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Raw flavor, elegant setting Chef Onural brings creativity, sophistication to the sushi palate Written by Debbie Council

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he next time you visit the Palm Springs area and have a yen for something cool and refreshing from the sea, mosey on over to El Paseo in Palm Desert to indulge in some sushi — those little handmade jewels of culinary art that are sometimes hard to pronounce but delightful to eat. A hip new new place to enjoy that quintessential Japanese snack is The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge, and Engin Onural, owner and executive sushi chef, will make you feel right at home. Dining on sushi is as much a visual journey as it is a culinary experience at The Venue. And who knows better how to bring on the starring rolls but the head chef himself and his female sushi chef, Liesel. Sitting at the bar is where the show begins, and the sushi chefs are in the leads. Onural learned his craft the traditional way from hard-core Japanese teachers in 2006 at the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles after moving to California from Ankara, Turkey. But the Turkish 27-year-old, a certified sake sommelier, does sushi his way. “This is a live show because it happens on the spot,” Onural said. “The interaction is there in front of you. It’s all about interacting.” The extensive menu (which includes 15 choices of nigiri sushi, 14 maki rolls, six hand rolls, six carpaccio, four tataki and other favorites) presents a challenge on where to begin. Onural’s creativity comes out in 13 specialty rolls, which are unique. Try the mouth-watering Mediterranean roll filled with spicy albacore, tempura asparagus and avocado, finished off with 64

| riversidethemag.com | december 2011 - january 2012

colorful dribbles of Mediterranean salsa and feta cheese for $16. Or the experiment roll, which features eight delicious mouthfuls of snow crab, mango, avocado and cucumber topped with tuna, thin slices of jalapeno, cilantro and yuzu aioli ($18). “All of my plates literally look like paintings,” Onural said. If there’s no room at the long, white marble sushi bar that seats 12, don’t despair because Lucky Perez, The Venue’s manager and mixologist, knows the nuances of each sushi creation and brings each bite to life as he sets the dish before you. What’s sushi without a little sake? Served cold, Hakutsuru draft sake, one of 17 sakes priced from $9 to $28, complements the sushi well, Perez says. Smooth with floral notes, it remains neutral on the palate as diners enjoy a variety of sushi selections. For the first course, try a crisp and clean cucumber salad, with micro greens, pickled carrot, and citrus ponzi sauce that prepares the palate to distinguish a variety of flavors in The Venue roll, a colorful creation of spicy tuna topped with seared salmon, spicy aioli, teriyaki sauce, micro greens and black tobiko caviar ($18). The Venue is cozy enough for 30 intimate seatings with a décor that lends itself to the mood and ambience that Onural describes as a sushi bar you would find in New York or Los Angeles: sleek, modern and clean with high-end furnishings of black, white, chrome and marble with splashes of red and silver. There also is seating on the patio that fronts El Paseo,

Riverside Magazine  

Abraham and Vanover took an idea, improved it and turned it into a wonderful gift to the community. Their engagement and buy-in is just the...

Riverside Magazine  

Abraham and Vanover took an idea, improved it and turned it into a wonderful gift to the community. Their engagement and buy-in is just the...

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