Restaurant: Sushi Zo
Location: 9824 National BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90034. (310) 842-3977
Date: March 29, 2012
Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi
Rating: Top warm rice style 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.
There is no menu here. It’s just omakase. They start with miso soup in a very small bowl.
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.
Kumamoto Kaki/Oyster with a bit of ponzu, scallion, and the like. A very nice sweet oyster.
The sake menu is short. This $90 Kimura though is fantastic with exactly the kind of anise flavor that I like in my sake. A really really good sake.
Maguro/Tuna Sashimi. The fish was excellent, although I felt the homemade real wasabi was a little weak. Compared to what is to come, this is nothing.
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.
Fresh marinated ginger. I ate like 6 containers of this stuff.
Binnaga/Albacore. Melts in the mouth good.
Aji/Spanish Mackerel. This fish can be somewhat fishy, but not here. This is some superlative Mackerel.
Hotate/Scallop. I love raw scallop – as long as it’s fresh – and this one was spectacular.
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.
Butterfish with a sweet miso paste. This is a bit cooked I believe and is very approachable and warm.
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.
Amaebi/Sweet Shrimp. Soft and sweet, with a bit of chew.
Ankimo/Monkfish Liver. Certainly monkfish liver doesn’t get much better than this, not even a hint of fishiness.
Giant clam. Chewy, with a nice bit of yuzu. Not my favorite sushi, but this was a great example of type.
One of the light white fishes with a bit of yuzu.
Ha-Gatsuo/Skipjack Tuna. Also melt in your mouth good.
Another light white fish with salt.
Sake/Salmon with kelp. Nice sweet salmon, although this is one fish where I think Sushi Sushi is a little better.
Meji Maguro/Baby Tuna. Real bang of flavor here.
Uni/Sea Urchin & Ikura/Salmon Eggs. While tiny, both were excellent examples of the type.
Anago/Sea Eel. A wonderful smoky flavor, and without the sweet sauce. One of the best pieces of sea eel I’ve had.
Toro handroll. A really great toro roll.
Crab handroll. Again, pretty spectacular (if a little small). I could have eaten about 8 of these.
Yuzu Juice. This strange bit of Japanese lemonade is served as dessert. Nothing wrong with it, and it clears the palette, but it isn’t exactly creme brulee.
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.
For more sushi reviews, check out my LA Sushi page.