OmG–Omakase - May / Jun 19
Taste the sushi of Gino Choi, owner of OmG—Omakase by Gino, and you’ll likely be surprised to discover that making sushi dishes began as a hobby for him. The superior, ultra-delicious flavor of his sushi shows you that a true master is at work.
Gino runs his Santa Ana restaurant, which opened in late 2018, by himself. This is fitting, since Omakase means chef’s choice in Japanese. Five days a week, he serves up 16-course meals to groups of 10 people twice a night.
The delectable menu, which changes every three weeks and is seasonal, includes three appetizers, a signature sashimi plate, nine pieces of nigiri, two owan and dessert. At this writing, in addition to the nine-piece sushi, which includes bluefin tuna and ocean trout, Gino is serving appetizers, such as oyster with caviar and Ankimo (monkfish liver) pate. Other items on the menu are Uni (sea urchin) pasta and Chawanmushi (egg custard).
The intimate restaurant on Main St. features historic brick walls and a wooden bar-style seating arrangement that allows Gino to prepare the food while you watch. He answers questions and offers information as he does so.
Longtime fan Brian Hill discovered Gino when he owned Kaori Sushi in Fullerton, where he was a regular. When Gino opened OmG in December 2018, Hill attended opening night and has dined there a few times since.
“It’s a not-to-be-missed experience,” says Hill. “Everything is top quality, and you can tell Gino takes great care in creating each dish. Seeing the food prepared in front of you creates an intimate experience. Gino is the perfect food tour guide. He explains each dish as it’s made and shows you the process of putting everything together.”
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Gino learned to cook from his great grandmother. “She taught me old school cooking style,” says Gino. “We made our own soy sauce, miso and vinegars. I learned to make mochi using a stone mixer.” He learned his love of sushi from his grandfather, who was raised in Japan.
That early exposure and training served Gino well. At OmG, he makes everything from scratch and serves fresh daily, including the fish, which he gets flown in each day from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan. He also has local sources.
During high school, Gino worked at sushi restaurants to make extra money. When he was 22, he moved to California, because most of his family had immigrated to the U.S. He worked part-time making sushi, eventually shifting to fulltime work. In 2005, Gino met Hideaki Kikuchi, a sushi chef from Tokyo, who lives in Torrance.
“I asked him to train me in traditional sushi techniques, and he said yes and turned me into a sushi chef,” says Gino. “He taught me that simple is always best, and the passion for making good sushi. We stay in touch, and he continues to be a big influence on my career.”
In 2006, Gino opened Kaori Sushi in downtown Fullerton. The family-style restaurant did well, but after 11 years, Ginon decided that he wanted to run a more intimate establishment. He sold the restaurant and came up with the concept for OmG.
“A lot of chefs dream about running this kind of restaurant,” says Gino. “I enjoy coming in each morning and making everything from scratch in preparation for the night’s meal. It’s fun to create new items for guests to experience. It makes me really happy to watch them enjoy my cooking.”
OmG—Omakase by Gino
304 North Main St., Santa Ana CA 92701 / 657-231-6008
Written by Don Cribb, Photo by Kayli Gennaro
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