I found O2 Sushi on Yelp! while looking for a nice, independent restaurant in Simi Valley, land of many casual restaurants and chains. Simi Valley actually has a surprising number of independent restaurants - you just have to work a little harder to find them since they aren't in freestanding, multi-thousand-square-foot buildings with giant red signs. Perhaps even more surprising are the number of sushi restaurants in Simi - at least ten by my count.
Albacore roll (front) and scallop roll (back)
I will admit that I am skeptical of eating sushi in a place that doesn't have the culinary reputation of Beverly Hills or West LA or West Hollywood because for me, sushi doesn't have a middleground--sushi that's just okay is not okay. But after examining O2's online menu and prices, I felt confident that the odds would be good with this place.
We went early, around 6:30, thinking we would beat the rush, but when we got there and found the place full, we thought perhaps people in Simi like to eat earlier than people in LA. Like all sushi restaurants, you can choose between a table or bar. The sushi bar is the focal point of the restaurant, brightly lit with a backdrop of blue-grey fabric mimicking water and a school of silver fish swimming energetically toward the ceiling. Almost all of the tables run around the perimeter of the restaurant, so there is a considerable amount of privacy. I could even push my chair back without hitting the person behind me.
The teriyaki filet mignon ($20) cooked medium rare is a nice change of pace from the usual teriyaki chicken (which they also serve). Since teriyaki sauce can be very sweet, I wasn't sure it would be a good match for such a fine cut of meat, but this sauce was very subtle and the steak was beautifully presented on an oblong plate with vibrant green asparagus, an orange pepper, a single curled shrimp and a rectangle of cantelope. The entree came with standard-issue miso soup and a fresh green salad with a tasty soy vinaigrette--not quite Maggie's Farm quality (my favorite salad purveyor at the Santa Monica Farmers Market), but not bad for the middle of winter.
Teriyaki filet mignon
The Hawaiian ceviche (lead photo) was a ring of wafer-thin half slices of lime heaped with voloptuous wedges of whitefish, tuna, salmon and yellowtail, interspersed with cilantro and almost unnoticeable slivers of red onion and marinated in a succulent citrus-soy vinaigrette. I didn't care for the whitefish, which was a bit crunchy, but the tuna was especially supple. And for $11, it was plenty of fish, too.
The albacore roll and scallop roll were sloppily presented compared to the other two dishes, but that didn't affect their flavor. The portions were generous, the rice was loose and moist, and the fish was top notch. The albacore roll had the perfect amount of wasabi packed in, and the mayo in the scallop roll, despite looking a tad menacing, didn't actually have any flavor (and that was fine with me).
The service was slightly erratic, but friendly. The waitress seemed to expect us to know what we wanted to order almost instantly, and the arrival of the food wasn't well-timed. But honestly, I'd rather have the minor shortcomings of this restaurant than a technically perfect meal where I can't hear the person sitting across from me, I'm bumping elbows with my neighbor and I'm being rushed through my 7:00 reservation to accommodate the next reservation at 8:30. And, like every place in Simi, parking is plentiful and free, and there's no need to contend with a valet.
Overall, I was very pleased with the high-quality fish, the relaxed ambiance, and the reasonable prices.
2902 E. Tapo Canyon Rd. Unit A
Simi Valley, CA 93063
O2 Sushi website