11043 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 11/7/13
Hamasaku’s been open for over a decade, although I feel like I only heard about it recently. The restaurant’s had a largely entertainment-based clientele (following its owner Michael Ovitz) and its most notable menu items are fusion sushi rolls, many named after celebrities and regulars. Not exactly my scene, but I’ve lately seen more and more positive reviews on the traditional Japanese items on the menu. Coincidentally, I was recently invited in for a visit.
Hamasaku is located in the rear of a strip mall in West LA, in between Century City and Sawtelle’s ‘Little Osaka’ (perhaps a good representation of the restaurant’s balance between traditional Japanese and American fusion cuisine). The kitchen is run by executive chef Wonny Lee, while head sushi chef Yoya Takahashi mans the bar. Both started at the restaurant within the last two years, injecting some fresh influences.
A chef’s choice omakase menu was on tap this evening.
Uni, Matsusake Mushroom, Greens, Sudachi
We started off with this dish. Flavors of both sea and earth came together on this plate, with the sea urchin and matsutake mushrooms going well together. A touch of sudachi provided citrus to brighten up the bites.
Blue Shrimp Tartare persimmon, japanese cucumber
Beautiful presentation on this dish. Springy sweet chunks of shrimp were complemented by crunchy bits of cucumber and persimmon. A spicy aioli added an underlying heat to each bite.
Monkfish Liver and Octopus
The grilled slivers of octopus were just as expected with a slightly chewy, yielding texture. I almost always have a raw preparation of monkfish liver (ankimo), so was surprised to see a cooked version here. It was stellar, with a delicious and creamy interior that had a fun textural interplay with the octopus.
The custardy chawanmushi was a good one with a silky smooth texture. A good-sized slice of unagi sat on top, but I’m not sure it added a whole lot to the overall dish; I would’ve preferred the eel to be better incorporated somehow.
Baked Hama Roll naked scallop, shiitake, onion, caramelized onion aioli, jalapeno, soy paper
Flavors of scallop and earthy shiitake within a creamy rice were present, while fried onions provided some crunch. I’m not sure all of the flavors came through as cleanly and balanced as I would’ve liked though.
A progression of traditional nigiri preparations followed.
Japanese Mackerel Sushi
Sea Urchin Sushi
Sea Eel Sushi
These were relatively strong. The uni stood out with its striking presentation and cool, sweet mouthful. I loved that the sea eel was a huge chunk, but it was lacking in finesse being too large and too hot.
Sam Roll crunchy baked crab roll, soy paper, truffle aioli, parmesan cheese, basil pesto
I’d probably never order this, tending to prefer simpler/purer examples of sushi. But this was pretty interesting and frankly, pretty tasty. There was a slight creaminess to the rice and, combined with the crab, did sort of resemble a risotto. It was all lightly fried, providing a delicate crunchy exterior. Very nice.
Pork Belly and Kimchi Sushi
I didn’t find a good balance in this bite and the pork wasn’t as tender as I expected. Just a little weird for me.
Bright flavors of soy and citrus complemented the somen, as well as an underlying sesame oil. Very simple.
Green Tea Ice Cream
A scoop of green tea ice cream provided just the right amount of sweetness to end this meal.
The food at Hamasaku had some hits, as well as some misses, but the food was generally satisfying. I wouldn’t anticipate the food blowing anyone away, but it’s positioned as a place that would satisfy both those looking for traditional Japanese fare as well as those looking for more Americanized fusion sushi rolls.
Note: This was a hosted meal.