@ Sushi: As Good as It Looks

Spicy popcorn lobster. Photo by Erin DeWitt

We’re lucky to live in an area blessed with an abundance of top-notch sushi places. From indiscernible strip-mall joints to oceanfront fine dining, we’ve all got at least a few favorites. In Long Beach alone, there’s a sushi spot every few blocks, and even on Second Street, specifically the shopping-and-dining strip between Naples and Livingston, we have half a dozen choices. And then @Sushi (pronounced and sometimes styled At Sushi) popped up last month.

Directly across it on Claremont Avenue is Roe, a large, high-end seafood restaurant that has its own sushi menu. Over the bridge is longtime local favorite Kihon (previously Naples Sushi). Sushi on Fire, a cool joint for the sushi-starter crowd, is less than 400 feet away, and Sushi Ai is down a few short blocks. Further down the street, you’ll find Goyen Sushi & Robata, so yeah, there are a lot.

With some seriously stiff, extremely close neighboring competition, can @Sushi hold its own?

After moving into the space previously occupied by Brix, a casual spot known for mile-high pastrami sandwiches, @Sushi doesn’t appear to have made many structural changes. There’s still the small-ish bar in the back flanked by several sit-down tables. But the new owners did make good use of the high walls with giant, sparkly fishbone installations, made entirely of nails by artist Scott Yu.

One thing @Sushi is clearly not messing around with is plate presentation. Dishes come out intricately constructed, decorated just so, practically begging to be snapped and posted. Its Instagram account (@atsushilongbeach) teases, “Your immersive journey into the art of sushi begins when you come in our door.”

The @Cracker starter. Photo by Erin DeWitt

Starters include such expected options as garlic edamame, shishito peppers, gyoza and poke, but also offered are small dishes such as a caviar baguette that comes with smoked salmon and baked green mussels with masago. Each of @Sushi’s signature starters—the @Cucumber, @Tomato and @Cracker—is essentially a fish-and-avocado ceviche atop the titular ingredient. The @Cracker came as a trio of fried wonton squares, with the addition of tomato and cilantro.

Menu sections read out like a multicourse meal: salad, tempura, carpaccio, yakitori, shooters that come with a shot of cold sake, and chef’s special selections such as black cod or Scottish salmon collar.

@Sushi’s spicy popcorn lobster, listed as a chef’s special, is among the most photo-worthy. A pile of tender lobster-tail bites are fried in airy batter, served alongside a vegetable roll of gobo, cucumber, avocado and asparagus. A trio of dipping sauces is presented in one bowl, each making its own colored ring. The whole thing is served on a wooden plank and decorated with the empty tail. Hot and cold, soft and crunchy, mellow and spicy—it’s a beautiful, perfectly composed dish.

Hot Night Roll. Photo by Erin DeWitt

Half of the restaurant’s sushi-specific menu is standard fare. There’s nigiri and sashimi and the usual rolls found in SoCal places (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, Philadelphia, etc.). In addition to Dragon, Caterpillar and Hot Night rolls, @Sushi serves a Long Beach roll (here with yellowtail, asparagus, avocado and cilantro), a Mexican roll that swaps the seaweed for a tortilla and a baked garlic albacore concoction.

But what may solidify @Sushi’s place amid an otherwise-saturated market is its impeccable execution of these items. Rolls are sliced into delicate, one-bite mouthfuls (a rarity at any sushi restaurant, let’s be honest); ingredients are out-of-the-sea or off-the-tree fresh. Between the name and the gorgeous plates, the restaurant screams, “Tag me!”—but @Sushi also speaks in substance and beauty.

@Sushi, 5372 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 343-7470.

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