Orsa & Winston
122 W 4th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 11/9/13
Orsa & Winston is Josef Centeno’s latest venture in his growing lineup of downtown restaurants. The highly-acclaimed Baco Mercat came first, quickly followed by Bar Ama and now Orsa & Winston next door. All three restaurants opened up within a span of two years and within a block of each other creating quite the Centeno base. For me, Centeno’s food has been a little hit-or-miss, but I was very intrigued by this restaurant given its fine dining concept.
The food at Orsa & Winston is described as fine dining with Japanese and Italian influences. After taking the helm of a few casual small plates restaurants, Centeno is drawing some of his experience during his time as chef de cuisine of Manresa in Northern California. A few menu options are available including a 5-course, 9 course and ridiculous sounding “super omakase” of ~20 courses priced at $60, $95 and $195 respectively. A family style option is also available, 4 courses for $50. Given this was my first time coming in and I haven’t been completely sold on Centeno’s food, we went with the 5-course as a sort of audition for a return trip on a larger meal.
424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 11/12/13
b.o.s. is one of the newest restaurants to open in the Little Tokyo area. Inside the Honda Plaza next to the ever-popular Sushi Gen (and across the way from Men Oh Tokushima), the restaurant has a rather unique focus: beef nose-to-tail dining. Mainstream diners have become more engaged in this concept and I think Little Tokyo is an ideal location for a somewhat upscale opening of this type.
Like most restaurants in Little Tokyo, it’s a small place with the prime seats being a six-seat chef’s counter looking into the kitchen. Chef David Bartnes is the point-man behind the counter; having spent much of his life traveling around the world, Bartnes combines these worldly influences (primarily Asian) with his classical cooking background. The resulting fare is an interesting mix of flavors that change frequently but could include an oxtail ravioli, beef cheek risotto, tongue carpaccio, grilled heart or roasted bone marrow. Both an omakase and an a la carte menu is available; on this first visit, we sat at the chef’s counter and had the 5-course omakase ($55).
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.
Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 11/4/13
Chef Shunji Nakao has been around the LA sushi scene for some time now (greater than two decades) being a key plater in some well-known past ventures (Matsuhisa, Asanebo, The Hump). His eponymous and short-lived Shunji’s on Melrose opened a couple of years ago, to be succeeded by this spot in West Los Angeles. Opened early last year, it’s been on my radar for some time but I didn’t make my first visit until this week for lunch.
The restaurant debuted Mon-Fri lunch service last month, offering a more affordable way to try the restaurant’s oft-praised sushi. Regular dinner service offers a la carte, as well as a handful of tasting options: a $50 sushi special (10 pieces + 1 hand roll), a market-priced sushi omakase, a $100 omakase centered around plated kaiseki-like preparations, and a full omakase starting at $140. On this afternoon, we opted for the premium lunch special which offered 12 nigiri and 1 hand roll for forty bucks…a relative deal. Currently, lunch is sushi-only with potential for the full kitchen to be available in the future.
I appreciated that the day’s offering was rather comprehensive, complete with prices. As with many sushi meals, I’ll save comments for the end.
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 8/15/13
Maru opened a couple months ago in Santa Monica (on the border of Brentwood), a relocation of a restaurant in Valencia. The man behind the food is chef Jason Park, who mixes the Japanese/Korean influences of his childhood into his classically trained cooking background. A wide variety of sushi and sashimi is offered (which the restaurant self-describes as ‘world-class’), as well as an extensive menu of his Asian-influenced Californian cooking. Desserts are a big part of the menu as well and could stand on their own (as Park’s recent opening of dessert shop Ramekin in Los Feliz earlier this year is proving).
I’d heard good things about the restaurant early on and was invited in for a tasting. On the menu on this evening was a small sample of sushi and sashimi, as well as a good glimpse into Park’s cooking.
3114 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Dining date: 7/24/13
My friend and I decided to get dinner together with two particular stipulations: that it be sushi-centric and that it be a place neither of us had been to. Finding it difficult to find the ideal restaurant that fit these needs, we turned to Yelp for help. Shibucho ended up being the choice due to its 4-star rating and proximity to downtown. While we should’ve been suspicious of the only 52 Yelp reviews at the time of dinner, Shibucho sounded like a pioneering hidden gem. It’s been serving traditional sushi (no California rolls) in a very unexpected location (Westlake) for 37 frickin’ years (pre-dating Matsuhisa by over a decade). We figured it had to be doing something right. Wrong.
After the meal, my friend said it was the worst meal of the century. I’m not ready to make that claim, but I haven’t yet thought of a worse combination of experience and cost in the past 12.5 years. It was that bad.