For my best friend's boyfriend's birthday, we ate out at:
ROK Sushi Kitchen in Hermosa Beach
1200 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach
ROK Sushi Kitchen in in Hermosa Beach is a sushi-restaurant-slash-bar with dim lighting, Asiatic decor, and huge flat-screen televisions that were showing either a sports channel or clips from famous wuxia -- there's a huge emphasis on Bruce Lee in this place, which I found odd since Bruce Lee is very much a Chinese star and sushi is very much a Japanese food...well, whatever. The restaurant vibe is calm, the staff are generally friendly, and the food was decent; however, since the five of us are college students (not to mention my lack of employment), we found the prices a bit steep. Personally, I wouldn't put ROK on my list of "places to revisit for dinner." The menu leans heavily towards Japanese food, with lots of tempura for appetizers, a gratuitous amount of seafood for the entrees, a few chicken dishes scattered around, and sushi. Lots of sushi.
For appetizers, the five of us split a large serving of edamame, priced at $7USD per order. That bowl used to be piled high until my friend Tracy and I went at it like the soybean gluttons that we were. The guys -- for we were the only ladies in the group of five -- were a little more reluctant. I think it was perhaps due to the fact that they'd never really eaten edamame before, or if they have, it had been a while.
Left: chicken teriyaki roll; chicken, avocado, cucumber, teriyaki sauce [$10USD]
Right: Philly roll; salmon, cream cheese, smelt eggs, avocado, tempura style topped with spicy mayo [$14USD]
My friend Master Chief (that's what we're going to call him around these parts) had the chicken teriyaki roll, and I took the Philly. I have a love for cream cheese, so I couldn't help it. He seemed to enjoy his food, and I liked mine well enough, but was it worth $15USD delicious? Unfortunately, I didn't think so.
Left: Efren roll; baked crab, asparagus, tuna, avocado, eel sauce [$16.50USD]
Right: chicken teriyaki (entree); served with rice and tempura vegetables [$14USD]
My best friend Tracy had the Efren roll. Now, I have no idea why it's called the "Efren" roll, and I didn't bother to ask, but damn if it doesn't look like the classic dragon roll's cooler cousin. She didn't seem wowed by it, but it was one of the few non-spicy rolls on the menu so that's why she chose it. Her boyfriend Derek and last member of the group Marco both ordered the chicken teriyaki entree, because Marco is kind of a sushi wuss and refuses to eat raw fish. Boo. I nabbed Derek's squash/pumpkin tempura, which was awkward since he was supposed to give that to Tracy, but then Marco gave Tracy his squash/pumpkin tempura, and we pigged out. I love tempura; I have nothing bad to say about it ever. I didn't hear anyone exclaiming in pleasure as they ate, though, so I think we all came to a silent consensus that while the food was good, it wasn't "spend a ton of money we could use towards students loans" good.
At the end, our server (whose name I never bothered to get, fml) was kind enough to even give Derek a birthday present: an order of banana tempura over vanilla ice cream, and a candle on top. Derek, who by the way is painfully introverted, was mildly horrified from his expression, but he was a very good sport about it and even blew out the candle. Note: Our awesome server didn't charge us for dessert. I can't tell you how it tasted since I had to back out on that -- I'm mildly allergic to cinnamon. Ingesting it causes a mild inflammation of my throat -- think a sore throat, but without the hacking cough -- and makes me scratch at my neck until it's red. Not fun, and not worth it.
ROK was a nice experience, but "nice" doesn't really cut it at their prices. I was really expecting better of the food. On the other hand, the interior and the really nice servers (who were always very prompt!) almost makes me want to go back.