Monday, February 8, 2010

Kabuki: Sake, Sushi, Hollywood.

When a media invite came from Kabuki Hollywood came in my mailbox, I had doubts. It wasn't their fault because I had never been, but because my last experience at a popular/hip sushi place in Hollywood involved a bone in my toro (*cough* geisha house *cough*). But the desire to meet their sake master sommelier Yuji Matsumoto outweighed any reservation, and so I went.

Despite the swank interior, Kabuki's price point is actually cheap, especially considering it's a sushi joint in the Hollywood/Vine area (their rolls start at $3.95).

Photo courtesy of Kabuki Hollywood

Kabuki's sake list isn't extensive but had something for everyone. For our meal Yuji Matsumoto prepared three types of chilled sake.
We started with the lightest body sake (from right to left): Kikusui 'Junmai Ginjo' Niigata, Mizbasho Ginjo Gunma, Nanbu Bijin 'Tokubetsu Junmai' Iwate.
I loved loved the Nanbu Bijin, which probably meant I like heavier body sake. Or maybe that the Nanbu Bijin is just awesome.

Our meal started with their five new dishes which have been around in Kabuki in Las Vegas and Arizona but are new to the LA locations.

I was happily surprised to see a plate of ahi poke as the first of these new dishes.
This Hawaiian dish is somewhat hard to find in Los Angeles, especially among not-so-fresh version at Whole Foods and not-quite-the-poke-I-remember versions at various places around town, but Kabuki's version is fragrant with the sesame oil and seeds, complemented well by the wakame and is actually quite like what I remembered from Honolulu.

The yellowtail carpaccio is a rendition of Nobu's original yellowtail carpaccio, but at probably half the price (although with thinner slices of fish).
The jalapeno slices make the dish. Don't eat a slice of fish without a jalapeno.

Because some of the new dishes came out of the Midwest location, we see major influence from the Mexican cuisine in their new Baja Roll.
California roll topped with spicy sauce and salsa, pretty interesting.

They also had lasagna sushi: california roll topped with melted cheese. Some of you will probably balk at the notion of cheese on top of sushi, but seeing that cream cheese in sushi like Philadelphia rolls had become so mainstream, I guess why not cheese?

After trying out their new items, we got some nigiri sushi, including some toro.
I actually thought the pieces of fish themselves were not bad at all, they are pretty fresh, good quality fish for the price. What's lacking for me was their rice, though. Too dense, too cold, too hard for my taste. Although not every piece had cold rice, I did get a couple of the inconsistently cold ones, if I had to do over I'd probably order the sashimi platter like another blogger did.
The sashimi comes with a special condiment that I actually really liked and thought as quite unique: chopped wasabi stems. This has a nice texture and fragrance to it on top of the kick.

For my main entree I got one of their signature dishes, the Koshou Beef
A bit overcooked and so the beef was a bit tough, but the flavors were good.

Kabuki has won awards for their Kid's menu, and their choices of kids' sushi, teriyaki, bbq ribs, or tempura are printed on a fun playbook that teaches them about sushi and sea creatures. I dare say it's healthier than the chicken nuggets on my kid's menu. Oh, and they get Calpico soda, too.
Photo from Kabuki Hollywood

As you can imagine, Kabuki has a much more extensive dessert menu than most Japanese restaurants. Between the almost-dozen of us there, we tried pretty much a bit of all of them from the Chocolate Pyramid Anglaise that has more of the consistency of ice cream, to the "Freddo" which is pretty much a bowl of asian shaved ice with all the usual toppings - can't go wrong with that.

My favorite dessert was the coconut sorbet in the shell, complete with bits of coconut inside.

With their low price point, it's easy to see Kabuki as the better dining options in that area (in fact, the place was pretty busy for a rainy weeknight) and I was pretty happy with the quality of the food we got for what it was. Granted I haven't really eaten sushi rolls in years (except for that time I was stuck in Los Alamos for 2 weeks and ate a sushi roll with green chile - new menu idea for Kabuki?) but I certainly know people whose idea of a sushi meal equals creative, westernized rolls. They do have pretty good fish on hand, if they work on their rice a bit they can be much better.

1545 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 464-6003
Kabuki Japanese on Urbanspoon
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Los Angeles


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