Location: 16101 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436. 818.876.0818
Date: August 21, 2019
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi
Rating: Very good, particularly for white guy sushi
I’ve wanted to try Sushi|Bar since I first heard about it as it’s an unusual sushi bar concept.
Not the fact that’s it’s located on Ventura Blvd — which is about as typical as you get for sushi bars — but that it’s a secret place tucked behind Woodley Proper and Scratch|Bar.
In this very 90s Valley mall.
Hidden behind his revered tasting menu restaurant Scratch|Bar, Sushi|Bar is Chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s Omakase Speakeasy that serves up a whimsy of its namesake fare in 17 courses. Behind an unmarked door lies an intimate counter housing 8 prized seats where you will sit right up to the chef’s cutting boards. Relax and enjoy as the chefs prepare a playful reverie on new wave nigiri and other delicacies from both land and sea in a free form interpretive take on the traditional sushi counter experience where you can expect unexpected riffs on beloved standards.
The front bar part of Scratch|Bar where we waited for our seating. It should be noted that Sushi|Bar has same day reservations via Tock or a “membership” which allows for advanced reservations and corkage discounts. Some of our party were members and booked the whole place for tonight.
They gave us an welcome cocktail, which I think had a sake base, but I can’t remember.
Eventually — and it was about 45 minutes late — we were moved into the secret Sushi|Bar room.
Unlimited Sunomono (marinated pickles). I must have eaten about 10 bowls worth.
The chef’s plating the first course.
1989 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut Collection. JG 96. The 1989 Krug Collection is absolutely brilliant Champagne and one of the best bottles of wine I have had the pleasure to taste this year. The totally à point nose soars from the glass in a regal blend of baked apple, buttered almonds, a touch of crème patissière, a beautiful base of minerality, brioche and a gentle topnote of smokiness. On the palate the wine is deep, pure and magical on the attack, with a great core of fruit, flawless focus and balance, refined mousse, brilliant complexity and a very, very long, crisp and vibrant finish. This wine is fully mature aromatically and flavor-wise, but still retains the structural bounce and grip of a relatively young Champagne and still has decades and decades of profound drinking ahead of it. A great, great wine at its magical summit.
1982 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 97. Both 1982 Champagnes are utterly spellbinding. It is amazing to taste these wines at 30 years of age and see that their signatures are all very much intact. Of course, the magnum format is so ideal for Champagne. The 1982 Krug Vintage is warm, toasty and totally expressive, with gorgeous exotic orange peel and white truffle overtones. This is one of my very favorite Krug vintages. Although fully mature, the 1982 is going to continue to develop at a glacial pace. The 1982 Dom Pérignon is just a little more focused and vibrant in style. Here it is the wine’s salivating minerality that really sings. It, too, is quite youthful and vibrant for its age. What a flight.
Kushi Oyster from British Columbia with Italian sturgeon caviar, shari puffed “Rice Krispies,” and sake foam. Light and briny. Very pleasant, with an interesting textural play between the crispy, foamy, and slimy.
Blue Fin Tuna & Krasnaya Ikra. Spanish bluefin tail tartare, braced with dehydrated nori and covered with avocado mousse, house-cured ikura (salmon roe), and green onion. I really liked the contrast of the soft fish and the crispy seaweed. Great flavors too.
Japanese Yellowtail (hamachi) with sweet corn pudding, sourdough breadcrumbs, and soy sauce, and wasabi. This was good, but a touch less successful as I found the corn and breadcrumb mush a touch distracting.
Spanish Blue Fin Toro, scored, with sherry shisky, brown sugar, and a tiny slice of pineapple. Plus some house soy and wasabi. This more unusual topping really worked, adding an unctuous sweet tone to the rich fish not unlike pairing with Sauternes.
2013 Maison Leroy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes. Very nice!
Purple Peruvian Scallop. The mollusk was smothered with leche de tigre (the Peruvian zesty sauce). Of course the sauce is so zesty it’s hard to taste the scallop, but it was still very succulent.
2011 Coche-Dury Meursault. BH 90. An elegant, pure and very pretty nose is now displaying just touches of both wood and some secondary development though it’s clear that the ripe orchard fruit and citrus-infused aromas are still developing. There is a lovely sense of energy to the delicious, round and caressing middle weight flavors that exhibit a subtle mineralitly that continues onto the nicely intense and sappy finale that delivers excellent persistence and particularly so for a villages level wine. This is really lovely stuff and while it could easily be enjoyed now, I’d be inclined to allow it another 5 to 7 years of bottle age first.
2011 Maison Leroy Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 93. An elegant, fresh and airy nose of that is distinctly floral and citrusy in character offers up notes of green apple and a nutty hint. There is excellent intensity and cut to the chiseled middle weight flavors that exhibit the classic minerality of a fine Perrières, all wrapped in a delicious, complex and classy finale. This is first-rate and particularly so for the vintage, indeed this more resembles a 2010 than a typical 2011. Impressive.
Tai Snapper topped with caviar, lemon, sea salt, and scallions. The caviar pairing also worked.
Black snapper with yuzu koshu made from fresno chilies. The little dab of heat paired nicely with the snapper.
2010 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 96. This notches up the ripeness just a touch more yet there are only the barest hints of exoticism to the peach, apricot, pear and acacia blossom aromas that display a top note of citrus zest. This is a classic Bâtard in the sense of being big, bold and powerful with imposingly-scaled flavors that coat the palate with dry extract before terminating in a massively long and borderline painfully intense finish. To be sure, this is a big wine yet it remains light on its feet with no undue sense of being top heavy. Indeed the balance is perfect though note that patience will be required. Marvelous. (Drink starting 2022)
Medium fat chu toro with caviar, lemon, sea salt, and scallions. Chu toro is always one of my favorite cuts and the caviar added a extra level of brine.
Smoked albacore soaked in garlic paste, wrapped in sake nori, topped with crispy onions, ponzu, and scallions. It’s fairly traditional to pair albacore with garlic and while this was a novel approach to it, it was ultimately sucessful.
New Zealand King Salmon, seared, lemon sea salt and pickled wasabi. Here the pickled wasabi takes the place of the pickled bit of kelp sometimes layered on the salmon. Also a great piece.
From my cellar: 2002 Dom Pérignon Champagne Rosé. VM 97+. The 2002 Dom Perignon Rosé is deep and chewy yet amazingly refined. The Dom Perignon Rosé is still very taut and shut down, hinting at yet more complexity and fun to come with proper cellaring.
1995 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. JG 95. The 1995 Krug in magnum is really starting to drink with style and grace, but it remains a wine that has just reached its plateau of maturity and has years and years of life still ahead of it. The lovely and quite classic nose wafts from the glass in a constellation of apple, peach, caraway seed, a lovely base of minerality, a touch of walnut, rye bread and a gently smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and complex, with a wide open attack, a fine core, elegant mousse and really lovely length and grip on the focused and classy finish. Fine juice.
Wild caught Korean Escolar, house cured Ikura (salmon roe), scallions, wasabi, soy. A rich fish, balanced nicely by the briny roe.
King Crab Dynamite. Russian king crab leg covered with a beet mustard, brûléed to caramelize the sugars, then topped with lemon juice, rock salt, and puffed red quinoa. The sweetness went nicely with the crab (much like Spanish crab with raspberries) and the puffed quinoa added an interesting crunch.
Giant Clam, wasabi, house soy sauce, lemon sea salt, matcha salt. Chewy and delicious.
Bone Marrow. Roasted ox marrow with wasabi, soy, and rock salt. This was an unusual nigiri and was not my favorite. I never really like bone marrow as it’s soft and fatty without much heft.
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin with wasabi. Classic and delicious.
The menu is up on the wall. The things below come with the tasting, but underneath the name are a bunch of optional ala carte items. I ordered all that were available.
Uni handroll. So good I got 2.
King crab handroll. Mild, without mayo, but nice.
Unagi with bone marrow fat. Here the bone marrow served just to make the rich eel even richer — which I enjoyed.
Jellyfish with vinegar. I loved with, as it had a really nice “bite” (the chewy crunch) and a great acidic flavor.
“Kobe” Beef with salt and green onion. Very salty and rich. Fine, but maybe not worth the price.
White chocolate matcha shell, kafir lime ice cream, black sesame shortbread cookie. Delicious, both in flavors and in it’s textural play between the shell and frozen interior. I may emulate as a gelato flavor at some point.
Mocha Bourbon Butterscotch Gelato — expresso infused milk, Valrhona cocoa, Knob Creek Bourbon, and a house-made Butterscotch Sauce — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #mocha #expresso #coffee #chocolate #Valrhona #butterscotch #bourbon #KnobCreek
Tingly Passion Gelato — passionfruit variant, striped with blackberry coulis, but steeped with Chengdu Street Market Szechuan Green Peppercorns — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #passionfruit #blackberry #coulis #SzechuanPepper #SpicySweet #passion
Green tea with yuzu and honey. Sweet and tangy!
The wine lineup was amazing tonight!
One of our chefs looked like he was 16 — but he’s in his mid twenties. None of the chefs are Japanese from Japan. The main day to day sushi chef does have extensive sushi bar experience. I’m not sure all the guys know how to “pick fish and cut” in the traditional subtle Japanese way that helps make the texture and flavor of top flight fish so superlative. Here there is some distraction from that traditional Japanese focus with the “toppings.”
Overall, this was a great experience and the sushi was fabulous. For weird “topped” sushi it was far more successful than the odd Sushi of Gari. Almost all of the “pairings” were successful and many actually added to the flavor rather than subtracting.
There isn’t a ton of food by my standards, and so to be full I not only had to order ALL the supplements (2 of a couple) but I had to chow down on cucumbers (sunomono). In the end I was satiated. Price was reasonable for high end sushi as the base omakase is “only” $125 — which isn’t too bad (again for high end sushi). The experience, setting, and sushi style is unique too, which is always fun.