Sora Sushi & Roll in Covina

After a couple of restaurant groups were didn’t have much staying power at the site of the former Sam Woo BBQ on San Bernardino Road and Azusa over the years, I hope the new inhabitants, Sora Sushi & Roll, will have better luck.

After a few colleagues made a few return trips there for lunch, I thought I would give the new Japanese cuisine a try myself to see what they had to offer.

Though there are many Asian restaurants in the neighborhood, there haven’t been too many that have such a variety of sushi and rolls offered, and taste good too.

Although the teriyaki plates and combination platters were very tempting, I felt it only fair to give the sushi rolls a try.

With everything from a simple California or tuna roll to the specialty, fresh, tempura and baked rolls, I grew hungrier as I read the description of each roll. I finally settled on the Alaska roll (spicy scallop inside, topped with salmon and avocado and rice) and a spicy tuna roll.

37643-SORA_Bento4-thumb-250x187-37642.jpg

Sushi and roll orders come with a cup of miso soup and salad. The soup was perfectly temperatured for me to enjoy right away, I would have liked more tofu pieces but the broth was seasoned well for a tasty, warm start to my meal.

37641-SORA_Bento2-thumb-250x187-37639.jpg

The small salad was a simple mix of greens with radiccio and carrot. The dressing, not knowing exactly what it was, was very tasty with a slight tangy and light flavor.

The Alaska roll ($8.95) was beautifully displayed and it tasted as good as it looked. The spicy scallop had a nice tender kick, not too strong, and the salmon and avocado was a nice fresh and cool balance to the roll.

The spicy tuna ($4.95) cut roll had a little more heat but was still not overwhelming the rest of the flavors in the roll.

The rice in the rolls were cooked just right so they stayed sticky to keep the rolls in place. A good indicator of the sushi chef’s talent.

37646-SORA_Bento5-thumb-250x187-37645.jpg

I was pleasantly full with the size of the rolls but the dessert was so tempting, I ordered some strawberry mochi ice cream to go ($2.50 for two pieces) – perfect ending to my Sora experience.

Although it can get pricey, I will definitely have to return to Sora to try the rest of the menu, starting with the Jalapeno Bomb and Soft Shell Crab in their Little Bites menu.

Sora also offers salads, sashimi combos, noodles, bowls, tempura plates, and party platters.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Sora is located at 519 N. Azusa Ave., Covina, 626-332-1201.

My Torrance lunch adventure

A few weeks ago, I was sent out to work out of one of our other sister papers’ office in Torrance and while I was only there for a couple days, I thought I would venture out for lunch and see what the city had to offer.

The first day, on my way into the office I passed by a sushi place that caught my eye and I knew I had to try it for lunch – Sushi Boy.

32780-SUSHIBOY2-thumb-275x206-32779.jpg

From the outside it looked like a fast-food type of sushi bar and even though that didn’t sound too appealing, I was intrigued.

As I walked in, it was just what I thought – fast food. They did add some cool Japanese art throughout the dining area to get a more authentic Japanese restaurant feel to it.

The menu featured a variety of sushi rolls, sashimi and sushi, as well as combo meals with salad noodles and bowls offered.

Wanting to try a little of everything I ordered the Takumi value meal for $6.80 which came with four pieces of california roll, one salmon and one shrimp sushi serving, three pieces of tekka maki and kappa maki each (tuna and cucumber, respectively) and a spicy tuna hand roll.

32787-SUSHIBOY1-thumb-200x150-32781.jpg

Each value meal comes with a serving of miso soup, or get a fountain drink instead for a few cents more.

My order came out pretty quick – ten minutes or less – and with the price, I was a little hesitant.

Everything looked surprisingly fresh for how quick it was served. The soup was okay but there wasn’t much, if any, tofu which I’m used to having in my miso soup.

I dug into the Califoria rolls first – they were average, nothing special but pretty good for fast food. I don’t know what type of wasabi they served but it didn’t taste like wasabi I’ve had before and it wasn’t necessarily good.

The cucumber and tuna tasted fresh but the seaweed was sometimes a bit too chewy. The salmon and shrimp tasted pretty fresh and not fishy. I wish I had better wasabi to serve it with.

The best item by far was the spicy tuna hand roll. Not only did the spicy tuna have the right amount of heat but there was plenty in there and it all fit perfectly with the cucumber and rice. 

32784-SUSHIBOY3-thumb-180x135-32783.jpg

 

When I first spotted Sushi Boy I never seen anything like it and I thought maybe I was trying something that could only be found in Torrance but as I perused the to-go menu I discovered there is a Sushi Boy in the San Gabriel Valley!

Or at least a version of what seems like a franchise. The company has 12 California locations in all including one in West Covina – Marukai West Covina at 1420 Azusa Ave. 

I will definitely have to try Marukai in West Covina one day but I may still call it Sushi Boy because it sounds cooler. For the other locations, visit www.sushiboy.net .

For the variety and price, I was happy with the quality of my lunch at Sushi Boy.

SECOND DAY

For lunch on my second day in Torrance I thought I would entrust my new Blackberry to help me find something I hoped would be different and unique.

Craving noodles, I was torn between a Thai restaurant and a curry one.

Since I don’t have too much experience with curry I thought I would give the Curry House a try and it was only across the street from the office.

When I stepped in it was a nice sit-down restaurant. I was seated by a hostess and soon visited by my waitress. She sensed I was new there and gave me more time to look over the menu.

I don’t know much about what exactly is normal for a curry restaurant menu but there I knew it didn’t seem normal to have jambalaya on the menu.

The jambalaya entree was special to Curry House because it also included curry sauces. 

I really wanted to try something with a good curry sauce but the Jambalaya-style curry meal came with rice and I was still craving pasta or noodles so I went with something else.

The Seafood Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine ($10.05), featured shrimp, white fish, baby clams, squid, onion and bell pepper in a curry cream sauce – perfect! Pasta and curry all in one.

32786-curryhouse1-thumb-200x179-32785.jpg

I ordered hot tea and water but there was a wide variety of beverage options with tropical iced tea, iced oolong and green teas, shirley temple, iced cafe au lait and more.

And if you have a reason to celebrate or feel like a little libation they also serve alcoholic beverages such as plum wine and Kirin Ichiban, a Japanese beer, on tap.

The table settings and the atmosphere of the restaurant was nice but it didn’t seem too busy at the time but I was having a late lunch so I hope, for their sake, there was more customers there a little earlier.

Despite not having too many customers, my meal took a little while but that only made me believe it was freshly made to order by real cooks in the kitchen.

By the time I did get my plate, I was pretty hungry. It was hot but luckily for me not too hot (I can’t stand extreme temperatures in my mouth).

I dug right into the squid and the fettucine, swirling it around in the curry sauce to get a nice taste of it.

The squid wasn’t too chewy but it did have a bit of a fishy taste and after having some bites of the perfectly tender and flaky white fish I knew it wasn’t that. Maybe it was the baby clams.

It was pretty easy to scoop them out of their little shells but they also had more of a fish taste than clam flavor. The fettucine was nicely cooked and the curry sauce was tasty but I was expecting it to be spicy and it wasn’t.

Overall for a seafood dish it was tasty but I would skip the clams next time and maybe ask for some spicier sauce on the side or instead of.

Now, it being my second and last day in Torrance I thought I was having lunch at a restaurant that again, is exclusive to Torrance but once again I was mistaken.

Curry House is a small chain of restaurants with 11 California locations, (one being take-out only), including one near the Puente Hills mall in the City of Industry.

There is such a variety of food on their menu that it’s a good thing there is one closer to me so I can try other offerings.

There is everything from salads to curry rice dishes to spaghetti dishes and even kid’s meals.

Curry House in Puente Hills is at 17865 Colima Road in the City of Industry. For more information on other locations or menus, visit www.house-foods.com/CurryHouse.

So much for adventure dining in new cities…. At least I don’t have to drive to Torrance to try these places again.

Dining on a budget: Sakura of Tokyo in West Covina

By Maritza Velazquez

The sushi may not be spectacular, but the price is just right. 

Sakura of Tokyo in West Covina probably has the best lunch specials of any Japanese restaurant I’ve ever frequented.

My lunch companions and I pondered over the expansive menu that included more than 35 lunch combination specials for at least 10 minutes before making a decision. 

After members of the attentive wait staff returned to take our orders more than once, I finally settled on a combination plate of sushi, sashimi and tempura for $8.50. It included salad, rice and a serving of miso soup. 

31410-SAKURATOKYO_dining-thumb-250x187-31408.jpg

Probably the biggest disappointment was that the five pieces of sushi on my plate were really only just three. Two of the pieces included only egg and rice. The shrimp sushi wasn’t the most fresh seafood I’ve ever tasted either.

But the sashimi (sliced raw fish without the rice) consisted of a good-sized helping of my two favorite fish – salmon and tuna.

The tempura, a popular Japanese dish of battered and deep- fried meat, included both shrimp and vegetables. 

If you’re not familiar with sushi, or Japanese cuisine in general, Sakura of Tokyo is a great place to start. Every menu item has an accompanying photo, and each booth has a poster of the names of all the different kinds of fish.

Lunch specials range from $5.75 to $8.50 and include many different options, such as California rolls, gyoza (fried chicken dumplings), beef and chicken teriyaki and even egg rolls. 

Dinner specials at Sakura aren’t too shabby either. All priced at $8.25, there aren’t as many options as the lunch specials, but you can still order some of the same fare – teriyaki, sesame chicken and sushi. 

The whole staff at Sakura of Tokyo is friendly from the get-go. It was great that we never had to wait, and even our food came out in less than 10 minutes.

The restaurant is adorned with random trinkets consisting of both Japanese and ocean themes. My aquaintances and I enjoyed observing all the fun decorations – like the blow-up oversized Sapporo bottles and killer whales, combined with faux cherry blossoms and Japanese lanterns.

Sakura of Tokyo is at 533 S. Glendora Ave., in West Covina. It’s open seven days a week, and closes between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. On Sundays, it’s only open for lunch from 4:30 to 9 p.m.

For more information, call (626) 960-7155.