Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA)

Urasawa
218 N Rodeo Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/18/11

Urasawa was the perfect meal to cap off an already-memorable food week, starting with Taste of the Nation, and including a dinner with Thomas Keller at Bouchon. I love this restaurant, and it’s always my response to people who ask what my favorite restaurant in LA is.

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I’d been planning a return trip ever since my last visit in September. Even though the price has since climbed to $375 (spurned by the strength of the yen) and worries of radiation persist, it doesn’t look like there’s been a significant slowdown in business. Hiro assured us a couple of times that the Japanese fish he uses comes from the southern part of the country, only. Some varieties come from other places in the world, notably the tuna from Spain.

I can’t say I’ve tried a lot of sushi outside of California, but from what I have had, Urasawa clearly stands above the rest.

We started with a bottle of NV Veuve Clicquot Brut.

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Temaki – seaweed, half cooked shrimp, shiso leaf, plum sauce

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The shrimp was left still raw, leaving a soft spongy texture. The plum sauce lended both sweet and tart flavors.

Seared toro, monkfish liver, caviar, yuzu dressing

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Urasawa always has some rendition of this dish. Some of the best things of the sea are combined with terrific results. The richness of the liver and toro are complemented by the cool, acidic yuzu and salty caviar.

Yuba, sea urchin, wasabi, bonito, soy sauce

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This was a completely new dish for me. Delicate, with a nice blend of flavors – earthy soy and sesame, as well as bonito and sea urchin from the sea.

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Sashimi – toro, red snapper, spanish mackerel, red cabbage, nori

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As usual, sashimi comes on carefully crafted ice sculptures, complete with pink or blue flowers (differentiated for male or female diners). This was the first dish where the quality of fish was at the forefront. Really nice examples of each, with the toro being my favorite.

Chawanmushi – italian summer truffles, russian caviar, bonito, gingko nut, shiitake mushroom

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Earth and sea flavors were showcased here, with the truffle and caviar flavors the most prominent. I really liked the silky smooth egg custard too.

I was sitting directly below the A/C so I was freezing during the first few dishes. Unlike the water, hot green tea is “free,” so I went to town on this.

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Tempura squid

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Here was Urasawa’s version of fried calamari, in a way. The tempura batter was expectantly light, and the tender piece of squid was delicious.

Hoba yaki – scallop, prawn, abalone, hoba yaki leaf, egg yolk and miso-based sauce

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I’m always fearful of food that continues to cook in front of you, as I often find the pieces I eat last have been overcooked. Somehow, that wasn’t a problem here – the seafood was perfectly cooked. However, I found the delicate fish to be somewhat overwhelmed by the mildly sweet, rich sauce.

Shabu shabu – foie gras, king eel, red snapper

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The foie gras was extraordinary. Really…more so than in previous visits for some reason. Urasawa also demonstrated that the king eel is actually eaten bone-in, but that he cuts the bone so thinly you can’t tell. Good for calcium, he says. Afterwards, we sipped on the soup we created.

A green plate and a dish of ginger signaled the start of sushi service, made and eaten one at a time.

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The wine transitioned to a Beringer 2008 Private Reserve Chardonnay. Really liked the upfront oak flavors of this wine, with a sort of vanilla-like finish.

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Toro

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We started with a heavy hitter – Urasawa’s toro is the best Ive ever had. Rich and fatty (the color says it all), it was silky smooth and melted in my mouth.

Seared toro

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This was similar to the previous, though from the collar portion. Again, really tender with a subtle smoky flavor.

Spanish mackerel

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A little bit of resistance in this mackerel, but still tender and flavorful.

Red snapper

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I thought this red snapper had a brighter, cleaner flavor. Again, teeth not required.

Bluefin tuna

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Mmm bluefin tuna.

Skipjack tuna

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A little bit of chew here, and mild in flavor.

Squid

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Similar to the tempura version, there was a delicate chew here, and the fish was brightened by some yuzu citrus.

Shiitake mushroom

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I liked the shitake on this visit better than previous ones. Deep, earthy flavor and good change of pace.

Uni

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So good. So soft, with a clean sea flavor. Interestingly, Urasawa used Hokkaido uni for kaiseki dishes, and Santa Barbara uni for sushi preparation.

Chu-toro

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Back to more tuna with some medium-fatty toro. Silky, soft and delicious.

Giant clam

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Chewy but not overly so, and not fishy at all.

Shrimp

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There were probably over a dozen of these small shrimp that make up one piece of nigiri. Soft, sweet, and delicious.

Gizzard shad

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Tender, with a mildly fishy, oily flavor.

Toro, scallion, pickled radish

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I wish I had a hand roll of this. The delicious toro was heightened by some fresh scallion and crunchy radish.

Abalone

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Chewy and sweet.

Sweet shrimp shrimp brain soy sauce

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One of my favorite pieces, prepared fresh from the tank. A delightful mouthfeel with these shrimp, chewy and springy and very sweet.

Chopped spanish mackerel, ginger, scallion, miso, shiso, ginger

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A lot of complementary flavors and really tasty.

Sea eel

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So tender, with a nice rich, sweet sauce.

Sponge Cake

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Like a very moist cake, this is a nice transition out of the savory sushi and into dessert.

Grapefruit jelly, goji berry, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, papaya

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Light, refreshing, and tart. I would have liked something here to be a little bit sweeter, though.

Sesame ice cream, black truffle, red bean, gold flake

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Holy crap. Wow. I’d never seen this before, and it was amazing. The rich, creamy nuttiness of the ice cream really paired well with the earthy black truffles, with just a little bit of sweetness from the red bean. It kind of reminded me of the chocolate sauce that hardens into a shell when it touches ice cream. Except way better.

A bowl of bitter matcha green tea was a perfect pairing.

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Hojicha

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Finally, a roasted green tea to finish off the meal.

This meal at Urasawa was another fantastic one. Is it worth the money? I think so, at least once in a while. The food is simple and traditional, letting the high quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. Urasawa’s serious dedication to the craft and affable, humorous personality creates a memorable experience in itself. I’m already planning a return visit, hopefully in January for hairy crab season.

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Comments

Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA) — 12 Comments

  1. Gotta agree with ya, Urasawa’s Toro is probably one of the finest (if not the finest) in LA. And that truffle ice cream…that’s the first time i’ve seen this combo!
    Great post man!

  2. The entire spread looks great, but I gotta say, the “Sesame ice cream, black truffle, red bean, gold flake” looks straight up BOMB! I want!

    You know, I don’t think I’ll ever go to Urasawa. However, I do enjoy reading about it!

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