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Local Rocker's Tuna Town Strikes a Familiar Chord

Korn drummer David Silvera's new Huntington Beach sushi, teppan spot is a rock 'n' roll Benihana.

April 18, 2002|MARTIN BOOE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tuna Town is a new Huntington Beach restaurant owned by Korn drummer David Silvera and his wife, Shannon. Depending on your musical tastes--or, more likely, your age--this detail of ownership will rate as either highly significant or mildly confusing.

I happened to know that Korn is a popular rock band, and I have now learned that they got together in Huntington Beach, but, personally, I wouldn't recognize one of their songs if you played it at my wedding. Two friends who joined me at the restaurant were somewhat more savvy. They knew how Korn spells its name, but disagreed about whether it's the "k" or the "r" that is written backward.

The rock connection wouldn't seem to have anything to do with the food, but in a way it does. Tuna Town is, in effect, a rock 'n' roll Benihana; if you reserve a teppan table, a chef cooks in front of you, doing a Benihana-style culinary tap dance with knives and spatulas.

It's all good fun, but quite a different experience, of course, if you're not much over college age and have never seen it before. As we were being seated at a teppan table with a foursome in their early 20s, one of my friends mentioned the name Benihana. "Benny who?" they replied.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 23, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Calendar Weekend--Drummer David Silveria's name was misspelled in a review of his restaurant Tuna Town that appeared in the Orange County edition of Thursday's Calendar Weekend. Also, the band was formed in Bakersfield, not Huntington Beach, where the restaurant is located.

The restaurant is, as you might expect, trendy in design, using the industrial Gothic motif that seems to be de rigueur for sushi bars and ambitious Asian restaurants these days. It's a large room with high ceilings, concrete floors painted institutional gray and on the walls are gold and platinum records and other musical memorabilia.

On one side as you enter, there's a bar and a sushi bar, on the other, vastly spacious crescent-shaped banquettes where only sushi is served. In the middle toward the rear sprawl the three huge teppan tables, each seating up to 10 people. The room is very noisy.

When you make reservations for a teppan table, you'll be politely but firmly told that if you're more than 15 minutes late, you'll lose your slot. Fair enough, but it's also good to know that the teppan tables are large, so you'll probably be seated with another party, and if you don't get there on time, you'll be delaying their service as well as your own. We were close to a half-hour late. Fortunately, the group of young adults we shared the teppan table with were patient.

From that point, it took another 20 minutes for our waiter to take our orders. She forcefully suggested that we try the infused sakes. I was skeptical, suspecting something on the order of a wine cooler, but we settled on the Momokawa Ruby Sake, and it turned out to be the roundest, softest sake I've ever had.

We ordered some sushi to start with, then a variety of items from the teppan menu.

The sushi gets the job done. It's nicely presented and appropriately fresh, arriving on a chilled plate. In the center, our yellowtail sashimi was curled into a rose and sprinkled with salmon roe. The spicy tuna roll was on the mark, and the crab roll got a nice bite from radish sprouts and shredded pickled carrots.

The kitchen does have a few kinks to work out, though. Our miso soup, which came tepid, was salty and tasted as if it came from a mix. The salad, a big bowl of iceberg lettuce, had a good tomato-garlic vinaigrette, but some parts had dressing and some didn't.

Still, everything fell into place with the arrival of the chef, who began slicing and dicing with considerable deftness, juggling knives, tossing an egg into the air and splitting it on his spatula, flipping a shrimp tail from behind his back and catching it on his toque. He did the old Benihana trick of stacking onion slices to create a "volcano" with steam puffing out of the center.

The food is fine, and it's prepared so simply--flash-fried on the griddle with little more than salt and pepper--that the most important thing to say about it is the ingredients are first-rate. The filet mignon is tender and juicy, the lobster succulent, the shrimp plump and moist, the halibut and scallops tender and flavorful.

The sushi items run $3 to $9.50. Teppan entrees are $14 to $25, combinations $24 to $35. The prices, particularly the teppan prices, reflect that you're paying for the show as much as anything else, and our youngish tablemates looked as if they were having the time of their lives.

*

Tuna Town, 221 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-3194. Dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday; closed Mondays.

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