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Our picks for the sometimes less obvious winners.
Best Japanese / Sushi (2012)
514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
They deliver the basic necessities—potent wasabi, buttery rice, aromatic tea and a just-out-of-the-water freshness that’s a must when it comes to sushi—with aplomb. Fall in love with the spicy Cannery Roll (scallop and avocado topped with tuna and macadamia nuts, $10) and fried calamari roll (with cream cheese and avocado, $6.50), or explore a generous vegetarian menu that also gets creative, featuring ingredients like plum paste and pine nuts. And if the versatile menu, which is well suited to personalized mixing and matching, isn’t enough to keep you coming back, the laid-back vibe coupled with excellent service makes this a destination equally worthy of a casual lunch stop or a hot date.