Japanese Peruvian hotspot Paiche is so good, I’ve just had to go again (and again) to photo nearly all their dishes…
Japanese Peruvian hotspot Paiche is so good, I’ve just had to go again (and again) to photo nearly all their dishes…
Location: 3455 S. Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034. 310.836.6252
Date: September 14, 2012
I first went to the amazing Omakase only N/Naka last summer. After a bit of a hiatus the Foodie Club returns. Now bear in mind that this lovely restaurant has only a set menu (they offer it in two sizes, plus vegetarian) but the talented young chef Ms. Niki Nakayama has whipped up an entirely different meal (with similar structure) every time we’ve gone!
This time around we went with wine pairings. Sommelier Jeffery Stivers just a fantastic job with these and even more so given the difficulties in pairing Japanese flavors with wine. Very little red wine works (good Burgundy with some dishes) and with a small number of people so many courses are hard to pair by bringing bottles.
Our first pairing: French Sparkling Wine, Domaine Rosier ‘Cuvee Jean-Philippe”, Blanquette de Limoux, France 2010.
Saki Zuke (A pairing of something common and something unique) – Fanny Bay Oysters that have been butter poached and are wrapped in a bird’s nest of crispy Maui Onions and is topped with fresh Uni from Santa Barbara, a leaf of baby Red-veined Sorrel and a Flower of Pansy both of which are from Niki’s garden, a dusting of onion powder and sits in on a sauce of spicey Russet Potato and Dashi and a gelee of Sanbaizu (a combination of mirin and dashi).
On a Bed of Julienned Crispy Bull’s Blood Beets sits Norwegian Smoked Salmon along side of Junsai (water shield), topped with a shochu Crème Fraiche, Chives, a Flower of Pansy, Gold Leaf and a Puree of Roasted Nasu (Baby Japanese Eggplant).
Zensai (Main seasonal ingredient presented as an appetizer)
A Cucumber roll that is stuffed with Canadian Snow Crab and Unagi (Freshwater eel), Onion Sprouts and topped with a gelee of Sanbaizu. This was amazing, with a light smoky flavor.
Modern Zakuri (A modern interpretation of sashimi) – Tartare of O-toro of Big Eyed Tuna, White Scallions, topped with Caviar of American White Sturgeon, Uni Butter, Soy Reduction, Chives and Konbu Dashi.
Otsukuri (Sashimi) - Toro of Big Eyed Tuna, Kumomoto Oyster with Ponzu, Live Hirame (Halibut) from Jeju, Korea, Kanpachi (Amberjack Tuna), Tai (Japanese Snapper), fresh sweet shrimp from Santa Barbara, all served with Freshly Grated Wasabi, Ponzu and Niki’s Special Soy Sauce.
Agemono (Fried dish) – Tempura Pompano along with the Crispy Bones with Multi-colored Peppers, Scallions and a Sauce of Sweet and Sour Dashi, Butter Lettuce Leaves.
Yakimono (Grilled dish) – Hotate Yaki – Live Diver Scallops from Boston grilled in their own Shell with the Roasted Liver, Shiso Leaf, Shiitake Mushroom, Yuzu Zest and Dashi.
Shiizakana (Not bound by tradition, the Chef’s choice dish) – Spaghettini with Black Abalone from Monterey, Pickled Cod Roe, Shaved Italian Summer Truffles, Garlic, Soy and topped with Daikon Radish Sprouts. An unusual, but truly unworldly pasta.
Niku (Meat Course) – American Wagyu from Washington State Rib-cap Steak with a Canele of Russet Potato Mashed, Nanohana (Broccoli Rabe), Roasted Carrot with a Ponzu Demi-jus American Wagyu from Washington State Rib-cap Steak with a Canele of Russet Potato Mashed, Nanohana (Broccoli Rabe), Roasted Carrot with a Ponzu Demi-jus.
Sunomono (Salad) – On thinly sliced Baby Cucumbers from Nki’s Garden along with a Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato is marinated Hirame (Halibut) with Ponzu.
On the side is: Yuzu Sake, Yuzu Omoi, Yamamoto, Japan.
It’s worth noting that this time around, IMHO, the sushi had really improved. The above flight, while small, was sublime.
Soba Noodles served with Freshly Grated Wasabi and Konbu Dashi.
N/Naka really is a very special place. All the meals I had here were spectacular (here for the first, here for the second, third here, fois gras). The place keeps getting better and better. This is thrice wonderful because often one finds a slight bloom to come off a place on repeat meals. I’ve recently eaten at two Jose Andres set menu restaurants where the menu barely changed in eight months, but at N/Naka everything is seasonal and constantly rotating.
Location: 11301 Olympic Blvd #102, West Los Angeles, CA 90064. TELL (310) 478-7769
Date: August 21, 2012
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
Rating: Very nice!
It was Tuesday, and I’d just gotten back from a month of entirely Croatian meals, so I felt the burning need for sushi.
Kiriko filled the bill with its unassuming storefront on the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle, right next to the Yakatori place.
“Halibut tempura wrapped with shiso leaf and ume plum, served with sea salt.” Really yummy, like Japanese fish and chips. The fish was tender and soft without being mushy but it was the sisho that really sold it.
“Sea urchin and sea salt ice cream with salsa fresco gazpacho.” Now this is different, but good. The soup is a fairly straight up gazpacho flavor and the “ice cream” really WAS ice cream, made from Uni! Interesting combo and very refreshing.
“Anago seared sea eel sashimi with ume sauce.” The eel is blow torched and has a nice char to it, and the sauce is sweet and sour. Very interesting. Still, I might prefer the traditional BBQ eel, but this was very good.
This was my best meal at Kiriko (and all were good). Ordering off the menu allowed us to try some unusual things (like Uni Ice Cream!) and it really worked out. Inventive stuff. Good stuff. It’s really nice to see a chef being creative with sushi/sashimi and not following exactly in the Matsuhisa mould.
Restaurant: Sushi Zo
Location: 9824 National BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90034. (310) 842-3977
Date: March 29, 2012
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
LA is a sushi town. I eat a lot of sushi (just take a look at my LA Sushi review page!). People say Zo is the best in town. I’d been once before for lunch and they denied me the use of my camera (at the sushi bar) but this time, at a table for dinner, they didn’t hassle me.
Zo is omakase only. You sit down. They bring you stuff. They charge you by the piece but don’t really tell you how much. They keep bringing you sushi. Eventually you get full (not me, but normal people would) and they hand you a (stiff) bill. It’s closest in style and format to Sasabune (my detailed reviews of that, with photos, HERE and HERE).
This is Osaka-style “warm rice” sushi, like Sasabune, and presumably descended from the same Chef Nozawa source. The individual pieces are made one at a time, no precutting, and given to you in a hurry. The fish is superlative, although each piece seems to have been placed in a miniaturization machine set to 70%. I’ve never seen sushi this small. This was particularly humorous when it came to the “battleship” style ones like Uni (sea urchin). They just looked so cute and diminutive (maybe 50-60% size for these). But I’m not sure this size issue resulted directly in less value. At the end I was still just as full as at Sasabune, although it cost perhaps 10-20% more. I perhaps had more pieces numerically. But each was certainly smaller.
The fish was a bit better than Sasabune, and certainly better than Echigo. The preps are very similar, with 90% being “no soy sauce” — a fact of which we were emphatically reminded each and every time. There was a lot of use of vinegar, yuzu and other brightening flavors. I do like these, but I think it did tend to distract slightly from the fish — which was stellar.
It’s worth noting here that this is my first meal out with the Canon 5D Mark iii (for more on Foodie Photography, see here). I was shooting with the 50mm compact macro handheld in low light. Usually, with the Mark ii, this would’ve made me fight to get decent focus and enough depth of field even at the slightly noisy ISO 6400. Plus, the focus sucked on the mark ii/50mm CM combo. With the Mark iii focus was effortless and I was able to stop down to 7.1 and still get 1/50 and relatively low noise. Pretty incredible.
Ika/Squid Noodle with Uni/Sea Urchin. Yum. This combo is similar to a favorite at Sushi Sushi.
Hirame/Halibut. One thing to note about Zo is that each normal sushi piece is ludicrously small. I guess in the end, this allows for more variety, but each does feel like a tease. On the plus side, they are uniformly excellent and this bit of halibut was no exception. It was drizzled with a touch of yuzu that brought out lovely soft texture.
Hamachi/Yellowtail. An overused fish in the novice sushi world. Still, when I first started eating sushi in 1978 and through the early 80s this was one of my favorites. This particular piece reminded me why.
Chu-Toro/Medium Fatty Tuna. These were certainly some great pieces of toro. Like butter. Sometimes I prefer the chu-toro to the really fatty o-toro too because while less rich it often has a more consistent texture.
Overall, I was much more impressed with Zo on this second outing. Yes, the pieces are tiny, but the quality of the fish and the preparation is truly first class. One could really use two of each (or just bigger though) as each flavor is so quick as to become ephemeral. In the end you do get to try a large number of fish. It’s expensive but on par with what you get, not like Sushi Mori which feels extremely overpriced. A definite contender in LA’s long list of really great sushi only joints.
Location: 11301 Olympic Blvd #102, West Los Angeles, CA 90064. TELL (310) 478-7769
Date: July 8 & 21, Sept 21, 2011
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
Rating: Very nice!
At our giant Go Sushi love-fest one of my Foodie Club members suggested I check out this Sawtelle sushi joint. He said it was great. Twist my arm! So I finagled a business lunch there (didn’t have to twist the other arms very hard either).
The unassuming storefront on the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle, right next to the Yakatori place.
The classic Japanese salad with the yummy textured dressing. I forgot either of my real cameras and had to make due with the iPhone 4 (sorry). It really doesn’t do too bad a job if you have adequate light and turn off the flash. That little LED has a range of about 12 inches and isn’t good for much.
Amberjack on the left, and halibut on the right with a gelatinous but yummy “sauce.”
From left to right: albacore with garlic chips, baby red snapper, and mackerel with onion and similar. All very good and excellent preparation.
On the left, kanpachi (young yellowtail), taco (octopus), and on the right Japanese scallops with pesto. I hate eating octopus because it’s such a smart animal, but these were some of the most tender and succulent bits of cephalopod I’ve yet had. THe scallop was also fantastic, with the light pesto adding a unique flavor without marring the subtle sea taste.
On the left: Big eye tuna and yellowtail, in the middle sea bream with salt and on the right homemade smoked salmon. All were great, but the bream and the salmon really stood out.
Blue crab handroll. Overstuffed and on par with the Sasabune ones.
I went back two weeks later and ordered a more elaborate sashimi omakase, which is mixed in here with a simpler sushi/sashimi one. This time I had the medium camera so the pictures are better.
Octopus, salmon wrapped mango with caviar, and on the right boiled eel with plum sauce. The eel was interesting. It didn’t have much flavor (being boiled) but the sauce was very tart, tasting intensely of sour Japanese plum (which it was).
A sashimi plate, left to right. Wild kanpachi (young yellowtail) with pesto, gel, and jalepeno. Albacore with garlic chips, abalone sea salt. Halibut with ponzu gel. These gels (slightly sweet, interesting texture) are something unique to Kirko (in my experience).
A sashimi plate that I forgot to photo until after I had eaten several items. We have starting in the lower left and heading clockwise. Tai (Red snapper) with sea salt. Chu-toro. Santa Barbara spot prawn, live head and raw body (eaten). Japanese scallop with pesto.
This is another “sushi and sashimi” lunch omakase.
Overall, I was very impressed with Kiriko. Not only was the fish fantastic but they had very nice modern presentation and were doing some interesting stuff with the fish without going all weird and California. I’d put it in that grade of 9/10 LA sushi, which is saying a lot as our sushi is so fantastic.
Restaurant: Nobu Malibu
Location: 3835 Cross Creek Road # 18, Malibu, CA 90265 (310) 317-9140
Date: Febuary 16, 2011
Cuisine: Japanese Fusion
Rating: Maintains it’s very high standards, and price.
In my continuing quest to eat the oceans of the earth clean in the form of sushi I returned to one of my “old” haunts, Nobu Malibu. The various Nobus represent the corporate version of the Japanese-Peruvian fusion begun by Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous Matsuhisa (REVIEW HERE). While not quite as inventive as the original, the Xerox job is pretty darn good. Food quality is extremely high and highly consistant. The atmosphere is fun. The only deficit is the price, which is perhaps 40-50% higher than most similar restaurants, like say Takao (REVIEW HERE). And it’s not like these are cheap either!
From my cellar, parker gives this Rhone white 94 points. “The 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc (80% Roussanne and the rest Marsanne, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc) possesses classic notes of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, and rose petals, a full-bodied, unctuous texture, gorgeous purity and richness, and a stunningly long finish. It can compete with the finest full-throttle, dry whites of France as well as the world. It is difficult to find a better white Chateauneuf du Pape than Beaucastel. Much like their reds, their whites are made in a style that is atypical for the appellation. It is put through full malolactic, and one-third is barrel fermented, then blended with the two-thirds that is aged in tank. Extraordinarily rich and honeyed, it is ideal for drinking with intensely flavored culinary dishes.”
In the glass, this has a nice yellow/amber color not seen in duller (read generic Chardonnay) wines.
“Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno.” The total Nobu classic, but it still holds it’s own. This version is as good as any i’ve had.
“Sashimi Salad.” Another Nobu classic. The dressing has this nice flavor and texture I’ve always liked, and the mildly seared tuna is succulent. The overall salad is a bit salty, but Japanese cuisine usually is.
“New Style Sashimi.” Classic again. Apparently this is very Peruvian, although I wouldn’t know directly as my closest contact to that country was an hour spent in Lima airport. However, the halibut is supremely tender, and the warm olive oil, ponzu and sesame thing gives it a toasty richness.
“Shrimp Tempura with Ponzu Sauce.” More classics. I’ve always loved these little fellows. Basically the normal Shrimp Tempura, but pre sauced, and in smaller bite sized chunks. Addictive, but eat quickly before it sogs up.
“Rosemary crusted Scallops in sweet and sour crust with cilantro sauce.” This was my first new dish of the night, and it was pretty incredible. The pseudo fried crisp on the scallops was a bit sweet, and the cilantro sauce mild, but it all went together perfectly, and inspired marriage of textures and flavors.
“Lobster Sweet and Sour.” Another new dish, and pretty delectable. Tender lobster on a spinach bed, with a subdued sweet and sour sauce and then the whatever-it-was on top adding a bit of texture.
“Austrialian Wagyu Beef, butter truffle sauce and crispy onions.” Yum. The beef was almost like candy, sweet and rich. The onion-ring-like crisps were good for soaking up the sauce.
“Miso Soup.” Classic, and as expected.
A bit of sushi.
In the front, Tai (red snapper) with shiso, toro (tuna belly). The white thing with frisy stuff on top I can’t remember.
In the middle, Kani (king crab leg) sushi.
In the back, Unagi (Fresh Water eel).
The white stuff in the middle. Ika (squid) with shiso leaf and a bit of ginger.
The yellow chunks Tamago (sweet omelet).
On the left Ikura (salmon roe) and on the right Uni (sea urchin).
Completely stuffed, we rolled out of here well satisfied. My only complaint is that Nobu is so expensive. For example the “Toro Tartar w/ Caviar” is $36 compared to $25 at Takao — identical too.
Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636
Date: March 9, 2010 and February 12, 2011
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi
Takao is my local outlet for high-end “new style sushi.” While my last sushi review, Sushi Sushi, is an example of a fairly traditional sushi bar Takao is more based on the model created by pioneer Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous restaurant (REVIEW HERE). In fact, Takao himself worked with Nubu at said restaurant in the early 90s. But he spun out in 1995 and started his own place, Takao. This however is no total “neo new style” joint like Sushi House Unico, but instead, like the late Hump (REVIEW HERE), marries Nobu-style sushi with a more traditional Japanese restaurant format. In fact, in homage to that tradition, Takao looks more like an old-school Japanese restaurant, and its menu includes the various set dinners like chicken teriyaki etc. Nevertheless, this is some really good stuff if you take advantage of what they have to offer. One of the nice things about this place is that you can take people who just aren’t that into sushi. Takao is also the biggest beneficiary (in our family) of the Hump’s death, as we used to split our family Japanese outings between Takao and the Hump — now Takao gets them all.
Storefront in Brentwood, conveniently located for us westsiders.
Big Menu! Click parts to embiggen.
I’m going to review a bunch of different takes on eating here, derived from two actual meals and several people. One option, for the more timid, but also an excellent deal, is to get the “set dinners.” They come with soup, salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert. This is the salad. If you ask you can get sunomono or possibly some other optons instead.
If you are an advanced eater you might find these next 8 or so pics boring, keep going, the good stuff is below!
Miso soup. I think if you ask they have a couple different types. This is the basic scallion and tofu.
Vegetable tempura. Again, there are some typical options in the set meal.
This is a basic “sushi dinner” plate. There are lots of other options like miso glazed cod or terriyaki salmon. You can ask for more or less whatever sushi you want (but perhaps not a whole plate of Uni and Toro). In the center, Ikura (salmon egg), cut tuna roll.
In the front, left to right. Halibut, albacore belly, Tamago (sweet egg omelet).
In the back, left to right. Maguro (Tuna), salmon.
In the back after the salmon, hamachi (yellowtail) and regular albacore.
Vanilla and mango mochi is one of the many dessert options.
This next “meal” is a custom high end meal with a sashimi/sushi focus.
House cold sake. Masumi “Okuden-Kanzukuri” Nagano prefecture.
Tai (red snapper), with garlic, salt, red peppercorn, onions, olive oil. A very bright flavor, and the peppercorns, not spicy at all, add a nice textural component.
Toro tartar and caviar. Chopped tuna Toro, onions and wasabi mixed with light soy sauce topped with caviar. The classic found at Matsuhisa (you can even see it in my last meal there). It’s still good, a big blog of succulent Toro!
Kampachi (young yellowtail), jalepeno, cilantro, and ponzu. Another Nubu classic, but for a reason.
Main lobster tempura (1/2). Takao has a lot of interesting tempuras. Uni (my second favorite), sardine, crab, unusual seafood pancake with shiso, and more. This is a decadent favorite of mine, and in a half portion is pretty reasonable.
Japanese scallop sushi. With yuzu and salt on the left, and with shiso on the right. I LOVE good scallop. I couldn’t decide which was was better. The yuzu/salt has a gorgeous tang, bringing out the delicate flavor and texture of the scallop. The shiso also pairs wonderfully, although it’s flavor dominates to a larger degree.
Aji, Spanish mackerel. Very solid mackerel in the traditional preparation. Soft, with only a hint of fishiness.
Blue fin tuna, special soy sauce. Straight up tuna at its best.
Taco (octopus) with shiso on the left, and sweet soy and wasabi on the right. Again, tough to choose, but I think perhaps I prefer the shiso by a small margin.
Chu-toro with sweet sauce. Pretty melt in your mouth.
Sweet shrimp, as sushi and with the head fried. The shrimp itself is sweet and soft, sort of the essence of fresh crustacean. The head (you do eat it, the whole thing), is crunchy, fried, sweet. Very tasty too, but watch out not to get stabbed by the legs as you munch it down.
Uni (sea urchin) with sweet sauce on the left, and yuzu on the right. Some top Santa Barbara Uni. The sweet one is good, but I think I prefer the yuzu as it shows off the uni itself to perfection.
Unagi (fresh water eel). Typical version of the BBQ eel, and good. Not quite as good as the eel at Sushi Sushi (HERE).
Tamago. Solid, with a nice sweetness, but the texture is just a tiny bit heavy, and feels less “handmade” than the superlative Sushi Sushi version.
This next meal represents the $90 Omakase, allowing the chefs to put together a full meal. They do an excellent job of this, and you can customize it fully. It’s actually considerably cheaper to do an Omakase then to assemble a big custom sushi meal like above.
White burgundy is always a good choice with sushi.
91-92 points. “Similar to prior notes, though this time the oak is joined by a noticeably sweet perfume on both nose and palate, particularly immediately on opening. A hint of nuttiness comes as the wine evolves the glass. I really enjoy this style, and most of the wines I’ve had from Girardin.”
Wine in the glass.
Halibut carpaccio. Thinly sliced halibut sashimi with salt, black pepper, chives, garlic, and pink peppercorn topped with yuzu and olive oil. Very nice and light, emphasizing the flavors of the condiments and the texture of the fish.
Toro sashimi, black truffles, sweet sauce, wasabi. How can you go wrong with this?
Tai (red snapper), sea salt. The lemon and salt dominate, but I find myself very much enjoying that as they don’t overwhelm the very subtle fish.
New style salmon sashimi with truffle. Thinly sliced sashimi with truffles, chives and ginger topped with hot olive oil. This is much richer, and the pairing of the warm oil always throws me a bit, but it does taste good.
Santa barbara prawn, ponzu. Emphasizes the sweet meatiness of the prawn, as the sauce is fairly light and citrusy.
Miso glazed snapper. Scallop dynamite. The fish is pretty close to the Nobu classic cod. It’s fine, but not really my thing, and the cod might be better. The dynamite, with it’s mix of flying fish roe, scallops, and whatever eggy rich thing dynamite actually is — is quite wonderful. I love to suck on the marinated ginger shoot at the end too.
Fish tempura. One of the above mentioned “interesting” tempuras. Not unlike something one might get in Spain. They fry a lot of small fish there. I guess the Portugese did too, as they brought Tempura to Japan.
The Omakase comes with some sushi. If I’m at the bar I will steer it more interesting, but I wasn’t. Left to right. Blue fin toro, yellow tail, Spanish mackerel, ika (squid), sardines (?). All are good examples of type.
The Omakase also includes miso soup (of your choice — there are mushroom and clam versions) and desert. I didn’t picture them however.
The chefs at work. Takao himself on the left.
Overall, Takao is a great place. It’s perhaps 90-95% as good as Matsuhisa or the late Hump which it resembles. And it’s cheaper and much more approachable. We go here more often. There is/was a “mise au point” (sharp) quality to the above places that isn’t totally honed here — but it’s still fantastic — and bear in mind that I’m a pretty damn snobby and experienced sushi eater. Been doing so (a lot) since 1978 plus over 20 trips to Japan and many Japanese friends. There is certainly better straight sushi in LA, but I still go here more often because there is an enormous variety of very well made food, and they are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Our two year-old has even eaten here!
Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165
Date: February 11, 2011
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!
Last week I ate at this new (to me) sushi place in Beverly Hills, the redundantly named, “Sushi Sushi.” It was great but I didn’t have my camera. So with a bit of arm twisting — not — I convinced my brother to head back for a repeat.
The storefront, on Beverly Dr just south of Wilshire.
A small subset of the sushi bar. “Sushi sushi” is a pretty old-school looking Japanese place inside. Small room, small tables, and a sushi bar of about 12-15 seats. We decided to get the middle Omakase and let the chef work his magic.
He started out with this sashimi plate!
Ankimo (monkfish liver), with scallions and pickles in a ponzu. Perfectly fresh, with that rich creamy texture that it’s supposed to have, a hint of grainy, a hint of fishy, but very mild (no such thing as monkfish liver with NO taste of the sea — what would be the point of that?)
Perfect Santa Barbara Uni (sea urchin) on a bed of soft Ika (squid). A bit of wasabi mixed with something, and some sauce (had a little citrus in it I think). Both fishes are sweet, with the uni being delectably so. The squid was very soft with that slightly pasty texture squid is supposed to have. While this is not a dish for the land-lubber, it was awesome!
Fresh raw Hama oysters, with a bit of soy vinaigrette. Yum too.
My brother isn’t so into the Uni, so he got sweet shrimp instead.
Blue fin tuna. The chef here “pre-sauces” the fish, so no soy sauce is needed. In this case it’s already been put on. I had this done a number of times in Japan, and at high end places here like Urwasawa (HERE FOR REVIEW). The tuna melted in the mouth. Sushi Sushi uses big pieces of fish and a small ball of rice too. The rice is traditional, not the warm rice favored by Sasabune (HERE FOR REVIEW).
Tai (Red Snapper), with a slightly citrusy sauce. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.
After this we had another course pairing a piece of Chu-toro (medium grade fatty tuna belly) and a piece of Kampachi (young yellowtail). Tragically, somehow I forgot to photograph it. /cry /cry
The toro was soft and delicious, the kampachi firmer, but also very tasty, just not nearly as rich.
The chu-toro was just a warmup for this o-toro, the even more fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.
Then there was a piece of scottish salmon which I also missed a photo of. Maybe I’m going crazy, maybe it was just the hangover from Saam the night before, I don’t know. In any case it was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had.
And another missed one, aji (Spanish Mackerel), with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel.
And a fourth miss. Kohada (Japanese Herring) I swear I photoed these, but they’re not on my camera. This was great herring, but is certainly a bit fishy — herring always is.
Saba mackerel, not as good as the Spanish one, but nothing to mock either.
Another sashimi course. Sweet shrimp, Japanese scallop, giant clam, and taco (octopus). Are were prefect examples of the breed, and doused with a little bit of yuzu (just the fruit, not with the pepper) to test them up.
Kampachi cheek. This was marinated in one of those sweet broths I would frequently get in Japan. There was a bit of bone but the meat was incredibly soft (consistency like tuna fish?) and delectable. I really enjoyed the heavily marinated root vegetable. I don’t remember what these are, but I’d get them in Japan all the time.
Asari miso (clam broth miso soup). This is a very light miso, with a clam brothy quality. Not too salty, very nice.
They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.
Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.
Diced Toro handroll. This had yellow pickles and shiso leaf inside, which added texture and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.
Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.
The omakase included dessert, this concoction of fruit, green tea ice cream, green tea panna cotta, sweet bean sauce, and whipped cream. Oh yes, and with a “mens pocky” as garnish and corn flakes underneath. Pretty good, and all Japanese.
Sushi sushi is a new favorite place of mine. This place is GOOD! Not only because the fish is totally delectable, but because it offers that relative rarity now in LA, the “traditional sushi bar.” I like the warm rice Nozawa/Sasabune school and the modern Nobu school, but there is something satisfying about the original.
Restaurant: Pearl Dragon
Location: 15229 West Sunset Boulevard Westside CA 90272. (310) 459-9790
Date: Jan 16, 2011
Cuisine: Pan Asian / Sushi
Summary: Great “new style” sushi.
Pearl Dragon is one of the few dinner restaurants in Pacific Palisades, and the only one with a full bar. For most people it has a palatable but slightly uninspired menu of pan asian goodies and an extensive repertoire of tasty but slightly overdone sushi rolls. But one of the dirty little secrets is how fun the sushi bar can be — and how talented lead sushi chef Ryo is when he strikes off the beaten path. He takes the style pioneered by Nobu Matsuhisa (REVIEW HERE) into even more radically over the top territory.
First of all, the sushi bar is unusually friendly. This is a place where half the people know each other, and the chef, and where most aren’t afraid to chat with the other half. If I have to go out to dinner locally alone I’ll pretty much always go here — as it sure beats sitting alone at a table.
I also apologize for the lame photos. I forgot my cameras and only had the iPhone 4. Considering it was nearly pitch black in here, it did a credible job.
“Miso soup.” Pretty much what you’d expect.
This cold sake was very tasty. My brother and I drank a lot of it. On occasion Ryo has “made” me do 5-7 double shots of Patron. Good thing I live so nearby.
“Sunomono,” cucumbers pickled in a sweat vinegar/miso sauce.
Ryo is blow torching a “Surf and Turf” role. When I eat here I don’t like to order, but get him to just make stuff. This particular Sunday he was very busy and so he didn’t have time for his most inspired creations — still, the “quicker” fare sure was tasty.
“Halibut in ponzu, with jalepeno.” Slight varient on the Peruvian classic introduced by Nobu.
“Albacore sushi,” with at least two sauces. Sure all this saucing isn’t traditional Japanese, but it does taste pretty good.
“Seared tuna sushi,” with raw onion and what basically amounts to Italian dressing. This too works, not so far off from the classic Dutch dish of raw herring served with raw chopped onion.
“Crispy rice with spicy tuna.” These were really tasty, and the interplay of textures is fun.
“Seafood patty, nori, vinegar, other sauces.” A kind of tempura omelet ++ sauce.
“SURF & TURF. shrimp & asparagus tempura with avocado wrapped in searedrare filet mignon, topped with garlic & chopped white onion.” Decadent, crazy, but really good.
“Yellowtail, with truffle, and yuzu.” This is a more rarefied dish, and bordered on the sublime. The interplay of the fish, Unami flavors of the truffle, and the bright tang of the yuzu (Japanese lime-like citrus) was really sensational.
“Lobster roll.” This isn’t a variant that’s on the menu. Really it tasted like a lobster risotto roll. Ryo sauteed up the lobster in a lobster/Norfolk type sauce first. Pretty darn good too.
In any case, this was a very fine meal to end the weekend on, and I need to go back sometime on a less busy night, with my good camera, an empty stomach, and let Ryo really cook up some interesting stuff (he has before).
Restaurant: Mizu 212
Location: 2000 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310)478-8979
Date: December 17, 2010
Cuisine: Japanese Shabu Shabu
Rating: Best Shabu Shabu in town
Shabu Shabu is a form of Japanese cuisine where various meats and vegetables are cooked table side in boiling broth. Literally the name means “swish swish” for the sound the food makes as it is swished in the boiling water. In Japan one might get the impression that Shabu Shabu, like all Japanese culinary specialties, has been an inherited tradition since neolithic times, but in fact it entered the vocabulary only during World War II. Japanese soldiers in China encountered the ubiquitous Mongolian Hot Pot. But the Japanese are nothing if not masters at the art of culinary assimilation. They have a special ability to take the dishes of others and make them uniquely their own.
Mizu 212 is one of many excellent Japanese restaurants on Sawtelle. They do only Shabu Shabu and it’s all organic.
Each seat has a little hot plate.
On which is installed the pot of broth.
Hot green tea.
Part of the allure of shabu shabu are the sauces. The sesame sauce on the left and the ponzu on the right. The sesame sauce — like the cuisine itself — is borrowed from China. Loosely the sesame is for meat, and the ponzu is for veggies. But the unmodified sauces are just the beginning.
These are the basic condiments. From left to right: Chili oil, scallions, daikon radish, chili powder, and in front garlic!
The sesame gets a huge dose of garlic, as does the ponzu. But the ponzu also gets scallions and radish – and garlic.
There are also the advanced condiments, available on request. Both really help the ponzu shine. The yuzu on the left (juice from a Japanese lime) adds zest, and the chili is HOT! In a perfect kind of green hot. I find that red chili hot doesn’t go so well with shabu shabu — but green does.
And the actual food arrives. The vegetable plate. All sorts of organic goodness, plus some tofu and udon noodles.
The beef. This is a large plate of vintage aged beef. Mizu actually has about half a dozen meat options, including two different types of Kobe beef, plus chicken, lamb, and numerous types of fish. But beef is traditional.
The pot after a few rounds of veggies are added. Part of the key here is to cook each thing for just the appropriate length of time..
The beef cooks very quickly.
Swish, swish and voila!
Finished. Slather in the garlicky mizu and enjoy.
After all the cooking the meat fats are about all that’s left. Not so appealing.
The remains. There is a endless rice too. After you remove meat or vegetables from the broth, and dip it in one or the other sauces you can rest it to cool on the rice. That way, by the end the rice has become nicely saturated with sauce and fat.
As loyal (and repeat customers) we were treated to a round of homemade blood orange sorbet at the end. Yum!
Rows of other customers enjoying their private feasts. Not only is this meal good, and reasonably healthy, but it entertains too.
Restaurant: The Hump
Location: Santa Monica Airport — Now closed!
Date: Dec 5, 2009
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
For twelve years the Hump was one of my absolute favorite LA restaurants. It combined cutting edge LA Japanese, unparalleled ingredients, a cool location and great decor. Last year they got shot themselves in the head and served whale meat to some journalists disguised as high rollers and got themselves closed. Personally, I found this very sad. I myself, despite having eaten there 40-50 times and having numerous omakases ever ate anything illegal — as far as I knew. Nor for the record would I ever eat a primate or cetacean.
That being said, I wanted to post the only complete omakase from the Hump that I have photos of. Unfortunately, they aren’t great photos either, some being from my cel phone, but we shall get no more. Typhoon, BTW, which is owned by the same people and located below is still open and is a very good place as well, it’s just a different think, as a bit less elegant than the Hump was.
Tai (red snapper) and some other sashimi. I loved the sashimi at the hump. One of these has Yuzu, the other radish, and they are dusted with million year old salt.
Soem various cuts of tuna/yellowtail. Ponzu and jalapeno.
Traditional Japanese egg custard. I don’t remember what was in this particular one, often shrimp or mushrooms.
A whole main lobster, converted into various tempura and sashimi. There is also some vegetable tempura, and some endive with some lobster something on it. Oftentimes at the Hump the lobster was so fresh the head squirmed on the plate.
A close up of one of the endive things. Gold foil. I think it was roe.
Various bits of fish, all yummy i’m sure.
The lobster head returns for lobster miso soup.
Kobe beef, cooked at the table.
Some sushi. I was notorious at the Hump when not getting the Omakase for having these Mega large plates of sushi come to the table. The Hump had 3 custom porcelain slabs, about 18 inches by four feet. I’d often have one totally full.
The remains of custom homemade sorbets.
Oh Hump. Why did you have to go over to the dark side. I miss thee.
Restaurant: Sushi House Unico (SHU)
Location: 2932 1/2 Beverly Glen Circle – Bel Air, Ca 90077 (310) 474-2740
Date: Nov 12, 2010
Cuisine: New Style Sushi
Rating: A great “Nobu” clone with some dishes of its own.
Nearly 15 years ago now when I first ate at Matsuhisa I was blown away. I was already a veteran Sushi eater, having started going to Washington D.C.s one (then two) places in the late 70′s, and having been to Japan 2 or 3 times at that point (now it’s around 20). At the time it seemed like a culinary breakthrough. Classic sushi was great, but here was a whole new cuisine based on “modernizing” and combining Japanese elements with some other sensibility. Fundamentally it seemed intensely creative. But nowadays half the restaurants in LA have Miso Cod or Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno. In Food just as in any other art, creativity is surprisingly rare. SHU is very much derivative of this tradition, but unlike many of the places (Sushi Ryoku & Katsuya you know who you are!) does add a dash of its own style. Now we had read that SHU combined Japanese flavors with Italian. As a lover of both cuisines I didn’t really see this. It was more like a 95%/5% split in the Japanese favor. A few dishes had an occasional ingredient pulled from the Italian palette (like Olive Oil), but that was about it.
The menu, left half.
And right. There is also a separate Sushi menu and a specials of the day menu.
“Edamame,” the usual. They just put it on the table, which some places do.
This is unfiltered Sake, served cold. It looks like the Japanese soda Pocari Milk. I liked it, smoother than many filtered Sakes, with a nice “rice” flavor.
“Miso Soup w/ Tofu & Green Onion,” the classic. Certainly well done, but I object to the presence of the spoon.
“Tuna Carpaccio. Thinly sliced Tuna w/ arugola, extra virgin Olive Oil, Yuzu & bottarga,” was very tasty, bright, soft, with a pronounced citrus zing and a good dose of black pepper. While it did have Olive Oil, I’d hardly call it Italian — but I liked it!
“Wild Yellowtail: Tomato Sashimi,” was nice. The sauce had a LOT of zing to it, very vinegary in a good way, with a little hint of spice afterwards.
“Heirloom tomato salad with Jalapenos, onion, cilantro and Jalapeno dressing.” I only tried the dressing, as I detest raw tomatoes (one of 2 foods I don’t like). My wife liked it, although it was a chopstick challenge. The dressing was on the side and I used it on some other dishes as it had a great, very bright citrus, vinegar, jalapeno tang.
“Salmon Carpaccio, thinly sliced Salmon, w/ capers, arugolo, extra virgin Olive oil, sea salt & lemon,” I didn’t try. In fact, I didn’t order, but it was so pretty I photoed it from the next table over.
“Crispy Risotto w/ Spicy Tuna Tartar & Sliced Jalapeno” was a very nice dish, but the Risotto name was a total misnomer. It’s the standard “friend crispy rice cake,” topped with spicy tuna. But it was very good, even though I’m not a spicy tuna fan. Spicy tuna is to Sushi as Spaghetti and Meatballs is to Italian.
“Broiled Miso Marinated Black Cod,” the Nobu classic and one of my wife’s favorites.
“Roch Shrimp Tempura w/ spicy creamy mayo” is another Nobu classic, but it was done just as well here.
Click the pic for a zoom. Starting left to right across the top: Toro, Salmon, Albacore, Uni, Japanese Scallop, Eki (squid), Fresh Water Eel, and Tamago (Egg Omelet). The sushi was excellent. It was just a notch below what you get at Nobu, the late Hump (sob), or other extremely top LA places. So extremely yummy, but not totally sublime. Bear in mind that I am an extreme sushi snob with over 30 years of practice.
The unasked, but welcome fruit plate. I was too slow with the camera.
The trendy interior.
And exterior, right next to Vibrato Jazz Grill.
Overall, SHU was a very good place. It did the “classic” Nobu dishes well, and added enough originality to give it some flavor of its own.