Full Moon Sushi: New Order

As much as I want our local mom-and-pops to succeed, I worry once they start expanding because growing an empire almost always comes at the cost of quality—just ask the Romans. Some places, such as Bruxie and Bánh Mì Che Cali, seamlessly transform into mini-chains; others (I'm looking at you, Taquería de Anda) insult the memory of what made them so successful in the first place. Here's hoping Full Moon Sushi continues to be in the former category as the owners slowly plot their conquest of the county.

Their trio of places falls at the sushi crossroads between the intimacy of a family-owned joint such as Wafu of Japan and the club-like atmosphere of an RA or the thankfully gone Geisha House. So you're going to find a mostly young work force and clientele chowing down rolls above the din of club music or televisions, everyone grubbing and checking iPads during a lunch break—but the men behind the bar can omakase with the best of them, while the house rolls are legitimate constructions. The namesake roll—salmon, tuna, whitefish, shrimp and crabmeat stuffed with avocado, deep-fried, then slathered in ponzu sauce and topped with smelt—reads as though it's a deep-trawling documentary but ties together beautifully, each jewel of the sea perfect, the smelt adding a bold brininess. An albacore-garlic roll wonderfully reeks of the latter thanks to a deep-fried sliver confidently placed on top that slowly drips down to the plate; the jalapeño-spiked yellowtail doesn't tone down the heat. Most of the tables order an army of sushi, but make sure to slurp down some of the good udon and better bowls—the poke in particular, while not the best in OC, certainly belongs in a conversation about the five finest in the land.

Because the place is so young, Full Moon's audacity is driving its success; it has yet to become ossified à la Lee's Sandwiches. I'm used to finding daily specials haphazardly tacked onto papers in Japanese restaurants, but Full Moon's secrets are as ponderous as the Eye of Providence that serves as its logo—besides what's on the chalkboard and the walls, ask the waitresses for the secret secret menu. So again, Full Moon: Go march through the rest of OC—you've taken your sweet time, having debuted with the Fountain Valley original in 2001 and not opening another spot since the Tustin branch in 2009. But por favor, never lose the talent and charm that y'all currently shovel out like so many appetizers of edamame.

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