Rawbar delivers on its exotic, delicious reputation
Chico, CA 95928
My boyfriend, David, and I went out to lunch recently to celebrate his December birthday. We were craving sushi so we went to The Rawbar.
At 1 p.m., when we arrived, the place was still fairly busy, but we found two seats next to each other at the sushi bar, where we could watch sushi chef Mike Tanaka do his thing. While we perused the regular lunch menu, the sushi menu, and the blackboard specials, Tanaka moved quietly and purposefully, a peaceful half-smile on his face, as he worked his magic slicing fish and making rolls.
We decided on two rolls from the blackboard featuring specialty rolls ranging in price from $7 to $12. I chose the Firecracker ($8)—a combination of tuna, cucumber, kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), Serrano peppers and sriracha (Thai) hot sauce on the inside, coated with a tobiko/seven-spice mixture—knowing I would have it all to myself. Though David likes wasabi, the additional heat put the Firecracker over the edge for him. The Red Sea ($8)—containing tuna, cucumber, avocado and crunchy garlic—was more his style.
David, a big firefighter with a big appetite, ordered the Stir Fry Shrimp Rice Bowl ($9) for himself. We also said yes to the special lunch combo ($8). The combo (not written down but offered verbally by our friendly waiter Ragan) gave us a choice of three of seven items: crispy chicken, duck egg roll, potstickers, a cup of miso soup, a cup of egg drop soup, a half-order of edamame or tempura California roll. We picked the chicken, potstickers and California roll.
To drink, I ordered the house-made lemongrass-mint soda and David ordered limeade—which to my sweetie’s delight was prepared on the sour side ($1.75 each).
While we sipped on our refreshing drinks, Tanaka graciously offered us a little sample of chunks of yummy, cold, seared tuna with a flavorful miso sauce to snack on while we waited for our lunch.
The rolls arrived shortly before our other plates. Since I had all four pieces of the Firecracker roll to myself, I took only one piece of David’s Red Sea, which was delicious. My first taste of the Firecracker was amazing. Dipped in my wasabi-heavy soy-sauce concoction, the roll was everything its name promised and more. Like one of those giant, commercial, two-color, Fourth of July firecrackers that go off with a one-two punch high in the sky, it went off in my mouth, first with its tongue-smacking taste of Serranos and sriracha, followed by the sinus-clearing whack of wasabi. I delightfully anticipated (and savored) that intense wham-bam with each bite I took. For those of us who love spicy deliciousness, the Firecracker delivers. Tanaka suggested I try the Black Widow roll sometime—an eel, spider crab, veggie and tobiko roll powered up by habanero peppers.
David enjoyed his hearty bowl of big shrimp, rice and garlicky stir-fried green beans topped with ginger-black pepper sauce and garnished with a gentle version of sunomono (cucumber salad). I stole more than one of his beans, which were quick-cooked to a just-right combination of seared exterior and juicy interior.
The potstickers (Rawbar sprinkles its menu with an excellent assortment of other Asian dishes in addition to its Japanese fare) were cooked so perfectly that their bottoms were sensuously crispy while the tops of the Chinese dumplings were tender, and the gingery, meaty insides were mouth-wateringly succulent. I have never had such delicious potstickers in my life—absolutely no exaggeration.
Our lunch, which came in at just less than $50 (before tip), included the house-made green tea ice cream with black tea chocolate sauce ($4) that I chose, and David’s house-made pink guava sorbet ($3). Both desserts were crazily delicious—the green tea ice cream so subtle, delicate and creamy, and the sorbet both tart and sweet (just like a real guava). Even the spoons we were given were just the right weight, adding to the perfection of the experience.