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CLUBS in and around Orange County | NIGHT SHIFT

To Sea and Be Scene

As sushi places go, Tsunami and Daimon have atmosphere--if not seats--to spare.

January 01, 1998|MELISSA PERLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SUNSET BEACH — Driving down Pacific Coast Highway and watching the endless parade of bronzed surfers hauling boards to and from the beach, regardless of the time of day or the weather, it's hard not to wonder, "Don't these people have clothes?"

Well, even surfers like to don a pair of pants once in a while in order to explore the pleasures that only the indoors can offer.

But that doesn't mean their love of the sea dies at sunset, as proven by how many dive into the lively local sushi scene.

Tsunami Sushi is in a strip mall at the corner of PCH and Warner Avenue. Getting in is easy enough--there's no cover charge, nor is there a bouncer to hold back the throngs. Getting something to eat can prove more challenging. Whether you prefer to sit at the sushi bar or at the teppan tables, the wait can be excruciating on weekends.

The teppan room is a haven for the sushi-phobic. Each table consists of roughly six seats in a U around a grill, where a chef prepares your meal to the rhythm of music by the likes of Al Green or the Jackson 5. Benihana it's not, but he's likely to perform a few utensil tricks to keep you occupied.

If that doesn't hold your interest, amuse yourself watching the mating rituals taking place under the disco ball in the densely packed bar, where hair gel is in greater abundance than verbal skills.

The crowd is attractive and young, and the male-female ratio is favorable (if you're a female), but there isn't too much mingling. The guys clump together; the gals travel in packs--they spend much of their time primping in the ladies' room--so, guys, they obviously want to be approached--but "bumping into" gals seems to be the only skill these guys have mastered. Or bumping, staring blankly, then laughing self-consciously, as if that's a woman's cue to make her move.

She does move--up to the bar for another drink. Tsunami doesn't serve hard liquor, but sake is just $3 and a 22-ounce Asahi is $5.50. Despite the demanding mob, the friendly bartender will have the woman's drink in her hand before she can say sayonara to the guy who's still laughing self-consciously beside her.

If the more socially adventurous find Tsunami's scene a bit impenetrable, they can cruise a couple miles north to Daimon.

It's also divided into a sushi bar and a teppan room, and prices are comparable to Tsunami's. So is the wait, but if it's teppan you choose, you'll be rewarded with a rowdy, sometimes raunchy, interactive dining experience.

The crowd at Daimon is filled with regulars, and they're so darned friendly that--whether you're lucky enough to snag a stool in the minuscule bar or you're squeezed up against a wall in the adjoining hallway--the sardine next to you is sure to strike up a conversation if you don't first. If he offers to buy you a drink, order a stiff one, especially if the wild public displays of enthusiasm expected of Daimon patrons don't come naturally.

From the moment a chef begins his "act," even if you're looking on from the bar, you'll be encouraged to whoop, yell, cheer and pound your fists on the table while vegetables are hurled artfully through the air toward your gaping mouth.

To get any more specific would ruin it for the virgin Daimon visitor. Suffice it to say that Daimon is not a hangout for the prudish or the socially challenged.

It's like summer camp: You might walk in feeling a little apprehensive, but you'll walk out with lasting memories and a bunch of new friends--not to mention a disco beat humming around in your head.

BE THERE

Tsunami Sushi, 17236 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. 6-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-midnight Friday, 5 p.m.-midnight Saturday. No cover. (562) 592-5806.

Daimon, 16232 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. 5-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m. Sunday. No cover. (562) 592-4862.

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