The Art (and Artist) Behind 242 Fusion Sushi
Strolling down the sidewalk, past the ocean and along the bustling downtown of Laguna Beach, you might almost miss 242 Cafe Fusion Sushi nestled into a line of storefronts. The pale-yellow walls gingerly hint of the art and color waiting just inside the white door.
Paint splattered floors, asymmetrical furnishings, brightly painted walls and art pieces decorate the small cafe, inviting its guests to embrace the artistic experience of dining there.
Everything you see -- from the colorful plates of sushi fusion dishes to the stained glass window-inspired mosaic table -- was curated after years of DIY decorating and design by owner and chef, Miki Izumisawa.
Izumisawa doesn’t like to refer to herself as a sushi chef but rather prefers to think of herself as an artist, whether that pertains to her creations in the kitchen or the ones she proudly displays throughout the restaurant.
The idea for opening her own sushi restaurant began as a challenge, after hearing one too many times that women were not meant to be sushi chefs because of the natural temperature of their hands. She set out to prove them wrong by opening up her own restaurant -- and, to push the point one step further, proceeded to only hire female chefs.
Her passion to be unique and different bleeds into her sushi fusion creations. Each dish hints at traditional Japanese sushi practices with an imaginative twist.
“It’s all about creativity. No one has ever done what I create,” Izumisawa says. “This is beyond just cooking and having a workplace that’s female-only. I don’t want to copy someone or base it off of someone else. I want to discover new things.”
The artist explains that standard sushi or sashimi typically features rice with a small slice of fish on top and soy sauce. But for her, “That’s a bit too bland,” she laughs. “I want to lighten it up or spice it with sauces and see how everyone enjoys that discovery.”
Not only does the artist strive to blow away her customers, but she hopes each one of her creations will stimulate all five senses. She obviously wants her food to taste appetizing, but she also wants it to be pleasing to the eye, smell enticing, feel good in someone’s hands and, maybe most importantly, be healthy.
“Even if it may be good in terms of taste, if it’s not nutritious for the body then it’s not truly a delicious dish,” Izumisawa states earnestly.
From the unique and diverse appetizers to the fusion sushi rolls named after different elements you’d find in nature, she aims to give her customers a complete experience that will leave them happy both physically and spiritually.
Every dish that goes from a single idea scrawled messily in one of her notebooks to one appearing in bold on her menu is seen by Izumisawa as a piece of art.
“Art is creating, and cooking is creating as well,” she states with a smile. “No matter what industry or means I’m using, I put all my spirit and effort into it.”
Stop by the small oceanfront store after a day at the beach to fully embrace the art that comes from Izumisawa’s sushi fusion creations.
Alexandra Applegate is a Midwestern girl who always felt she was a Californian at heart. She’s constantly looking for her next go-to sushi restaurant and would only eat seafood if she could. Contact her at AlexandraApplegate87@gmail.com or find her on Instagram at @BytheApplegate.