Restaurant: Yamakase [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Location: You wish you knew!
Date: November 4, 2016
Rating: Always awesome!
Yamakase is just hands down one of the most fun evenings in LA. Not only is the “modern” Japanese cuisine incredible, but the convivial nature of the place is just great. It’s not very big and as usual we take the entire sushi bar, but not tonight.
The location is in a good neighborhood, but something about this particular strip mall is a bit sketchy. Maybe it’s the 7/11. There are a lot of strange characters hanging about.
Inside, chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto rules over the sushi bar.
This time, being a Friday and a smaller party, we were 4 at the bar (of 11) and the place was packed with a total of 21 people!
Have a little tuna/toro! With the big crowd he went through two of these.
Larry brought: Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. The NV Grande Cuvée is absolutely stellar. This is one of the very best Grande Cuvées I can remember tasting. The flavors are bright, focused and beautifully delineated throughout, all of which make me think the wine will age well for many, many years. Lemon peel, white flowers, crisp pears, smoke and crushed rocks race across the palate in a vibrant, tense Champagne that epitomizes finesse. This release is based on the 2005 vintage and was disgorged in winter 2012/2013.
Homemade sesame tofu and uni. A “typical” Yamakase tofu dish. Great interplay of textures and flavors.
Abalone with eel sauce. The crunchy chewy mollusk simply served and delicious.
Persimmon butter sandwich with marcona almonds. This is an odd one, but delicious. The orange stripes are dried persimmon which has been hung to dry for months. This is a traditional Japanese New Year preparation and very highly prized. The lighter stripe is frozen high end butter! Almost like a little petite four.
Mantis shrimp, baby peach, scallop, giant clam, and seaweed. I loved the sweet/tangy sauce too. Very lovely. The baby peach was incredible.
From my cellar: 2002 Maison Leroy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Charmois. 94 points. Reductive, fresh, and delicious.
Oyster, uni, quail egg, caviar. One of these super Yamakase spoons of crazy umami-rich ingredients.
Steamed/boiled cod sperm sacks with truffles. Sounds scary, but tastes great.
Roasted unagi with tomato sauce and truffles. Unusual combination that tasted like an Italian seafood dish — pretty awesome.
Frozen toro, uni, and blue crab on toast. This toast and rich toro/crab combo is so good. Like a super high end version of a tuna sandwich.
Hokkaido scallop in a dill sauce. A new treatment of some familiar ingredients. The dill sauce make for a different (and tasty) take on things.
Seasoned rice, baby fish, and marinated blue fin. An amazing dish with that fish over rice quality I really love.
From my cellar: 1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. 97 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.
Foie gras, toro, quail egg, truffle cheese, blue crab. Wow! This dish was absolutely out of this world. Just crazy rich and delicious. You wouldn’t think it works, but it’s amazing.
Hokkaido ready spikey crab. Never had these before!
Crab, steamed. Simple steamed fresh crab.
Larry brought: NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé. 95 points. The current release of Krug Rosé is a beautiful wine, which is comprised of a blend of fifty-nine percent pinot noir, thirty-three percent chardonnay and eight percent pinot meunier. It was disgorged in the spring of 2013 and includes reserve wines in the blend back to the 2000 vintage. The wine is beautiful and still very youthful and discreet on both the nose and palate, wafting from the glass in a lovely and blossoming blend of white cherries, tangerine, wheat toast, stunningly complex minerality, delicate spice tones and a topnote of dried rose petals. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and seamlessly balanced, with a lovely core, pinpoint bubbles, bright acids and exceptional focus and grip on the pure and still quite primary finish. This is very easy to drink today, but it deserves some cellaring time to really blossom.
Ultimate ramen bowl. This foie gras based seafood broth was topped with crispy onions and filled with yummy seafood bits. Underneath are the ramen noodles. There was crab, beef, oyster, and who knows what else in here. Absolutely stunning. So rich. So good. The broth had quite a white pepper kick too which was amazing.
The documentation to prove it, including nose print.
Miyazaki beef with truffle pepper sauce. Melt in your mouth with a bit of pepper kick.
Some people got sashimi instead of sushi.
Blue fin sushi. Bordering over to chu-toro. Just a lovely bit of sushi.
Chu or O toro. Lethal. We had several pieces of this each.
Uber handroll. Uni, king crab, toro, shiso. You’ve never had a handroll quite like this powerhouse! Had two of these.
Hazelnut biscotti gelato. I made this gelato and brought it in (I have a special traveling cooler now for my gelatti). A pure hazelnut gelato with Italian (waffle) cookies and hazelnuts!
A small taste of baby peach sorbet. Super light and refreshing. Yama makes a very pure sorbet, no stabilizers, probably only fruit, water, and sugars.
There are different was to experience Yamakase, depending on you number. This was the first time in 4-5 years that I haven’t taken the entire sushi bar (and usually we have the whole restaurant on a weeknight). This time it was just 4 of us in my party — at the bar — and on a Friday with a crazy busy crowd. At the tables there were mostly young Asian power couples. Quite the date night!
The food was as great as ever, and Yama added some extra staff so the service remained top notch and super attentive. The energy is a bit different with so many others and the space was packed. It’s louder, but with people staying more in their chairs. When we have the whole place, people are up and hanging out quite a bit. Yama also had to work like a banshee to produce nearly twice as many of each dish. He was right in front of me and it was impressive how fast he had to chop, plate, slice, dice, simmer, boil, etc. The knife was a flying! Those crabs had no chance. He is a total master and I’m proud to have him as my partner in Ramen Roll.
Food-wise, this was one of my best meals this year — really quite excellent — and regular readers know I have more than my share of great meals. A really great format. Yama’s cuisine keeps gaining in strength and power. Really quite incomparable. He is unquestionably a genius. Yama has a tremendous range within Japanese cuisine, first rate ingredients, and a savvy palate. He is quite skilled at very traditional more subtle Japanese as well, but has tuned up the typical Yamakase meal with high end ingredients and bolder combinations for a more contemporary wow factor.
Oh, and that toro cheese dish and foie gras “ramen” are just to die for.
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