Location: 8439 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069. (323) 650-8585
Date: July 30, 2015
Cuisine: Japanese American Sushi / Robata
Rating: Best I’ve had here
I’ve long had mixed feelings about both Katana and IDG (Innovative Dining Group). They bug me a bit for being style over substance, and there is absolutely nothing innovative about them in the food department. But that being said they often run a fairly tight ship. BOA is a pretty solid modern steakhouse.
Back to Katana, which lurks right over the heart of the Sunset Strip. The crowd is different than it was when I was last here in 98 or 99 — then it was super hip and trendy. Now it’s still very busy, but feels more like a strong concierge referral business.
The patio gets hopping later.
Inside is the sushi / robata bar. Katana is a “Japanese” restaurant like I’ve never seen in Japan and it fuses a couple different culinary traditions. The sushi side inherits from Nobu / Matsuhisa (more Nobu) and then there is robata thrown in too boot. Oh, plus a ton of those creepy American mega rolls (like Spider Roll) that I don’t like: too much sauce and fry.
Tonight, however, we were there with a super regular who is friendly with the chef and so he made a lot of off menu stuff — and no silly rolls.
Our first wave of sashimi-like apps. This general category of heavily produced sashami is non-traditional, and deemphasizes the fish, but it is really tasty.
2006 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage Brut Rosé. VM 91+. Dried rose petals, anise, sweet red cherries and mint waft from the glass in the 2006 Brut Rosé Grand Vintage. The 2006 is a big, large-scaled Rosé built on depth and structure. The flavors show early signs of development, but the 2006 should continue to drink well for many years based on its stuffing. Today the Rosé is a bit tight. I won’t be surprised to see it improve over the next few years. In 2006, the Grand Vintage Rosé is 47% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier, with a high percentage of still Pinot Noir (23%) that gives the wine much of its pure vinosity. Dosage is 5 grams per liter.
agavin: these two roses were a gift from a Moet rep and were much appreciated.
Albacore or similar tuna with ponzu, parmesan, avocado, and arugula. An odd blend of Italian salad and sashimi, this did taste great.
NV Ruinart Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Light orange. Red berries, potpourri, toasty lees and orange peel on the highly fragrant nose. Lively and precise, with very good focus to its wild red berry and floral pastille flavors. The orange note comes back strong on the long, penetrating finish, which features a sweet raspberry quality.
Lobster, reduction, yuzu sauce, truffles. Again pretty over the top, but yummy.
2002 Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos St. Jean. 90 points.
Salmon, truffle, and tomato in a ponzu. Drawing these together are the vinegary sauces. These were “invented” (more adapted from Purvuian sauces) by Nobu Matsuhisa to make sashimi “easier” on the western palette.
2001 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. Burghound 92. Ripe and extremely opulent intense citrus fruit and white flowers coupled with medium weight flavors dripping with minerality and enough fat to buffer the bracing acidity. There is a subtle underlying complexity and this is remarkably intense, assertive and precise yet there is excellent power and depth as well.
Scallop with yuzu and dressing. Delicious. Hard to go too wrong with scallop and vinegar.
2004 Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Burghound 93. Noticeable reduction and very subtle wood influence highlights the strikingly elegant and airy white flower, grapefruit and anise-infused nose that precedes the intense, powerful and superbly well-detailed medium full flavors that explode like a bomb on the mouth coating finish. There is a bit more wood on the finish but there is so much material here that it will almost certainly absorb it over time. This is a steamroller of a wine yet one that maintains perfect balance and grace though I would strongly suggest decanting it for 20 minutes first because of the reduction.
agavin: a little bit of that 04 green on the finish.
Tai snapper with baby peach and flowers and dressing. This one was most novel, featuring the baby peach. It was really quiet lovely.
From my cellar: 1990 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 93. A truly wonderful nose of simply knockout complexity features notes of yeast and baked bread along with now fully mature aromas of a variety of floral notes and spice hints that gives way to mineral-suffused, round, intense and detailed medium full flavors that also offer outstanding depth on the sappy and mouth coating finish. This is drinking perfectly now and I wouldn’t hesitate to open one anytime as there is no further upside to be had. A beautiful effort of real style and grace.
Yellowtail with garlic and something else. Very tasty too, if rich.
2001 Domaine Fourrier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Gruenchers Vieille Vigne. Burghound 88-91. A major step up as this retains the elegance and precision of the Chambolle villages and adds more depth, weight and complexity plus more length. This is first rate and offers excellent potential for 5 to 8 years of improvement.
Now we segue drastically heavier in an out of order filet mignon with mashed potatoes, foie gras, and truffles. Not that it wasn’t very tasty, but it was hefty!
From my cellar: 1970 Gros Frère et Sœur Vosne-Romanée. 93 points. Very much alive and drinking quite beautifully. A veritable chameleon in the glass, the aromas kept changing every time I brought the glass to my nose. First sour cherries, then papaya, then raspberries, then red clay, then lemon rind, then caramel — it was intoxicating. The palate, on the other hand, was a bit simple and one-dimensional, but I thought the nose more than made up for it. A lovely wine!
Beef rolled around foie. I guess it can get even heavier. Tasty too, but super rich.
1998 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays. Burghound 91. This has always had a wonderful nose and it has now reached the front edge of full maturity that complements well a flavor profile is a classy middleweight fighter’s grace and athleticism rather than a heavyweight’s power. The once relatively firm tannins have largely, if not completely, resolved to create a velvety and mouth coating texture that further delivers excellent length. There is a hint of acidity poking through on the finish but overall, this is indisputably an unqualified success for the vintage. Tasted multiple times with consistent notes.
Chicken liver skewers. Good for those with iron deficiency.
Sushi. Tuna, Yellowtail, red snapper, and salmon. These are the usual suspects of the nigiri world. They were nice pieces, but on the “been there done that” side.
Uni, battleship style. I never complain about good uni.
Toro. O-toro from the look of it. This wasn’t like Yamakase toro or anything, but I certainly wasn’t going to send it back.
Chicken cartilage skewers. Good flavor. Terrible cartilage texture.
Lamb chops. Oddball at a Japanese restaurant, but very nice.
Lobster tempura in ponzu sauce. Total guilty pleasure. This sauce was more like a sweet and spicy eggroll sauce. The lobster was so fried you would have never known there was anything in there. Despite that, it was amazing in a totally decadent fried way.
Snapper, and truffle, wrapped around foie gras with shiso. Such an odd combo, but delicious (if, like much of the meal, was very rich).
Turley Zinfandel. Don’t know which one. Well, it was a zin.
A dessert plate with flourless chocolate tart, a kind of cheesecake, and (way too little) ice cream.
2009 Heinrich Mayr (Nusserhof) Lagrein Alto Adige – Südtirol Riserva. VM 94. The 2009 Lagrein Riserva wraps around the palate with layers of super-expressive, radiant fruit. Sweet red berries, tobacco, crushed flowers, mint and anise are some of the many notes that are woven together in the glass. Extended time in barrel has added considerable textural richness. The 2009 needs quite a bit of time to open up, but it is fabulous. The silky tannins and overall depth of the fruit cover some of the wilder notes typical of Lagrein, but there is plenty of varietal expression. This is another striking, reference-point wine from Heinrich Mayr.
Overall, a really fun evening. Service was fabulous and I enjoyed the food. It is, as mentioned above, an odd hybrid of different Japanese types and other more American influences. It emphasizes super rich ingredients and sauces in a way that really isn’t fundamentally Japanese. All the while failing to strike out on it’s own with any kind of real vision. This comes off more like an amped up “crowd pleaser” style, thus striking an odd note with my purist side. Still, it is a crowd pleaser — and plenty tasty.