Twelve-bar blues come sliding from an acoustic guitar over the tinkling of glasses and the hum of the crowd as you walk up to the bar and order the house special: California rolls and raw tuna.
Welcome to Taka-o, a Japanese sushi restaurant whose management decided to spice up its entertainment menu a few years ago by adding a smorgasbord of alternative music, including blues, reggae and hard rock.
The sushi bar is next to the lounge, making it possible to enjoy the unique cross-cultural experience of munching sea urchins topped with quail eggs while listening to live blues by such local acts as Robert Lucas, guitarist for Luke and the Locomotives.
Unfortunately the stage can't be seen from the sushi bar, but the music comes in loud and clear.
The lounge is small, so on Friday and Saturday nights it's a good idea to show up early. Starting time for music on the weekends is at 10 p.m., which makes Taka-o one of the few places to stay open late in South County, an area known for its dearth of interesting late-night hangouts.
The bar drinks are mid-priced and relatively strong. Those tired of the usual rum-and-Coke should be advised that the waitress or bartender can be sweet-talked into bringing out a decanter of that potent Japanese libation, sake.
The dinner fare ranges from $7.95 to $19.95, and the sushi bar prices are reasonable. Try the soft-shelled crabs off the dinner menu, and do not leave without sampling the California rolls and raw tuna.
Taka-o, 425 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente. Open 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. (714) 498-7111.