Hapi Sushi is a teeny little sushi restaurant located at 250 Beach Avenue in Laguna Beach, California. There's room for two chefs behind the counter, two waiter types wandering around to tables and refilling drinks for the counter folk, and as many customers as can squeeze in (maybe twelve at the counter and another dozen or so at tables, but the counter's where you want to be). There are no menus, much to the bewilderment of the couple from Washington, D.C. who sat next to us the last time we ate there. Our chef grinned at the woman who'd inquired for a menu, tapped his forehead with two fingers and said, "It's all in here. We have everything you like."
Now, that last is not quite true. They usually don't have toro (fatty tuna belly, which rules my world) but our chef told us he'd happily make sushi with it for us if we brought some in. But I digress. Here's what we ate the last time we went there (last Friday, so all the yummy goodness is fresh in my memory).
The key at Hapi Sushi is to let the chef make you specials. If he's in a mood to show off, you'll both win. We got tuna sashimi to make up for the lack of toro (it did), a crab and asparagus and avocado roll dusted with roe, some salmon sushi, some unagi sushi, a deep-fried roll filled with crabmeat (deep fried sushi? I hear you protest, but I promise, it's excellent. Give it a try.) and finally a creation I will henceforth refer to as "the girlfriend roll".
My partner and I were winding up our feast, and our chef suggested (offered to make us, in a tone that was more of a statement than a question) one more special before we called it a night. "Okay," I said, and began to describe what I wanted. "The last time we were here, we saw you make a roll in cucumber sliced paper-thin instead of seaweed. It was very beautiful, and looked delicious. Can you make us that?"
"Oh," he replied smoothly, "my girlfriend was in. I only make that for her. You have to be my girlfriend." I must have looked crestfallen, because he added, "...or find me a girlfriend. Do you have a sister?" at which point the playful banter began. "I have a brother", I said. "but you don't want him." "No", he agreed, and set to making our final roll. On our way out, our chef said to me, "So I will see you when he is at work? I know in America, if you have a boyfriend, it means you are available."
The roll in question consists of tuna, salmon, and crab, all rolled up in thinly sliced cucumber instead of nori, and garnished with thin slices of lemon and strawberry on each piece. The taste is delicate and fresh and wonderful; I recommend it even more highly than the "79 roll", a Hapi Sushi special involving strawberries, avocado, and spicy tuna (though that too rocks my world.) "Wow", said Jongleur ruefully after his first bite, "maybe you should be his girfriend."
We all had a good laugh, and we had an excellent dinner. "I just do my job", the chef said modestly as we thanked him profusely for the nth time. Our dinner (tea, miso soup, and sushi) ran us less than $40, but we rounded it up to $50 with tip, and counted it well worth every cent.
So that's Hapi Sushi for you. In case it wasn't obvious, I highly recommend it.