The definite guide to sushi on the Monterey Bay

By: BECCA GOREN & KYLIE YEATMAN

Akaonis rainbow roll and spicy tuna roll.

Life on the coast often guarantees you many things: scenic views of the ocean, sunsets on the beach and—perhaps most important of all—a wide selection of fresh and authentic sushi. With this in mind, it’s just common sense to provide our palettes with the myriad of rice-rolled goodness that this community has to offer.

The nu-American and complex flavors presented by Yama Sushi, located snugly near the back parking lot of Del Monte Shopping Center, presents a more Americanized menu. It is all fun and games until the ordering sushi rolls turns into a game of “Sushi roll or Lush bath bomb?” Deep in the Forest: a simple base of crab meat, avocado and cucumber topped with a sesame seed seasoned seaweed salad. Guardian of the Forest: Lush bath bomb.

Other than the sheer poetry of alliteration present in its description, the Yama Sushi roll lacks that special je ne sais quoi you want from a $7 log of rice and seaweed. With each new roll that appeared in front of us, Yama Sushi’s M.O.—modus operandi for all of you playing at home—became clear: a simple base with an eye-catching display. Both the S.S.S. and the Sex in the City rolls are complete with a tempura topping decorated with three different colored sauces.

Each aforementioned roll’s identity is effectively disguised as one with much more panache. They then bring out Mr. Yama. A simple base. On fire. Sold. Five-star presentation and a satisfactory taste to accompany it.

Located on Sixth Avenue in Carmel, Akaoni presents a widely different concept in both flavor and presentation from that of Yama Sushi, trading the use of eye-catching, almost theatrical dishes for a simple yet effective selection of rolls.

Though a simple, albeit iconic choice, the spicy tuna roll from Akaoni proves to be one of the best spicy tuna rolls in the Carmel area. The moist and sticky rice partnered with the spicy and soft tuna makes for a beautiful roll, coupled with the classy plating and adequate portion sizes.

Though it takes fewer risks, Akaoni is a simple and palatable option for those looking for something simple and light. On the flip-side, Carmel’s 8th avenue’s Hanagasa offers a wide variety and complex list of rolls, ranging from authentic and formulaic to fish-and-rice oddball rolls such as the Fire Spin, which includes fish eggs, spicy tuna and spicy mayonnaise.

Atmospherically, we’d pick Akaoni as our favorite based on the calm and collected surroundings along with excellent presentation and a kind staff.

In terms of taste and customer satisfaction, Hanagasa won us over with a friendly and approachable staff, along with satisfactory rolls with complex flavors and original concepts.

The popularity of Yama Sushi, though in part due to its location, can also be explained by its commitment to unique and experimental rolls that attract a large base of consumers.

What restaurant you go to ultimately is dependent on what you’re looking for in flavor.