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Sushi in Paradise

[whitespace] Paradise Sushi Capitola Dreaming: Sushi chef Thomas Kuchurian matches fresh fish and unique flavors at Paradise Sushi in Capitola Village.

George Sakkestad



Overlooking Capitola's matchless beachfront, Paradise Sushi provides aid and comfort to those who like to walk on the wild side

By Christina Waters

JACK WAS RIGHT--there aren't too many restaurants around where you can sit up high looking down at a sunset through second-story windows. The view of the cozy streets of Capitola Village was just one of the treats we savored last weekend at Paradise Sushi. Occupying a legendary restaurant site next to the Capitola Theater, Paradise affords terrific panoramas, especially at sunset.

Echoed by the crimson ahi, crab, tobiko and salmon resting like jewels behind the sushi bar, the pink sky managed to blend perfectly with the sounds of vintage Bob Dylan wafting through the background--not the foreground, as is all too true of many restaurants these days when lots of noise is equated with great cuisine.

Deservedly popular, Paradise began filling up with groups gathering back in the tatami rooms, where patrons can dine sitting on the floor in semiprivacy. The sushi bar shares the space with graceful globe lanterns and printed cloth banners that break up the room into generous islands of dining and conversation. Intrigued by the unusually hefty offering of premium sakes, I ordered Horin Gekkeikan, a luxury rice wine from Kyoto ($8.75) that was served in a square cedar box. Although the presentation took some getting used to--I've always enjoyed the tiny ceramic cups--the sake itself was amazingly graceful. Dry, yet filled with the aromas of apricots and a velvety almond flavor, it went nicely with appetizers of ocean salad ($3), a dinner salad of baby greens ($3.50) and an order of hamachi kama, collar of broiled yellowtail ($7.50).

Jack, who loved his rich Kirin beer ($3), agreed that my sake was superb. This compliment turned out to be a ploy to distract me while he consumed most of the fine organic wakame seaweed salad that was drenched in a smoky vinegar dressing.

The green salad, composed of unusually tender, flavor-intensive lettuces, was sided with a wonderful tahini-ginger dressing and made an excellent contrast with the rich yellowtail.

The collar of this oil-abundant fish is especially prized in Japanese cuisine. Loaded with flavor, this version was expertly broiled and lightly glazed with a sweet and salty sauce. It came with a tiny mound of freshly grated ginger and a cloud of spun daikon radish. The meat was succulent and tightly textured--a glorious fish dish that came with its own side of excellent short-grained rice.

Of our sushi orders, the big favorite was an evening special of bonita, scallop, spicy mayo, garlic and tobiko ($4.75) called Hot Kat Too. Yes, it was hot, but not ungodly, like, for example, the house's infamous Satan Handroll. The Hot Kat was brilliantly balanced between seafood succulence, a kick of chili and the bite of garlic, and each slice was edged in brilliant red-orange tobiko. Less successful was the Flaming Spider, in which the flavorless crunch of tempura soft-shell crab failed to inspire its fresh pineapple and macadamia nut partners ($5.75).

We both liked the tekkamaki ($4), though it was a bit rustically constructed for my taste, and I admired the ethereal crispness of the delicate batter--oil-bearing but delicate--surrounding my tempura prawns ($7.75). And my "dessert" of tobiko with quail egg ($5) was delectable decadence.

The big hit of our evening was the special roll packed with bonita and scallop and slathered with the fiery mayo. It packed the crunch of tobiko with spice and sensuous seafood--everything I ever wanted in a sushi roll.

The sky was that iridescent shade of indigo, and the white lights lining Capitola's miniature streetscape were twinkling seductively as we descended the stairs to the parking lot. In a town where parking is notoriously difficult, it's nice to know that we had one free hour of validated parking thanks to our enjoyable meal at Paradise Sushi.


Paradise Sushi
Address: 200 Monterey Ave., Capitola Village
Phone: 464-3328
Hours: Sun.-Thu. noon-10pm; Fri.-Sat. noon-11pm
Service: *** Both at the bar and at the table, the service here is swift and knowledgeable
Ambiance: *** About as pretty and welcoming as a sushi bar gets
Cuisine: ** 1/2 Fine in the sushi department, with super-fresh fish, the menu is executed competently
Overall: Paradise Sushi combines aspects of both of those words--the setting is an edible Eden, and the fresh Japanese sushi specialties hit the spot

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From the April 7-14, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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