Whenever my mom comes into town for business and wants to meet up for dinner, I almost always find a joint in Monterey Park. The city is brimming with amazing eats and is perfectly equidistant from my home and her hotel room. Plus, I’ve yet to have a meal here that’s come anywhere close to letting me down. You could say that Monterey Park is the America’s Test Kitchen of restaurant towns—foolproof.
Not in the mood for Chinese fare on this visit, my mom suggested sushi for our meet-up. A little fiddling around on Yelp yielded Taihei, an age-old, family-run sushi shop that’s notoriously busy on the weekends. Luckily, we were dining on an uneventful Wednesday night.
The Astronomer, my mother, and I decided to share a variety of nigiri and rolls this evening. Instead of ordering verbally, we filled out an order form with a number two pencil. The nigiri, which come in sets of two, arrived first. The scallop nigiri ($4.25) was piled high with delicate baby scallops dressed lightly in mayonnaise and roe. It was a delightful treat and my favorite nigiri of the evening.
My mom requested an order of uni (M.P.). The first time I tasted uni was at Kanoyama in New York City a couple years back. Even though my brother hyped it up like no other, the experience wasn’t all that mind-blowing, and I haven’t had it since. The uni this evening was incredibly fresh, but there still weren’t any fireworks between us. Maybe next time.
The octopus ($4.25) was simple and good. Next time I’d like to try the one seasoned with lemon and salt for a bit more complexity.
The beautiful pieces of yellowtail ($4.50) were sliced nice and thick with a dab of wasabi between the cool fish and the warm rice.
The rolls arrived soon after the nigiri. The Astronomer’s favorite of the evening was the eel and cucumber ($6.75).
The spicy tuna roll ($6) was also a winner. The ingredients and technique at Taihei are impeccable—each piece and roll is constructed with skill and care.
My favorite roll of the evening were the scallops ($6.75). The plump morsels melted in my mouth. This was the first time I’ve tasted scallops in sushi, and I must admit that I’m an enthusiastic fan.
The spider roll ($8.95) was slightly dry, but still highly enjoyable. Giant rolls like this one are difficult to eat in one bite, but it doesn’t stop me from trying because I always strive for “a bite with everything.”
To round off our dinner, we shared a serving of whole soft shell crabs, which were served with a light soy sauce for dipping. My mom proclaimed it the best soft shell crab she’s ever eaten.
In a city with an endless selection of amazing restaurants, an eatery has to be truly outstanding to warrant a repeat visit. I’d return to Taihei again in a heartbeat.
2195 S. Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754