424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/13/14
A couple of weeks ago, b.o.s. announced it would close its doors on Sept. 27th. I was very disappointed to hear the news, but knew it wasn’t exactly packing the tables despite mostly positive reviews. Its nose-to-tail concept seemed like it could be a good fit in the area, but I’m not sure it ever caught on with the local crowd. Its closure just seems way too soon. I visited almost a year ago, soon after the restaurant opened, and enjoyed my meal there. I wanted to stop in at least one more time to see what’s changed.
During my first visit, we dined at the omakase-only bar. On this subsequent one, we sat in the dining room and had the full a la carte menu to choose from. To me, the menu is just as interesting as before with a mix of “exotic” like tongue, heart, brain, and intestines but also some more typical beefy items like oxtails, short ribs, and a handful of steak options.
129 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 8/7/14
Nobu Matsuhisa’s massive empire currently stretches 5 continents with over 30 restaurants; he’s easily one of the most successful high-end chef/restaurateurs today. However, it all began here in 1987, where Matsuhisa would establish a name for himself and where he met some powerful partners that helped him expand the brand worldwide. Almost thirty years later, Matsuhisa is still going strong on La Cienega’s restaurant row.
I was first introduced to Matsuhisa’s food at the original Nobu in New York many years ago and loved it. I’d frequented his restaurants in LA when I first moved here (and Las Vegas too), but it’d been many years since this latest visit.
521 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dining date: 7/30/14
Q Sushi opened in November of last year, just off downtown’s corner of 7th & Grand, home to other popular spots Bottega Louie, Sugarfish and Mo-Chica. Its opening was right on the heels of the downtown location of Zo, creating a formidable twosome in downtown’s high-end sushi scene.
Q is known for its omakase-only menu (begins at $165) and edomae-style of sushi. Chef Hiroyuki Naruke maintained a sushi bar in Tokyo’s Roppongi district for years before moving to LA with the assistance (and persuasion) of some of his loyal customers, who also happened to be LA-based attorneys.
3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 7/15/14
n/naka opened three years ago in a quiet corner of Palms on the westside. The restaurant and its modern take on the Japanese kaiseki meal, has focused on creating a very precise multi-course meal with seasonal ingredients. Many of those ingredients are grown by chef Niki Nakayama herself in her own garden. I still feel the restaurant is somewhat under the radar; sure, Jonathan Gold has continually mentioned the restaurant in high regard (it was #18 in his 2014 best restaurants list), but I don’t feel like it’s consistently being considered with other high-end restaurants in LA.
While common in Japan, n/naka’s kaiseki-based menu is pretty unique in LA. It’s a carefully-scripted tasting menu often featuring 10+ small plates. Seasonal ingredients (usually simply prepared) are highlighted, and service and plating/decor are as much a part of a meal as the food. The thirteen course menu weighs in at $165 ($150 vegetarian) making n/naka one of the most expensive restaurants in the city (there used to be a slimmed down chefs’ tasting for $110).
5040 W Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Dining date: 5/8/14
Raku has consistently grown in popularity in recent years, drawing a lot of attention for its off-strip izakaya. Known for a while as a local/insider spot that a lot of chefs visited, it’s really blown onto the scene even having an appearance on the current season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Its success has led to the opening of a dessert shop located in the same plaza – Sweets Raku. Raku is a tough act to follow, but reviews of Sweets Raku have been very strong in its first year.
13 seats surround a pristine white bar with two tables that seat four each. It’s an intimate spot, and each bar seat comes with a full view of dessert preparations. The restaurant’s attention to detail is on display, kind of reminding me of e by Jose Andres. However, this is an entirely different experience and meal.
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino
3770 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/7/14
Yusho is one of the more notable openings in Las Vegas this year at the Monte Carlo. A Chicago transplant, Yusho’s original location became popular for its concept inspired by a Japanese noodle house/yakitori shop. Matthias Merges, who worked almost a decade and a half under Charlie Trotter, went a completely different route from his fine dining background for this one. Ramen, of course, is on the menu, as well as a number of grilled and fried items and a handful of steamed buns. The restaurant is very casual, colorful and playful. I was invited in, bringing my parents along to try.