Restaurant: Katsuya Brentwood
Location: 11777 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 237-6174
Date: May 2, 2016
Cuisine: Sushi / Robatayaki
Rating: Like nobu light
Katsuya started in the valley and branched over into Brentwood some time ago. I’ve been many times but somehow never gotten around to writing it up.
The inside has one of those trendy (circa 2010) Stark designed interiors. It’s loud and generally crowded. When it was never there was a velvet rope! Now, although busy on a Monday night, we got a party of 11 in that morning.
From my cellar: 2011 Zilliken (Forstmeister Geltz) Saarburger Rausch Riesling “Diabas”. 90 points. As usual, very crisp and precise on the nose – light and pure: powdered stone, light citrus. Gentle now with just the right touch of sweetness to round it out a bit while still having it stay exciting. Lemon and stone, nice balance. This is great. Spicy nose: cinnamon, nutmeg, petrol and apple. Quite dry on the palate. Gentle, balanced, spicy with good acid. Apple. Apple/spice finish.
EDAMAME. served warm and tossed lightly with salt.
VEGETABLE TEMPURA. asparagus, onion, yam, shiitake mushroom and green bean.
SAUTEED SHISHITO PEPPERS. A bit of a kick.
CRISPY RICE DUCK CONFIT. duck confit, foie gras and scallions over crispy rice. Nice rich hoisin/eel sauce sauce. Hard to tell what was under it though.
CREAMY ROCK SHRIMP. crispy bite-size rock shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce. Small portion, but I always love this dish.
From my cellar: 2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Montagny 1er Cru Les Burnins. 91 points. This wine is a dead ringer for an Aubert Ritchie with a few years of bottle age. And I’m trying to figure out if that is a complement or not. Only deep into the finish does a little white burg peek it’s head out from under the oak. It’s a delicious wine, but not to typicity. Balanced and a long finish.
MIXED GREEN SALAD. Miso dressing.
MUSHROOM SALAD. warm sautéed japanese mushrooms served on a bed of butter lettuce. Hard to eat these big lettuces with chopsticks, but the flavor was good.
TOFU SALAD. crispy tofu over mixed greens with miso vinaigrette.
YELLOWTAIL SASHIMI WITH JALAPEÑO. fresh yellowtail, ponzu and jalapeño make for a guest favorite. light and refreshing. This is certainly a classic.
SPICY ALBACORE SASHIMI WITH CRISPY ONION. a crunchy twist on albacore sashimi. Soft, but I wanted more in terms of flavor.
HALIBUT USUZUKURI. halibut sashimi delicately sliced with a hint of spice and citrus. One of my favorites — mostly because I love yuzu (which they don’t even name on the menu because their audience has no idea what it is).
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros. 93 ST. Good pale yellow. Restrained aromas of fresh apricot, pineapple and spices; showed riper stone fruit notes as it opened in the glass. Sweet, tactile and elegantly styled, with strong acids framing and lifting the intense peach flavor. Already boasts a lovely fat texture and considerable pliancy but this wine really needs three or four years to express itself.
MISO-MARINATED BLACK COD. This Katsuya signature uses sweet miso and the special taste of baked black cod to deliver unparalleled flavor. They call this a signature, but every upscale Japanese place has it! I’ve even made it at home (from the Nobu cookbook)!
Various Robata: Corn, pee wee potato, eggplant.
JIDORI CHICKEN BREAST. Nice tender chicken.
WAGYU TOBANYAKI. served sizzling hot with wild mushrooms. Also yummy, but I’ve certainly had better versions of this dish.
LOBSTER DYNAMITE. a half lobster sautéed with mushrooms, tossed in chef’s creamy dynamite sauce, and baked to perfection. Tasty. But dynamite makes everything tasty.
Various sushi. front to back: toro, albacore, blue fin, red snapper, salmon. Fine, but this is not great nigiri. Just “solid.” Better than supermarket by far, but well below any serious sushi bar.
Overall, Katsuya is a Nobu copycat restaurant. The menu (except maybe the Robata) is lifted wholesale from the Nobu menu circa late 90s. There are a couple different items, but not much. Execution is slightly sloppier than Nobu, and there are none of the new experiments that Nobu uses to keep itself fresh. And even Nobu feels like a concept that needs some more innovation. This Japanese / Peruvian blend was mind-blowing in 1997, but feels overused 19 years later. So while Katsuya is tasty, and actually moderately reasonably priced “considering” (considering being that it’s “fancy” Japanese), to my super jaded restaurant guy sensibilities it seems jaded. Still, when I bring guests, particularly out of town guests to these type of restaurants they are always blown away, as other cities don’t have the Japanese depth LA does. And even in this city, a lot of people don’t know about the really great sushi bars, or can’t handle the more extreme ingredients, or extreme prices. Katsuya, Nobu, etc are more approachable for novices. Nobu himself wrote about this, saying pouring on all the vinegar based sauces made the raw fish palatable for beginners. It also hides mediocre fish quality.
I’d say that Katsuya is right there in the crowd a bit behind Nobu, even a bit behind Katana, but maybe a hair above Roku. It’s not in the league of more serious experimental sushi at all.