At last, the Japanese-founded dining experience – Omakase – has arrived in Laguna Beach.
New owners Jordan Nakasone (“Itamae” or Head Sushi Chef) and wife, Debrah Cha, will be opening Rebel Omakase on Tuesday, Aug. 17th at 5 p.m. Initially beginning with dinner reservations, the team will eventually open for lunch as well. They are in the old Central Peruvian location on Forest Avenue and are already booking reservations at (949) 664-3186 (you can text that number as well).
Omakase: Putting Your Trust in the Chef’s Hands
Revered as the highest form of sushi dining, Omakase is an evening’s tasting menu of sushi. If you’ve ever enjoyed a tasting menu particularly crafted by the lead chef, you know this is an above-and-beyond experience.
Directly translated, “omakase” means “I leave it up to you,” and that’s exactly what patrons do. They rely entirely on the Chef’s choice for the evening, based on the seasonality of the freshest fish and the sophisticated ingredients that accompany careful slice after slice of the fish and its creative plating.
Facts About This Laguna-Based Omakase
First, to handle a couple primary questions:
This is not an “only” Omakase dining experience. Rebel Omakase is also offering an a la carte menu of plenty of creative sushi, sashimi, handrolls, salads, soup and appetizer creations for those not participating in the Omakase experience.
And, yes, when you make your reservation, you’re asked about preferences and food allergies. From that point, each tasting menu is crafted to the individual client. (Just think about that!)
The Omakase is a set prix fixe price, much like a fine wine pairing dinner or high-level tasting menu option. While the new Rebel owners haven’t yet set the price, Omakase restaurants in the L.A. area are typically between $150 and $250 per person. Tip and tax are additional.
Diners typically sit at the sushi bar where the Chef can easily converse with the patrons about their tastings, but Rebel Omakase also has plans to move chefs into an at-table, make-your-amazing-sushi-in-front-of-you experience, too, if you weren’t quick enough to get into the sushi bar.
And yes, if there’s room at the bar on a particular evening, patrons can order a la carte to their heart’s content. Nearby bar tables and the entire outdoor patio will also be in play for a la carte.
Let the Games Begin
OK, so now that we have the salient points out of the way, let me tell you about this unreal experience.
On Sunday, the new owners asked me if I’d be interested in joining them for a “dry run” as they were doing final training with their new sushi chef and staff. I emphatically nodded and grabbed my dear friend, Ruben, to join me.
Exactly six of us patrons enjoyed a 3-hour sushi extravaganza with at least 12 servings of impeccable sushi interspersed with miso soups, palette-cleansing sorbet and a buttery serving of Wagyu beef. (Note: The serving number varies each evening based on the Chef watching the hunger factor of his patrons).
Chef Jordan started with Sashimi Salad, a mix of blue fin tuna, red snapper, seaweed and shredded daikon (Oriental winter radish).
Chef Shops The Fish Markets Each Morning in L.A.
Then, it was an ongoing parade of the finest sushi cuts of fish.
Unlike other sushi restaurants that may opt for fresh and frozen fish being delivered, Chef Jordan drives to L.A.’s fish markets each pre-dawn morning to select that day’s freshest and most unique options for his diners that evening.
On this particular evening, we were treated to super fresh Kanpachi, Stripe Mackerel, Flying Fish, Jack Mackerel, Red Snapper, Blue Fin Tuna, Otoro Tuna Belly, Uni, Hokkaido Scallops and more.
But it’s not just fish. Enjoy two or three sashimi or sushi items and, then, enjoy a palette refresh with a Red Snapper Miso or Strawberry Wasabi Sorbet.
Oh, and don’t miss the fantastic Wagyu beef tasting, the Blue Fin Tuna with edible gold flake on top (not kidding), and the fantastic Hokkaido scallops with cucumber salad that arrived nestled in a crystal bowl.
Living Their Dream
Chef Jordan came to the United States for a degree in hotel management, but began creating sushi dishes for President Bush as part of his security service, instead.
In 2016 after working in high-end sushi restaurants in New York, he moved across the country, setting up shop in a sushi bar in Torrance with a famed sushi chef.
“It was a 6 AM start every morning, but you had to arrive much earlier because that’s when you were supposed to be underway, already working,” he told me with a grin.
After training for a year, he traveled to Japan to train with traditional sushi chefs. “The crazy thing about Japan is that you may be walking through a rice field, and you decide to take a random right and there, right in the middle of nothing, is a ramen shop that’s open till midnight,” he said. “That’s the kind of restaurant I wanted to have,” he said. “People just walk out of anywhere to stop in at my restaurant.”
Jordan eventually returned to the U.S. to take over a fabled sushi restaurant in Marina del Rey. Stepping away from the trend of fusion and molecular sushi, Chef Jordan reverted to the traditional sushi way, creating a clamor of new clientele.
When You See the Love of Your Life
Still yearning for his own restaurant, Jordan and Debrah had decided on an initial restaurant space lat year in Palos Verdes, and within days of signing, COVID came to call, shutting down that option. Undismayed, Jordan and Debrah road-tripped the Southern California coastline to find the best place for their restaurant.
“We started in Redondo Beach and just kept moving south,” said Jordan. “Then, all of a sudden, we’re in this land of art galleries and opulent beaches and we both look at each other and say, ‘What town are we in?’ Laguna Beach is a totally different world.
“There’s a quote I read somewhere that says, ‘When you see the love of your life, you can’t move on to something else.’ That’s how we felt about Laguna Beach. We knew it had to happen here,” he said.
Support For the Newest in Town
As a reminder, Rebel Omakase opens on Aug. 17th. To reserve your space for the Omakase experience … or just to participate in what Chef Jordan calls “chopstick psychology” as you chat with the Chef, call (949) 664-3186.