traditional Mexican eatery with Spanish tile flooring, peach-colored walls, etc. — it gave off the fiesta vibe quite well. And while it is sad that Seaward Avenue in Pierpont now lacks a Mexican joint, the community can be happy that, once again, Japanese cuisine is back on the menu; and the young, hip, modern and artistic sensibility of The Sushi House is sure to make it a hit for years to come.

My companions and I visited The Sushi House on a Wednesday night. We were among the first to arrive for the dinner rush but it didn’t take long for the small but quaint dining room and sushi bar to fill up. We had a friendly server who was quick to get our drinks and even faster to bring miso soup. (Note: miso soup is not complimentary here.) As we scanned the menu, one thing above all else stood out — all of the specialty rolls, with one exception, were named after local and coastal hot spots. Many of these rolls didn’t have rice or seaweed, breaking the traditional rules right off the bat. After ordering an array of dishes, we took in the beautiful original artwork and murals around the restaurant.

While the service was a little slower than what we would have liked, the food was definitely worth the wait. The first batch of sushi rolls were the Montecito and Surfers Point rolls. To put it bluntly, both rolls were rich in flavor, but what really sold us on returning to The Sushi House was the freshness of the fish — the Montecito wrapped in albacore and Surfers Point wrapped in ahi tuna. And because neither roll has seaweed or rice, we got only the pure flavor of the perfectly sliced tuna as if it had just been caught that day. It was quite an experience. There was, however, a clear winner — the Surfers Point roll really stole the show with the spicy crab and salmon, and topped with caviar that gave us a burst of salt water. I mean, come on — what sushi lover wouldn’t flip for this dish? The Montecito roll was good — kind of what you would think of should you visit the city. High on quality but no unpredictable flavors. The combination of spicy tuna, avocado, jalapeño with the albacore just didn’t shine as brightly as the other.

We also ordered the Avocado Bomb, the Rincon roll and the tempura California roll —apparently the regular California rolls aren’t an option unless you ask for it. If you have ever had the traditional Monkey Brains at most sushi restaurants, the Avocado Bomb is either its identical twin or a very similar cousin, depending on where you go. Deep-fried tempura style, the avocado melts like butter and is perfectly in sync with the sweet shredded imitation crab and spicy tuna. It’s a real indulgence. The tempura California roll yielded no surprises. The Rincon roll was a mellow combination of sweet imitation crab, eel, salmon, yellowtail, white fish and shrimp tempura wrapped in skin of cucumber and topped with baked scallops and a neutral-flavored masago special sauce. Although the presentation was fun and clean, the combination of so many different types of fish didn’t really take it up a notch. But I will always fall back to quality with The Sushi House. I may be hard to please, needing flavor that always packs a punch, so make no mistake — all the dishes were prepared with skill and technique, and the creativity was omnipresent.

Though it was a bit pricey — a party of four ended up being $118, admittedly after busting our belt buckles — it’s easy to see that Seaward Avenue in Pierpont has finally come full circle after Girocho’s closed so many years ago. The Sushi House is a welcome addition to the food scene, and if you want to just kick back and enjoy some sake and a roll or two, owner Reynaldo Camarena will spin some records on the back patio for your entertainment.