242 Café Fusion is a unique sushi “restaur-art”: enjoy beautifully plated, locally inspired & delicious dishes

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

I love sushi, but had never visited 242 Café Fusion Sushi for one reason: I could never get in… This busy 21-seat sushi restaurant has been in Laguna Beach since 2000 and offered, according to many of my local foodie friends, the most incredible sushi I would ever try, so I couldn’t wait to visit.  

I was told that speaking to owner Miki Izumisawa was also a challenge as she is much more interested in creating delicious food than talking about herself. Therefore I decided to do some background research on Miki and how 242 Café Fusion Sushi, which Miki affectionately calls her “restaur-art” – no doubt because of the creativity of the dishes and their imaginative plating – came to life. 

Born in Fukushama Japan, Miki was always intuitive. Her intuition encouraged her to head to the US on a backpacking trip and she never looked back. She realized she would need a visa sponsor and thus began her career path into the world of sushi. 

Miki started to work in a restaurant called Sambi in Downey, becoming a pioneer as one of the only female sushi chefs in the industry. While she was there, she received a call to make sushi for the Grammy awards. It was there she met Nobu Matsuhisa who asked her to work for him. 

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Teamwork: Lizzie helps chef/owner Miki Izumisawa serve unique sushi dishes

Honored to be asked by such a legend in the sushi industry, Miki jumped at the opportunity and headed to Las Vegas to work with Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel. 

Nobu was very kind to her, but her relationship with the other chefs was not good. Being the only female in an all male sushi kitchen took its toll, and Miki left after one year, feeling shattered and discouraged. 

She visited Laguna Beach In 2000 and immediately (as so many of us have) felt a connection with the energy in our beautiful town, deciding very quickly this would be where she would open her restaurant. She would create a non-traditional sushi place, transforming the elements of the natural world into its food.  

As an example, Miki’s famous Laguna Canyon roll recipe is based on the 1993 wildfire in Laguna. The narrative of the tragedy inspired Miki. Making the roll, she laid it in two rows, which reminded her of the canyon. She sensed a connection. 

Now when she makes the roll, she sprinkles it with fish eggs then uses her torch to sear the top. The fish eggs are set alight and make a sizzling sound representing the fire. After this, she sprinkles it with herbs to represent the rain falling. Then she adds greenery to the top, representing the rejuvenation of the plants. 

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A variety plate of Miki’s sushi: aesthetically pleasing and amazingly tasty

Miki is an artist in every sense of the word: her food, her photography and her restaurant are adorned with nature and beauty.

With more than a hundred different dishes on the menu, all looking amazing with such interesting names such as Moon and Sun Roll, Lava Flow, and Feather in the Sky, my guest for the evening didn’t know where to start – nor did I – so we decided to let Miki feed us whatever she thought we would like. She did not disappoint.

My food journey at 242 Café Fusion

We sat at the bar, and I am so glad we did, as we could see the commitment and dedication that Miki and her assistant Lizzie put into every dish. If it’s fast food sushi you want, this is not the place for you. Each sushi roll is handcrafted and it is an absolute pleasure watching these experts at their craft. 

We started with a variety of sushi. Before we ate these, I knew they were going to be good, just looking at the colorful selection of top grade sushi with a variety of flavors and sauces carefully chosen to accompany each one. 

On these two plates we had a wide variety of Fusion sushi dishes: salmon with passion fruit, served with a garlic and jalapeno sauce. Snapper with a beet sesame paste served with a light soy vinegar. Tuna with chrysanthemum, served with a Koji cheese and soy vinegar sauce. Crispy tuna roll with avocado purple cabbage and a subtle hint of coconut. Yellowtail with banana, served with serrano shiso. 

Each one of these was exquisite. The flavor in every bite was incredible, and you could literally taste the dedication and confidence of Miki’s recipes in every bite. 

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Toro foie gras: the complementary flavors made for a delicious dish

We were then served the toro foie gras which Janice, our lovely server, explained was a very popular dish with regulars: tiny pieces of toro, served with pan fried foie gras, along with a garlic soy horseradish. This was a beautiful dish. The toro and foie gras were cooked to perfection and the flavors complemented each other so well.

It was then time to try a roll and Miki presented us with a hot roll called “Thunderstorm.” This roll consisted of shrimp, salmon, eel, shishito pepper, cucumber, shiso, pickled radish and cucumber, sesame and shichimi pepper, topped with a soy vinegar meringue and yolk sauce. 

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Want a taste explosion? Try the Thunderstorm hot roll

The dish really was a thunderstorm, the tastes building in every bite and literally exploding in your mouth. It was unique, exciting and brave to have so many flavors on one plate, but as with everything we tried this evening, it totally worked.

I loved my experience at 242 Café Fusion Sushi. It is such a unique place and I love Miki’s creativity, enthusiasm and her connection to the earth that guides her to create so many wondrous delights. 

Miki is a pioneer for all women out there interested in the world of sushi: she defied all negativity and has really created something magical. 

This place is always busy for a reason because it is beyond good – but remember, soy sauce is not required.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

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