Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall off Bolsa Avenue in Little Saigon is the ONLY all-vegan sushi restaurant in Orange County.
Don Phan and wife Sandy are the force behind Kenshō Sushi, the tiny six table vegan eatery specializing in plant-based, inventive sushi rolls made well. The menu is limited: three appetizers, nine rolls, two hand rolls, and one dessert. The vegan seafood is described as “shrimp-less” and “tuna-less” (so there is no confusion about it being the real thing) and is made using wheat, soy, mushrooms and konjac (an Asian plant whose starchy root has binding properties and is often used as a thickener or gelatin substitute.)
To start, Kenshō offers an organic miso soup, seaweed salad, and edamame. The appetizers are like the backup dancers, deliciously entertaining– but the sushi is who you really come to see. The Crunchy Cali Roll, filled with konjac “shrimp”, cucumber and avocado comes covered in tempura-panko adding a crunchy finish until the last bite, without being greasy.
The Ninja Roll has “shrimp” tempura, spicy “tuna”, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber and a dab of wasabi for that extra bite. Drizzled over the top is their sweet “eel” unagi sauce, spicy mayo, Sriracha, sesame seeds, and a sprinkle of green onion. The konjac shrimp has the mouthfeel of regular shrimp, slightly chewy yet firm, but without the shrimp flavor – absorbing whatever flavor or sauce its combined with, while still offering a familiar texture.
Shiitake mushrooms used in the Caterpillar, Spider, and Don Rolls add an umami savory richness, with just the right amount of “meatiness” that balances perfectly with avocado and “cream cheese ” (made of tofu, but you would never know the difference).
Both the Jalapeño Popper Roll and the Yoga Fire offer “shrimp” tempura inside and pack some serious heat – the sauces are unexpectedly complex and go well with the combination of vegetables and marinated konjac – but the cream cheese cuts some of the spiciness leaving you wanting more.
A must-order, the Sweet P is a great combination of sushi rice, cream cheese and tempura sweet potato. For those less adventurous, they also offer traditional avocado and cucumber rolls.
Lucky for us, the Phan’s plan on adding more Japanese dishes to the menu when they relocate to a bigger space in May – the expansion is a movement toward more delicious and sustainable fare for vegans and non-vegans alike.
“We are extremely grateful for all the support we have received by the vegan community, and every day are reminded that there are more people like us who believe that they can make a difference in the world by choosing compassion,” Sandy Phan says. “The more people choosing compassion over old habits brings us that much closer to the peaceful future that we know will inevitably exist one day.”
Kenshō Sushi, 9550 Bolsa Avenue #125, Westminster, (714) 514-8726.