The symbiotic relationship between an artist and their muse is one of loving and tender devotion. There is a blending of source and spirit between the two which produce a unique union. Often the lines between creator and inspiration become blurred and the result is a harmonic indivisibility. This is undoubtedly the case at Muse Sushi, located at 223 Avenida Del Mar in downtown San Clemente. Chef Obi is the artist and Muse is his inspired creation.
“I knew that a muse was a goddess from Greek mythology,” says Obi. “The idea of a passionate legend appealed to my idea for a restaurant, plus,” he adds, laughing “Muse is a short, simple name so it’s easy to remember.”
Open since October of 2015, Muse is family owned and operated. All of the family members involved with the restaurant are natives of Thailand and have extensive experience in the southern California restaurant business. Muse is their latest foray in the food industry. Their first and foremost commitment is to the Japanese tradition regarding the freshness and quality of the fish they use. Yet they also foster a passionate desire to weave in new and innovative twists from their homeland.
Obi came to California in 2005, his first nine years here he worked at Sushi Plantation in Mission Viejo. At this venue, Obi was under the tutelage of sushi chef Yamamoto who is half Japanese and half Thai. Obi quickly realized his passion was making sushi so he asked Yamamoto to train him in the art. Obi believes that there is a spiritual bonding between the rice balls and the fish. The temperature of the rice, how to shape it, and its size, in correlation to the fish, are pinnacle. If the rice is the heart of the creation then the fish is its soul.
The quality of the fish is paramount. Early in the morning, Obi journeys to the market in downtown LA to peruse his options. Almost 70% of the fish at Muse is from Japan. When choosing what to purchase, close attention is paid to the texture of the flesh, seasons and regions. Once selected, Obi handles his fish with respect and the utmost care.
“From early on, I saw that fish was very delicate,” says Obi. “Because of this sensitivity, Yamamoto showed me how to cut tuna from the whole fish. There is no stopping to clean the knife; you must do it until it’s completely done.”
Meanwhile, Obi’s sister, Kat, had been stateside since 2001, helping their father run his Thai restaurants in Huntington and Newport Beach. After years of extensive training at Sushi Plantation, Obi yearned to venture out on his own and asked Kat to join him. Their cousin Skinny had been training alongside Obi since 2009 so they brought him into the fold of Muse without question. As a familial unit, they shared a vision of fusing ideas, details and tastes from the two islands of Japan and Thailand. The end result is a tantalizing comingling of flavors. There is the supreme quality cuts of fish wedded to spicy Thai elements such as mango, jalapeno and cilantro. Their attention to detail is impeccable, and the final oeuvre is awe inspiring.