Thanks to Bruce and Suki Mason’s willingness to listen to their customers, fans of Sushi Kokku now have three locations to get their fix of fresh fish fare.
Bruce Mason can claim many successful years in the restaurant business, including French and Italian restaurants in Los Angeles and La Jolla, but it was his brother-in-law’s skills as a sushi chef that precipitated Sushi Kokku.
Originally, the restaurant opened in Goleta in 2001, “and we had people coming in from San Luis Obispo telling us we should come up here and open one,” recalled Mason. (The Goleta location is now run by that brother-in-law.)
Deciding to at least check things out, Mason scouted locations and found a bright corner space in Madonna Plaza with big, floor-to-ceiling windows.
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After the interior was redone with warm earth tones, sleek furnishings and deft touches of Japanese design, Sushi Kokku opened in San Luis Obispo in 2004, complete with a crystal chandelier showcasing the high ceiling and several of Suki’s original paintings.
In 2006, requests from North County patrons prompted the couple to open their second restaurant at the corner of First and Spring in Paso Robles. After similar urgings from the South County, a third Sushi Kokku just opened at the end of August, located in the Scolari’s shopping center in Pismo Beach. All three restaurants sport the same décor, said Mason, and all share the same menu.
If you’re looking for a sushi experience that includes sea urchin, giant clams and seven kinds of junmai-shu sake, this isn’t the place for you. Sushi Kokku’s niche is in keeping things streamlined, offering straightforward dishes at reasonable prices.
Standard sushi starters and sides such as miso soup, edamame (steamed soybeans, just eat the beans inside and discard the tough outer pod) and gyoza (a filled and pan-fried dumpling served with dipping sauce) are certainly available.
From there, your six choices of nigiri (one piece of fish on top of rice) consist of tuna, albacore, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp and eel. Similarly, there are 12 standard rolls such as California Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, and an Eel and Avocado Roll.
However, don’t forget to check out the specials board, where you’ll find a sashimi (fish only, no rice) salad, plus several rolls kicked up with a little something extra.
Popular options include a Washington Roll (a California Roll topped with salmon), a Texas Roll (a Spicy Tuna Roll with tempura jalapeños, topped with spicy albacore and green onions, and drizzled with spicy sauce), or a Crazy Roll (Spicy Tuna with spicy crab, avocado, cream cheese, more of those jalapeños, and topped with tempura green onions).
If sushi isn’t your thing, not to worry. Sushi Kokku offers several non-fish dishes. Choose from a seaweed salad to tofu salad, teriyaki beef bowl to veggie tempura, veggie udon to chicken udon.
There are a couple nods to Korean food as well — kimchi, a fermented cabbage that’s a staple of the cuisine, and bulgoki, a marinated and barbecued beef.
Keeping the menu contained to the core elements of the cuisine also allows Sushi Kokku to get food out in a very timely manner, a plus for those on a lunch hour or busy schedule.
In fact, all of Mason’s previous restaurants were “quality food with fast-food style. People do come up to the register to order and pay,” he said, “so at first they probably don’t expect the level of service and food that they get.”