Showing posts with label omakase. Show all posts
Showing posts with label omakase. Show all posts

Monday, May 7, 2018

Omakase at the Hidden Sushi | Bar (Encino, CA)

I heard about a sushi bar in Encino with a name pretty impossible to google: Sushi | Bar. This is Phillip Frankland Lee's hidden omakase-only sushi bar behind Woodley Proper in Encino. Sushi | Bar has two seatings per night and only seats eight people at a time. Reservations for the night opens at 10 am that morning on their website (EDIT: Sushi|Bar now takes reservations up to 2 weeks in advance!)

Sushi | Bar is hidden inside Woodley Proper. You check in at Woodley Proper and wait at the bar with a welcome cocktail before the party is escorted to the secret room. Sushi | Bar is not a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant. Phillip Frankland Lee and his team serves up a creative 17-course omakase of sushi with unusual garnishes and preparations.

We chatted with the sushi chefs and other diners and the 17 courses and their drink pairings come and go in rapid succession. I wasn't able to take detailed notes of every single preparations and photos of all the dishes, unfortunately, but here are what you might expect out of this wonderful and unique omakase experience.

We started with a West Coast oyster with whipped nigorizake and caviar, among other ingredients. I opted for the drink pairing which mixed in sake, beer, and cocktails - starting with sake to pair with the oysters.

There's the Purple Peruvian scallop with noc chuom and leche de tigre
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Oo-toro, pineapple, brown sugar, wasabi, soy
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White prawn from the Gulf of Mexico marinated for 3 days in chermoula. The prawn was oasted, then topped with dehydrated matcha, kelp, wasabi, and soy
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The prawn was paired with a cocktail made with Japanese whisky, port, lemon, matcha, kelp, soy - the three ingredients matched the garnish on the prawn sushi itself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Omakase at Q Sushi (Downtown Los Angeles)

One of the latest high end sushi restaurants to open in Los Angeles is Q Sushi in downtown. It's a quiet dining experience: he interior is stark, but certainly well thought out and elegant. The man behind the operation is Chef Hiroyuki Naruke who ran a small sushi bar in Tokyo but moved to Los Angeles after the tsunami in 2011.

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When you arrive, the only menu you'll be given is the drink menu of wines and sake. Your dinner will be the chef's choice omakase.
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Q has been called the most traditional, "real edomae" sushi in LA, which focuses on the flavors of the fish rather than the rice or condiments (says the J Gold). I suppose it's true that LA has had a fascination with sushi rice since the days of the Sushi Nazi.

Waiting for my perpetually late LA friend, my sushi chef (not Naruke) entertains me by showing me their wasabi from Shizuoka. Just like the restaurant, chef Naruke is a quiet man and he oversees everything even when he's not making the sushi.
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Finally my friend arrives and our meal starts with a light, bright sashimi of Fluke
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 Followed by a fattier Baja California Swordfish with caramelized onion dressing and soy sauce
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The touch of the dressing and sauces here are delicate, not a drizzle more that might overpower the fish.

Next: Japanese red snapper in homemade black sesame paste, garnished with gold flake
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The first time I've had sashimi with black sesame, and I certainly enjoyed the unusual combination.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Omakase at O Ya (Boston, MA)

When I asked for sushi recommendation, the name that kept popping up was O Ya - with the warning that it's expensive. Indeed, although you can order a la carte at O Ya, the full omakase runs about $250 and the smaller tasting menu $180. But I have to try it, right? I sat at the counter where I can see the chefs at work. My friend was late so I was getting hungry watching all the foie gras sushi being fired out ...

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Finally my friend came and we opted for the smaller omakase menu. As expected, it started with a fresh Kumamoto Oyster (watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette)
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Then, we proceeded with the nigiri courses. What makes O Ya different is the sauces he puts on the nigiri sushi. They're not just soy sauce or yuzu, but you can find things like Hamachi with spicy banana pepper mousse
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I loved the texture of the seared hamachi and the banana pepper mousse worked well, although it slightly overwhelmed the hamachi flavor. Maybe slightly less mousse on top?

Things like banana pepper mousse doesn't mean that O Ya veers completely from the traditional, though. Our next course is a Salmon with unfiltered wheat soy moromi
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Moromi is a term you may hear in sake brewing, and I believe it basically means the unrefined or unfiltered mash of grain that is undergoing fermentation. I enjoyed the earthy flavor with the fatty salmon.

The next bite is an indulgence: Santa Barbara sea urchin and Russian Osetra caviar
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An unbeatable combination, of course.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Awesome Affordable Sushi at Sushi Nozomi (Torrance, CA)

It's easy to spend over $100 on a sushi omakase, and while some of them are certainly worth the money, you can't do that too often. Instead, most of us frequent the mid-tier, affordable sushi joints - some of which provide really good value for the money. The best value for sushi omakase may well be Sushi Nozomi down in Torrance. The "chef's choice" or omakase is only $38 for 10 pieces of sushi plus a negi-toro roll and we're talking fresh fish, some of which are pretty hard to find in town!

Each omakase starts with a bowl of miso soup.

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When I visited, the omakase included a piece of Halibut fin, topped with yuzu
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Blue nose. This fish looks similar to a bass or grouper, leaner than the former but fattier than the latter.
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sushi Omakase and More at Hamasaku

Full disclaimer: I came here on a hosted media lunch, but I had also come back twice after that on my own dime (granted one of them was using the 30% off from the awesome Blackboard Eats). Hamasaku in West LA has actually been open for many years and is a Zagat favorite, but for some reason I hadn't really heard much about it and had not been until I was invited in. I've missed out! This place was great.

The omakase listed on the menu ($75) actually includes a lot of cooked items, so here's a tip: Go on any other day but Monday and sit at the sushi bar, preferably in front of the sushi chef, Yoya, who used to work at Sashi in Manhattan Beach.

My sushi lunch omakase started with some Uni with fried Yuba (tofu skin)

Uni Yuba
Big uni pieces and so fresh, but the best part is the contrast with the crunchy yuba. What a wonderful start to my lunch!

Next, a sashimi plate of: Blue fin tuna, aji snapper, young king mackerel, octopus. Served with kabosu (a sort of citrus) paste
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Agedashi tofu. I always love the delicately fried agedashi tofu and the broth
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 Big eye tuna from Hawaii
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This tuna is very rich and fatty, almost like a chu-toro. Loved it. For the sushi they use haiga-mai (half-milled) rice. It's half way between brown and white rice so it has more nutrients than white rice but tastes just like white rice.

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).
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The crisp jellyfish was a nice opener to whet your appetite.
Sashimi plate of tuna and octopus before moving on to nigiri sushi
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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.
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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)
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Fresh and firm squid on top of a shiso leaf.

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Omakase at Sushi Kimagure (Pasadena)

I used to complain that there was no stellar sushi in Pasadena, but that was before Sushi Kimagure moved in. The man behind Kimagure is Ike-san from the beloved Sushi Ike that was in Hollywood. The day he decided to shutter his Hollywood spot and open up in Pasadena was a good day for us.

Dining at the sushi bar at Kimagure is by reservation only, and considering our 7pm party did not leave until near closing time, there's probably only one seating per night.

It was my long awaited first visit so of course we had omakase. We didn't get Ike-san as our itamae that night but our meal was still excellent.

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It was impressive to watch how fast these sushi chefs were working, especially considering their age!

To start, a vegetable potato salad
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Most places may save toro towards the end of a meal, but here they dive directly into bluefin tuna (maguro) and toro as your first pieces.
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The toro was superb
Sushi is not just about the fresh fish, but the rice as well, and here at Kimagure they are both excellent. It's not the warm rice of Nozawa (which I sometimes think is too warm and detracts from the fish) but it still melts in your mouth.
Next was another one of my favorite cuts, hamachi belly
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Tasting Menu at Shunji (West LA)

Shunji is one of the hot recent restaurant openings, with Chef Shunji Nakao's serving his "contemporary" omakase in an inconspicuous stand-alone building on Pico Blvd. There are only a handful of tables and a few seats at the sushi bar, and the chef prepared most of the dishes personally (some get fired in the kitchen).

His printed menu looks like the standard Japanese restaurant, but we had read about his omakase (the omakase was not printed on the menu) and just asked for that.

As an amuse bouche, a small bowl of jelly with cucumber and vinegar sauce

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Next is a plate of small bites of vegetables, ankimo topped with caviar, a ball of purple potato with blue cheese and persimmon, and sweet potato with feta and truffle
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Unsure if we were supposed to eat these in a particular order, we moved in one direction and it moves from rich (ankimo) to the palate cleansing, crisp, unadorned vegetables to the creamy potatoes

The scallop sashimi, topped with arugula flower, was so fresh
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kiyokawa's New Sashimi-centric Omakase

Kiyokawa had been on my to-try list for some time since Jonathan Gold loved it so much, but I had sort of forgotten about this little place in Beverly Hills and stored it in the back of my mind. I recently dug it out and made it a point to finally go.

There are two omakase options at Kiyokawa, a full omakase (kaiseki) for $78 or a sushi-only omakase for $48. As I sat down and read the omakase menu there were things like miso black cod and other cooked items, but then they told me to ignore the menu. They had just started a new omakase menu and it was completely different than what was written. They recently changed the omakase menu to be more sashimi-focused rather than cooked dishes. Sounds even better to me.

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Sushi Chef Satoshi Kiyokawa
Our first course came in an orange sitting on ice. Inside the orange was some halibut sashimi with cucumber sunomono and tomato
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Albacore salad topped w crispy green onion
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This was a rather big plate for a second course with plenty of albacore. As the ponzu sauce that normally comes with albacore tends to be too astringent for me at times, I preferred this.

Live sweet shrimp and Hama Hama oyster topped with uni
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Did I mention the amaebi was a live? The legs attached to the head were still moving on the ice! (Sorry PETA)
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Still, the oyster with the creamy uni stole the show for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Toshi Sushi (Little Tokyo): Omakase vs "Omakase"

Craving sushi, I remembered that Toshi Sushi in downtown has received a lot of praise from fellow bloggers recently, including Sinosoul, djjewelz, and others.
We came on Easter night and the restaurant was empty. I asked to sit at the sushi bar, and the waitress asked what I was going to order. Sushi? Probably Omakase?

Then she asked what kind of omakase I'm ordering, the set or something-or-other.
Toshi Sushi offers an "Omakase" Sushi set that is printed on the menu. For $44.50 you get:
daily appetizers, asari (clam) miso soup, wagyu tataki, grilled black cod, and "most valuable 10 pieces of sushi assortment of the day", and ice cream. This is the meal that djjewelz reviewed.

OK, understandable if the place was full, but why do they care if the restaurant is empty. Moving on, I said I'll order whatever is needed for me to sit at the sushi bar.
We ended up getting a full-on omakase. Whatever Toshi-san wants.

1. We started with some appetizers: seaweed from Japan, mountain yam, shark fin, and pear.
Some of you may be furious about the sharks fin offered here, but I wasn't. I grew up loving sharkin and stil do ... A nice combination of texture here between the sticky yam and seaweed and the crisper pear and sharkfin.

2. Halibut with marinated seaweed.
This first sushi course is a wonderful introduction of the freshness of the sushi we were about to have and the subtlety of Toshi-san's touch.

3. Bluefin tuna from Spain (that I forgot to take a photo of).
It's smooth and fatty, amazingly so for a non-toro tuna.

4. Snapper from Japan.
Fresh and chewy. The marinade is light and not overwhelming.

5. Deep fried octopus.
Chewy texture. The batter is a bit salty and greasy but the dish overall is good and flavorful.

6. Mackerel with marinated seaweed.
The mackerel has a natural saltiness. Both the flavor and texture are quite nice.

7. Chu-toro bluefin tuna from Spain.
This piece was not too fatty but still melts in your mouth and has that nice oily flavor. And of course, fresh.

8. Here we moved back to a lighter set of appetizers. A trio of dishes:

Sea cucumber
Nice and crunchy, surprisingly so as usually cooked sea cucumber is very fatty and tendon-like. Still, if you're used to sea cucumber you would enjoy this and otherwise it might be too weird.

Kumamoto oysters.
This has a bit too much sauce for my taste.

Baby squids.

Sweet and slimy. Loved it.

9. Now we're back to the fattier and heavier side of the meal, starting with Hamachi belly.
My favorite, always. Fatty but still a bit chewy. Nice flavor

Next came the most memorable and unique dish of the night:
10. Slowly baked bluefin tuna cheek.
This was my first time having cooked bluefin tuna cheek and it was amazing. It was tender but a bit chewy and meaty, had lots of flavor, a lot of oil. Excellent. If Toshi has this when you go, do try it.

11. O-toro (again, forgot to take a photo. Guess I was hungry!)
Melts in your mouth, definitely much fattier than the chu-toro.

12. Seared salmon belly with foie gras.
Fat on fat. Oh yes. The texture and flavor combinations are great, in that fatty melt-in-your-mouth-save-my-heart kind of way.

Because my companion loves his tamagoyaki, he asked for an order. Instead, we were given a tasting of three tamagoyakis:
13. Tamagoyaki with seaweed powder, tamagoyaki with yam, shiso, and plum, and a regular tamagoyaki.
In those Japanese comics or drama people always argue whether or not they like the salty or sweet tamagoyaki. Well, here we have both and more.

14. Aji from Japan.
The sushi here is never overwhelmed by sauces.

15. To finish up, I had an order of really sweet uni (Santa Barbara) while my not-an-uni-lover-companion had some ikura.
16. Followed by an order of unagi.
Nicely seared meaty unagi and again, not doused in too much sauce.

Brown rice tea to cleanse off.

Most people would count uni or unagi as their “dessert” but we have such a sweet tooth interesting so we got a couple:

“Chocolate Souffle”
It’s a perfectly fine dessert but I do not think this is a proper soufflé. This isn’t the first time I encounter “soufflés” at Japanese restaurants (and beyond) though. The vanilla mochi ice cream, though, was quite good and noticeably fresher than ones you get at the grocery stores (prompting us to walk across the street to Mikawaya!)

Panna CottaThis dessert worked better than the soufflé for us.

This meal wasn't $44.50. Obviously, right? That would've been amazing. Still, we got away with ~$80 per person after tax and tips which I still think was a great deal considering what we ate.
I was quite impressed with the quality of the sushi we had, and that baked bluefin tuna cheeks? Incredible.

Toshi Sushi
359 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-4166
www.sushicateringtoshi.com
Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon

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