Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Intimate Sushi Omakase Experience at Nozawa Bar (Beverly Hills)

When they built Sugarfish in Beverly Hills, they had planned for Nozawa Bar all along and kept a room in the back for that sole purpose. Now, Nozawa Bar is open and taking reservations for ten people, two seatings per night for a sushi omakase experience. It's not Nozawa wielding the knife, but Osamu Fujita has long worked with Nozawa and has his stamp of approval. After my omakase meal there, I would say perhaps the setting and timing actually allows for a more refined experience than the busy Sushi Nozawa was in Studio City.

I knew my sushi, or thought I did, but for more than a couple of courses at Nozawa Bar I had a few moments where I went "no way, that wasn't ...". There were moments of learning that season really matters, and preparation matters. More on that later, on to the meal first. 

As I said, there are two seatings per night for everyone (at 6PM and 8:30PM), so don't be late! I was five minutes late and missed Fujita-san slicing up the jelly fish for the first course. I didn't miss eating the course, though, luckily (everyone is served the courses at the same time).
The crisp jellyfish was a nice opener to whet your appetite.
Sashimi plate of tuna and octopus before moving on to nigiri sushi
The nigiri courses start out with a bang with the chu toro. This a blue fin tuna chu toro, although the fattiness is close to oo toro.
Just like Nozawa's style, the rice is served slightly warm so that the sushi feels like it's melting in your mouth.

Ika (squid)
Fresh and firm squid on top of a shiso leaf.

Switching to the opposite spectrum of texture is a perfectly creamy Santa Barbara uni
A generous serving of it, too!

Fresh Scallop
Kanpachi - yellowtails are one of my favorites. Kanpachi can be leaner than hamachi, but the one here had a very soft flesh.
Skip jack tuna (katsuo)
I'm sometimes wary of ponzu sauce because the acidity, even when just a bit too much is added, can overwhelm the flavor for me, but Fujita-san has a nice light touch as far this was concerned.

Negitoro roll
Nozawa Bar's, as well as Sugarfish's, hand rolls are special due to the seaweed they use. The seaweed must be eaten super fresh, so that you can see how unusually crunchy it is.

Kumamoto oysters
Such sweet, fresh oysters.

Ankimo with miso sauce
Fujita-san makes the ankimo himself and it's quite different from other ankimo you may have had elsewhere. While the ones I've had before are firmer, this one is soft and creamy.

Kinmedai from the Kanto region.
I've had kinmedai (golden eye snapper) before but apparently during this season in Kanto it's oily and fatty, a completely different texture than what I'm used to. I've always known snapper to be lean and firm, but this was oily and fatty like a hamachi belly. I was very surprised when I ate this and couldn't believe it was kinmedai.

Ikura (salmon roe)
That crispy seaweed makes quite a big difference when combined with the roe liquid bursting in your mouth.

Crunchy giant clam

When I first went to Sugarfish I was told that hand rolls in particular need to be eaten fast, as the seaweed will soon no longer be crispy. Even photo taking might take too long. For that reason, I was a bit nervous and ate the Maine lobster roll as soon as I got my hands on it and forgot to take a photo. You'd just have to imagine how delicious it was.

Albacore belly
Sure, everyone loves toro, but other types of fish have equally delicious and equally fatty bellies, like albacore. This actually melted in my mouth even more than the toro.

Japanese mackerel
This mackerel is more tender and much less fishy than the ones I typically encounter, a statement to the freshness and the quality of the fish here at Nozawa Bar.

Sweet shrimp
Anago (sea eel). According to Fujita san, before laying eggs, anago has a texture like salmon, much oilier. After laying eggs they become very lean. Guess which one they're serving here?

We ended our sushi courses with a sweet Tamago with pickled plum
A warm hojicha to wash down the meal ...
... followed by a light dessert or mango ice cream and fresh berries.

I would reserve the omakase-only Nozawa Bar for special occasions due to the price, but at $150 per person it's not much more than other omakases and much less than Urasawa (I spent about the same at Sushi Kimagure in Pasadena). It's well worth it considering the intimate dining experience, personal attention, and the quality of the sushi we had. It's not a 30-minute meal like Jiro Sushi is famous for, but a nicely paced, relaxing meal. Fujita-san is friendly and will answer your questions (sometimes with jokes). I'm personally looking forward (and looking for excuses) to returning - my birthday, perhaps?

Nozawa Bar
212 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-6900
Nozawa Bar on Urbanspoon


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