Location: 815 Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Date: June 20, 2016
Rating: Somewhere between Izakaya and Kaiseki
Shibumi is a new Japanese place in DTLA which is both highly “Japanese” and unusual in a number of ways. One, it’s Kappo style which is a kind of “knife and fire” traditional cooking not often found in America. Two, despite this very Japanese sensibility, its chef is an American guy: David Schlosser.
The front looks a bit like Japan — all the more unusual because it’s sitting there on a nondescript DTLA block!
Adam brought: 2008 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 94. A more elegant as well as more refined but also much more reserved nose of white flower and salt water aromas is very much in keeping with the equally refined, pure and silky middle weight flavors that possess excellent detail and precision on the textured and seductive finish that displays grand cru level persistence. This is not quite as rich as the Butteaux but it’s finer as the chiseled flavors are flat out gorgeous. In a word, stunning.
The interior is dark, almost Scandinavian modern crossed with bar. However it smells incredible, like a smokey Japanese inn.
Erick brought: 1993 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. VM 94. Among the wines of the 1990s, I especially liked the 1993 Dom Ruinart, which was beautiful, especially considering this was an original disgorgement. Layers of honeyed fruit, licorice and mint were woven together in a captivating fabric. We also caught this wine at near peak, as it was firing on all cylinders. What a beautiful wine.
Fresh walnuts in red chili miso. A little bit of heat and that sweet/spicy miso glaze. Interesting texture too in pairing the crunchy walnuts and the slightly slimy sauce.
Lotus, sweet potato, young burdock chips. Pretty much like potato chips. The first two dishes being almost bar food — which ties in with the Izakaya vibe.
Lobster “miso” and sake. The orange stuff is “lobster brain” which really isn’t brain but the liver (I think) of the lobster. It has a very slimey texture not unlike egg yolk. Strong brine and umami flavors. And it does pair nicely with sake. Fairly “advanced”.
Fermented mullet roe. Salty and fishy. I liked this a lot, but it is also extremely “advanced.”
Iwagaki oyster, fresh yuzu, shiso flower & mountain caviar. A HUGE oyster cut up. I’m not normally a fan of the giant oysters (although I love smaller ones on the half shell). This did have that big oyster chunky texture, but the pairing of bright and briny flavors was quite lovely.
From my cellar: 2002 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. VM 92-95. Pungent, thoroughly ripe aromas of soft citrus fruits and spices. Fat, sweet and large-scaled; this has real dimension. Highly complex and very rich flavors of orange, minerals, hazelnut and spices. Wonderfully aromatic and showy in the mouth, but also built to age. Finishes very fat and very long. This may be bottled without a fining. Thibodaux says the addition of the younger vines has brought freshness and cut, leavening the “corpulence and massiveness” of the juice from the older vines.
On the left an awesome scallop sashimi layered with something and covered in yuzu. On the right trigger fish liver and meat. Both of these dishes were awesome — but again the textural and in the case of the liver, slightly fermented, components require a high level appreciation of Japanese cuisine.
Japanese sea-bream sashimi, ginger bud, pickled plum-irizake.
From my cellar: 1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. 95 points. Absolutely exquisite. Soaring, kalediscopic nose, with swirling aromas of salted caramels, vanilla, honey, jasmin, ginger, almonds, and orange peels. Just mind boggling. Sensuous, smooth, and nutty on the palate, with a level of refinement that the other (also excellent) LdH blancos just can’t reach and a salty finish that leaves your palate tingling for what seems like minutes. A masterpiece that will last for ages.
“ancient” style sushi. Marinated mackerel on vinegar rice with pickled ginger. Sushi has its origins in China as fish packed in a barrel with vinegared rice. When it came to Japan it was adapted into something more like this which is halfway between that old fermented form and our newer (post refrigeration) form. This was quite enjoyable, although it was tricky to keep the rice physically in place.
From my cellar: 1999 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. 95 points. Reticent but very ripe nose hints at white flowers, white plum, orange oil and charred oak. Very rich, dense and chewy, but also high-pitched, perfumed and penetrating. A superrich yet classic wine that comes across as a bit less dry than the Combettes today. A great premier cru.
Silky egg tofu, uni, fresh nori & wasabi. I loved this attractive dish. I adore silken tofu and adding the uni and the traditional wasabi was great. The nori is a significant flavor and texture element in this dish too.
Mushrooms and other vegetables. A bit of a charred flavor too.
Will brought: 1993 Daniel Bocquenet Echezeaux. BH 88. Very elegant, spicy rich fruit framed robust, intense but edgy flavors that are a bit lean on the moderately long finish. It’s not clear whether this will regain its balance or not with a few years of bottle age but there is no doubting the lovely complexity and solid flavor authority.
Grilled heritage pork in koji, pickled daikon, leek. Nice pork, and I particularly liked it paired with the daikon (I love pickled daikon).
Steamed rice ball with barley, pumpkin & pumpkin seed. Nicely charred too and interesting textural interplay. Charred rice, almost sweet with almost sweet pumpkin.
California holstein beef strip, grilled, fresh wasabi, nara-zuke pickle. These were milk cows, and a fairly tough meat, but tasty with the wasabi.
Adam brought: 2010 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein. 98+ points. As I noted in the introduction, this is one of two Eisweins produced from the Brücke in 2010. This particular Eiswein was harvested on Christmas Day, with the one that was still fermenting in the cellars having been picked a week earlier on December 18th. This is a great, great bottle in the making, as it soars from the glass in a brilliantly pure mélange of apple pie, pineapple, candied oranges, lovely minerality, honey, a touch of new leather and a topnote of citrus zest. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and racy, with laser-like focus, beautifully ripe, integrated acids and stunning grip on the endless finish. A great, great wine.
Koji (r)ice cream, apple & fermented apple. Really liked the apple in this reinterpretation of apple pie ala mode. Rice cream isn’t as good as ice cream though — or even close to gelato.
Chef David Schlosser with the big bottle!
The chef spent quite a while with us at the table.
Overall, Shibumi brings a unique sensibility at many levels. It’s stylistically east/west. The food is very Japanese but the chef is American. And the very style of food is not culled from Japan’s more Western-approachable sub-cuisines. This is some fairly hard core stuff with weird fish bits, fermentation, and “unfamiliar” textures. In fact, it pretty much showcases a texture prized in Asia but which most Americans would describe as “slimey.”
But execution is both unique and spot on. Ingredients are impeccable and the technique sound — and it’s almost instant popularity shows that great cooking can transcend even American parochial style. Too bad the same can’t be said of our recent politics.
After dinner we went over to this trippy place in Skid Row called “The Spirit Guild.” They were having a holiday party with plenty of on-premises brewed alcohol.
They have these cool German stills too.
And one of the potent drinks.