Sushi Daiwa (Tokyo, Japan)

Sushi Daiwa
Tsukiji Fish Market
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045
Dining date: 10/12/12

daiwa signage

Tsukiji Market was close to the top, if not the top, of the list in terms of places to visit while in Tokyo. There are a ton of things to see, from all of the food stands and market stalls to just the observation of interactions at a real, working fish market. One of the most unique activities is going to the tuna auction; only 120 tourists per day are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Early arrival is a must…all spots were taken by about 4:30am.

At the auction area, dozens and dozens of tuna were laid out and inspected for quality. Occasionally an auctioneer would come out and start yelling unintelligible (to me) things; tuna were sold in a matter of minutes.

tuna auction

tuna auction

What surprised me most was that all of the tuna were already frozen. They were presumably flash-frozen at sea, then brought to market. It made me wonder – is proximity a chief determining factor in the quality of fish anymore? If the fish is already frozen, what difference does it make if it’s defrosted at the market that morning or in Los Angeles the next?

While there are many things to see, eating some of the sushi fresh from the market is a must. The most famous sushi shop at Tsukiji is probably Sushi Dai, home to consistently long lines in the mornings. Next door is Sushi Daiwa, a shop that I’ve heard having similar quality but a shorter line.

At around 6am on a Friday, Dai’s line was already greater than an hour; however, our party of 5 was able to squeeze into the last 5 seats at Daiwa’s bar without a wait. Most of us (myself included) went with the daily omakase.

daiwa interior

That picture is pretty much the whole shop. Not more than ten seats at the counter and no tables; the narrow pathway through the restaurant couldn’t be more than a couple feet wide.

Miso Soup with Clams

miso soup

miso soup clams

We began with a bowl of miso soup. I noticed a nice sea flavor coming through and lo and behold, there were these tiny clams at the bottom of the bowl. Delish.

The sushi came next, at a pretty quick pace.

Chutoro

chutoro

Ika (Squid)

squid

Uni

uni

Tamago

tamago

Otoro

otoro

Ebi

ebi

Tuna, Negitoro, and Ikura-Cucumber Cut Rolls

maki rolls

Anago (Sea Eel)

anago

Kanpachi (Amberjack)

kanpachi

This was the conclusion of the omakase. Expectantly, the sushi was fresh and well-made, and it was interesting to find such tiny pieces of uni (I believe they came from Russia).

I ordered three more pieces; a side-by-side toro comparison and another piece I saw going to a neighboring diner.

Chutoro

chutoro

Otoro

otoro

Aji (Mackerel) ginger, scallion

aji

My second piece of otoro wasn’t as fatty as I anticipated…and was kind of chewy and sinewy. Definitely not what I was expecting. Overall, I found the sushi at Daiwa to be good, though not particularly special. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I found the sushi to be comparable to a good spot in LA (which isn’t a bad thing, but maybe I was looking for something more). At about 5,400JPY/69USD, it wasn’t exactly a bargain, either.

The next morning we made an attempt to eat at Sushi Dai. There was already a lengthy line at 6am, estimated to be a 3.5-4 hour wait. Ridiculous. I didn’t wait but I’m determined to go…stay tuned.

UPDATE: I managed to finally try Sushi Dai!

tsukiji

Other Tokyo sushi:
Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi | Sushi Dai | Sushi Kanesaka | Sushi Yoshitake | Umi

Sushi Kimagure (Pasadena, CA)

Sushi Kimagure
220 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
Dining date: 8/8/12

kimagure signage

I first heard about Sushi Kimagure in an LA Weekly article from Jonathan Gold earlier this year. He called it “the best sushi bar Pasadena has ever seen,” not that Pasadena has many notable restaurants. Still, I’m always looking for good Japanese east (or north) of Little Tokyo, and Kimagure sounded like it had great promise.

Sushi Kimagure opened last year, when chef Ike-san departed his long-standing (since 1985) Sushi Ike in Hollywood. The new location is very different from the Hollywood Blvd. location in a more quaint Pasadena train station complex shared with La Grande Orange and The Luggage Room. Many of the regulars at Sushi Ike seem to have followed as well, as many of the other parties this evening had developed their relationship with Ike-san at the old location and were eager to share their memories over the years.

kimagure door

Tables are almost exclusively via reservation and the menu is pretty much omakase-only. There are two different options, an $80 one and a $60 one. The $80 omakase has more of a focus on cooked foods, while the $60 menu is primarily a sushi omakase. We didn’t really know that at the beginning (and it’s not particularly clear on the menu), so we ended up with the $60 meal.

albacore with scallions and white onion

albacore with scallions and white onion

Our first dish was this light starter with tart, refreshing flavors featuring crisp onions and fish. Scallions and fish are such a great combination.

yellowfin tuna
yellowtail

yellowfin tuna

The sushi began with a pair of tender pieces of fish. I thought these were both good.

kanpachi (amberjack)

kanpachi

Next, the kanpachi had a clean flavor with a delicate chew.

sweet shrimp

sweet shrimp

Usually one of my favorites – sweet shrimp was broken down right and sliced right before serving. I noticed some inconsistency in the rice on this piece as it seemed to be packed a little denser, as well as have a little more texture.

mushroom chawanmushi

mushroom chawanmushi

Pork, scallops, shrimp, and mushrooms were distributed throughout this light custard. Kind of soupy at the bottom. Warm and comforting, I found this to be a welcome intermediary between sushi courses.

red snapper

red snapper

Similar to the kanpachi, this one had a delicate chew too, with a clean flavor of the sea.

shrimp heads

shrimp heads

I thought this was an interesting presentation for the shrimp heads. The interior of the head was removed and plated separately from the shell, leaving the meat without the crunch of the shell. Very different from the fried version.

halibut with kelp

halibut with kelp

The halibut had a little bit of chew to it, while kelp provided a different dynamic of sea flavor.

ikura and uni

uni ikura

The ikura was a good, albeit typical, example of the eggs, but I found the cool sweet uni to be a top-notch one. Excellent! We ordered another order of the uni later in the meal.

japanese scallop

scallop

Tender, soft scallop from Japan came next. I liked the scallop, though the shiso leaf underneath was a little overpowering for me.

seared salmon

seared salmon

This was a unique bite, something I don’t think I’ve had before. The salmon was seared, providing smoky notes to complement the fatty piece of fish. Fresh scallions provided a nice bite to counter the richness – excellent!

mountain yam and masago hand roll

mountain yam and masago hand roll

I thought the textural interplay was nice here, between the slimy mountain yam, bite of the eggs and crisp sprouts.

snow crab

snow crab

The sweet, succulent crab meat went really well with the soy. I don’t often see large crab legs in sushi form – I wish I did more often.

sea eel

sea eel

Tender and almost falling apart, I usually prefer freshwater eel but I liked this one quiet a bit. Just a little bit of the sweet sauce complemented the fish.

assorted fruit and red bean jello

dessert

To finish, we had a simple plate of fruit and a red bean jello.

Seconds of salmon, uni, red snapper

Sushi Kimagure was a good meal. I wouldn’t consider it in any ‘Best of LA’ lists, but I could see how it would be tops in Pasadena. I’d rank it a tier below the likes of second-tier options Sushi Zo and Mori; given the price point though, I think it’s a very attractive sushi bar. For 60 bucks, it’s one of the better sushi meals. The highs were quite high (seared salmon and uni), but the overall meal suffered from some inconsistency. Still, the bad wasn’t really that bad. I’ll be back.

Sushi Gen (Los Angeles, CA)

Sushi Gen
422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/6/12 and 4/11/12

sushi gen exterior

Sushi Gen is one of Little Tokyo’s most popular restaurants (4.5 stars on Yelp with 1500 reviews is a good indication), seemingly always having people waiting outside. It’s probably one of my favorites too, and one of the first restaurants I remember dining at in LA. I’ve been back many times so a post is long overdue.

To me, Sushi Gen offers two pretty distinct experiences. One is at the sushi bar, where diners sit in front of the sushi chefs and the menu is pretty much sashimi/sushi-only. The other, and seemingly more popular option, is to sit in the dining room where sushi is available, as well as a variety of composed cold and hot plates. While my best meals have been at the sushi bar, dining at the tables presents much more variety and value since there are a number of combination plates that provide more bang for the buck.

sushi bar

Recently I dropped in for lunch at the sushi bar (the wait for a table was 45 mins. even though there was immediate availability at the bar), and came back for dinner a few days later for dinner (in the dining room).

Lunch

wasabi and ginger

Salmon and Yellowtail

salmon

yellowtail

Beautiful. We started with two good pieces, soft and tender with clean flavors.

Red Snapper

red snapper

The fish was slightly warm and slightly chewy, complemented by some light acidity.

Toro

toro

As expected, this was soft and silky with a fatty melt-in-mouth texture. Always a highlight.

Scallop

scallop again

This was one of the highlights too – it was very soft and delicate, and the yuzu kosho topping was exactly what I was looking for. We enjoyed these so much that we ended up getting another order.

Monkfish Liver

monkfish liver

In between sushi courses, we also ordered this dish of monkfish liver. Creamy and rich with a clean sea flavor, it was a pretty good example. Subtle heat and acid complemented the rich liver.

Sweet Shrimp

sweet shrimp

shrimp heads

Frequently one of my favorites, the sweet shrimp here was succulent and sweet with a great snap to it. The shrimp heads came either fried or in soup; I opted for the latter. I liked the shellfish flavor it imparted into the soup.

Giant Clam

giant clam

This giant clam was chewy, sweet and not at all fishy. A little bit of yuzu kosho was a zesty accompaniment.

Tuna

tuna

I loved the deep red color of this tuna; it was tender with a good flavor.

Albacore

albacore

Onion, soy, and a light citrus (ponzu?) topped these soft pieces of albacore.

Spanish Mackerel

spanish mackerel

The crisp, sharp flavor of the raw onion countered and fatty fish with a little bit of ginger coming through too.

Unagi

unagi

Tender with a sweet sauce, I liked the delicate texture and nuttiness that the sesame seeds offered.

The sushi was quite good; in fact, better than I had remembered it to be. Totally better than the stuff sold down the street at equally-popular Komasa. The fish were cut a little bit thicker and wider than what I typically see, and this helped to create some great meaty bites. The price wasn’t bad at all either, coming in just over $50pp after tax. Makes for a pretty guilt free lunch too, health-wise.

Sushi Gen doesn’t have much in the way of dessert, but I’ve got the perfect after-lunch sweet/drink. Mikawaya’s mochi is a good bet, but I prefer this:

Ozero Exterior

(Boba) Milk Tea

ozero teas

Yay! Half a block down, Ozero makes some good milk tea. There’s a pretty extensive menu, but I’ve stayed within a very narrow range of a few different milk teas (black, green, oolong). My favorite is easily the regular (black) milk tea without boba, on the right.

Dinner

A few days later my aunt, uncle and cousin were in town and they always come here. We opted for a table in the dining room since it offers a more varied menu. Unique to the dining room, a bunch of combinations are offered from sushi/sashimi to more standard fare like steak, chicken and salmon teriyaki. The combinations come with miso soup and sunomono, and a choice of sashimi or tempura.

combo sides

Chicken Teriyaki

chicken teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki isn’t the most unique dish here, but they do it pretty well. A generous piece of dark meat is seared to get a crispy skin (that’s key!), while the teriyaki was a welcome addition, not being overly sweet or thick.

Tempura

tempura

The tempura was done pretty well too; the batter was fairly light and fried well. I think there were two shrimp, sweet potato, a carrot and a couple other vegetables.

Salmon Teriyaki

teriyaki salmon

Like the chicken, the salmon teriyaki is pretty good as far as salmon teriyaki goes. I don’t think this dish has been cooked as consistently as the chicken though, sometimes being a bit overcooked.

Sashimi Dinner

sashimi combo

On this occasion I went with the sashimi dinner. There are a few cooked preparations to go along with the sashimi and there’s a lot of variety on this plate. I could make out squid, cooked tuna, spicy tuna, raw tuna, yellowtail, crab, albacore, cooked salmon, and chopped tuna with green onion. The quality of fish in this dinner combination is definitely a notch or two below what’s at the sushi bar, but it’s good enough considering the $26 price tag (which includes the tempura).

Sushi Gen is ultimately a very satisfying restaurant for both those that want a higher-end sushi experience and also a pretty good value play for some good Japanese food. Even the sushi is relatively reasonable for the quality; I think one could go all out and still spend less than $100. Sometimes I’ll find a middle ground and order sushi to supplement one of the combinations, but for some reason the sushi just doesn’t taste the same when it’s brought to the table.

I have definitive favorites when it comes to Japanese food in Little Tokyo. Daikokuya and Shin-Sen-Gumi for ramen, Fat Spoon for curry, and Hama and Sushi Gen are tied atop for sushi. Given the fact that Gen offers much more than Hama in terms of cooked dishes (Hama is a sushi bar only), Sushi Gen might be the restaurant I recommend most often in Little Tokyo.

Restaurant Komasa (Los Angeles, CA)

Restaurant Komasa
351 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 3/20/12

komasa exterior

Komasa seems to be one of the most popular restaurants in Little Tokyo, garnering lines as reliably as Daikokuya. From my perspective, there are a trio of Little Tokyo sushi restaurants that are clearly more popular than the rest – Hama, Sushi Gen and Komasa. The latter two tend to have the longest lines (I largely attribute it to the lunch/dinner specials and lower prices), while Hama tends to be my favorite overall (with the sushi bar at Sushi Gen coming in a close second, and there is a distinct difference between the sushi bar and table service there).

I was first introduced to Komasa many years ago; in fact, it’s one of the first restaurants I tried in LA that I can remember. When I was visiting colleges during high school, LA was one of the stops. We didn’t have a lot of places in mind to try (I still don’t know what we did before Yelp/Citysearch and smartphones) and my aunt had recommended two places we try near USC. Those two were Komasa and Sushi Gen; the latter would become an instant favorite, and is somewhere I go with her annually when she visits. Komasa didn’t leave nearly the same impression, with my handful of visits over the years met with a feeling that it was “just fine.”

It’s been a while since I’ve been; my extreme proximity and the ever-present lines eventually lured me back. Although Yelp’s rating system is inflated, a 4.5 star overall rating on 500+ reviews usually suggests a very promising restaurant.

The menu offers much of the standard Japanese fare including teriyaki, tempura and a large variety of sushi and sashimi. There’s also an array of interesting small plates. What struck me and the rest of my party were the prices – very reasonable. I could easily see someone eating a sushi dinner in the $20 range, maybe even less for a small eater. Hm, the popularity was starting to make sense.

We decided to order a number of appetizer/small plates and each ordered Sushi Combination C, the most expensive combo at 11 pieces for $16. I also tacked on a few orders of a la carte sushi for good measure.

Fried Oysters

fried oysters

I thought the batter was a touch on the thick side, but the oysters themselves were plump juicy and quite flavorful. Pretty tasty, especially with the flavorful punch of the tonkatsu sauce.

Monkfish Liver

monkfish liver

Loved the creamy texture, though it was just a bit fishy. A light soy-based sauce was a nice accompaniment, as were the fresh bite of the scallions and the hit of acid in the sauce.

Baked Mussels

mussels

Fairly typical baked mussels, except they were definitely overcooked leaving them somewhat chewy.

Egg Custard

egg custard

I thought this was a wonderful light custard, warm and comforting. A few chunks of mushroom and fish cake were scattered throughout.

Sushi Combination C

sushi combo

sushi1sushi2sushi3sushi4

Next up was the centerpiece of the meal. There was a pretty good selection of fish with some of the typical players like tuna, salmon, halibut, albacore and red snapper as well as some ‘bigger ticket’ items like sweet shrimp and uni. Pretty good for 16 bucks. Overall I thought the quality of fish was okay; texturally I thought many of the pieces were slightly less tender and a little more stringy/grainy than I wanted. The nori on the uni and fish eggs was on the soggy/chewy side, kind of a downer too. However, I thought the biggest distraction was on the generous wasabi usage – I found myself pausing for air a few times. Still, I suppose it wasn’t bad considering the price.

Sweet Shrimp

amaebi

shrimp heads

I thought the sweet shrimp was one of the better items in the combination, and it was pretty good here too. Spongy and sweet, it had both the texture and flavor I was looking for. The fried shrimp heads were a nice touch too, and always a fun eat. At $5.50 for a pair, I thought this was a relative steal.

Uni

uni

The uni itself was pretty good, cool with a mild sea flavor coming through. Similar to the one in the combination, I found the soggy nori to be a distraction. Boo. Also $5.50 for a couple – one of the most reasonable prices around town.

Unagi

unagi

The unagi was a solid variation, tender and flavorful. I thought it looked like it could be oversauced, but it gave just the right amount of sweet accent to the bites.

I might be a little bit of a sushi snob, but the sushi at Komasa was just fine, even slightly mediocre at times. Still, for the price I suppose I can’t really complain, as it was just a step pricier than the pre-packaged goods at neighboring Nijiya market. The quality of some fish was definitely superior to others, so I think an experienced regular could craft a pretty good a la carte menu of favorites…so long as they didn’t mind an occasional generous helping of wasabi.

Sushi Nozomi (Torrance, CA)

Sushi Nozomi
1757 W. Carson St.
Torrance, CA 90501
Dining date: 7/2/11

I heard about Sushi Nozomi a little while ago but hadn’t had a chance to stop by until now. I’ve read some pretty strong reviews, particularly about the uni. The head sushi chef (Yasu) has a close connection with the boats in Santa Barbara and thus has some of the best uni in the area.

Most of the uni I see is served from a small wooden box. Interestingly, Nozomi’s uni comes out of the back on paper towels, presumably just plucked from the shell. Nice!

Danny of Kung Food Panda led the charge to come to Nozomi, actually having visited in the prior week. We settled in for an omakase dinner, setting the price at $80. Throughout the night, our alcohol of choice was sake.

Uni; daikon and salmon roe; squid, seaweed and wasabi

We started off with an appetizer trio. The squid was deliciously chewy with just a little bit of heat from wasabi, tempered by seaweed. I enjoyed the daikon, grated to a creamy texture, with the saltiness of the roe. Lastly – a look at the uni. Predictably, it had a clean sea flavor…a very good example of uni.

Grouper dried shiso, yuzu zest

I appreciated the acidity of the yuzu zest, complementing the slightly chewy grouper fish.

Japanese Grunt

I don’t think I’ve ever had this before. Crispy cucumber strips added a little bit of texture. There was also a slight smoky flavor here too.

Chawanmushi

We took a break from sushi for a chawanmushi. This was pretty tasty and well-seasoned, with the earthniness of the mushroom being one of the main flavors in the custard. Some ocean flavors from shrimp and fish cake were also welcome additions.

Miso Black Cod

I thought this was done well, though it’s a dish I’ve had dozens of times…and frankly, a little tired of.

Rock Bream ponzu jelly

I thought the ponzu jelly was somewhat overpowering here with, interestingly, a salsa-like aftertaste. I don’t think I agree with the jelly texture on sushi.

Sweet Shrimp

We rebounded with a fine example of sweet shrimp. To show how fresh they were, chef Yasu pulled off the heads and displayed them in front of us, still moving. Sweet and spongy, really delicious.

Giant Clam

Chewy yet still tender, the clam had a subtle fishiness to it.

Halibut Fin yuzu kosho, kelp

I thought this was really tasty, with the slight chew of the fish and the spicy citrus of the yuzu kosho.

Squid

Slightly chewy but still tender, I liked this example of squid.

Giant Clam “Scallop Part”

I took this as the adductor muscle (“scallop part”) of the giant clam. It was really tender, and kind of like an actual scallop, though with a brighter, sweeter flavor. Really nice.

Striped Jack

Slightly chewy with a clean flavor.

Spanish Mackerel

I found this fish to be really tender and flavorful with a welcome green onion accompaniment.

Bigeye Medium-Fatty Tuna

This chutoro was just about melt-in-mouth texture with a rich flavor.

Seared Yellowtail Belly garlic chip

The garlic added a new dimension of flavor to the yellowtail belly, which I liked seared here.

Marinated Tuna avocado, wasabi

The tuna was just as tender as the avocado, which added a richness and body to the dish. The slight heat of the wasabi was welcome too.

Salmon marinated kelp

A good example of salmon, though not memorably so.

Fatty Tuna

A fine piece of fish, tender, fatty and melt-in-mouth. Pales in comparison to Urasawa’s…but so do most.

Uni, Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumber! Nice. The cucumber was chewy while the uni was meltingly soft. Both flavors were rather subtle, melding pretty well.

Miso Soup shrimp heads

Remember the shrimp heads that were still moving? No longer…we found them again in our soup – a good miso soup.

Orange “sashimi”

Juicy and sweet, definitely a good orange.

Patisserie Chantilly
2383 Lomita Blvd
Lomita, CA 90717

Patisserie Chantilly, located in Lomita, is a patisserie utilizing French technique with a Japanese touch. Yum. Technically, we stopped by Patisserie Chantilly before Nozomi…but I thought it would be the best fit here at the end. I’d been to Chantilly once before and was impressed with the matcha cake; given that we were in the area, a stop was definitely in order.

Choux aux Sésames

This is probably their most notable item, even being named one of the 99 things to eat in LA before you die by Jonathan Gold. The cream was light, with an impressive depth of sesame flavor. Add to it the crispy, flaky choux pastry, and I could see why it was so popular.

Creamy Pudding

This was a light, eggy custard. A side of caramel added much more flavor.

Sesame Tofu

This may have been my favorite item. The flavor was so subtle and the tofu so delicate. The tofu was silky smooth, while the sesame brought an extra flavor profile.

As expected, Patisserie Chantilly was a hit. I enjoyed the combination of French technique with Japanese flavors; the subtlety and finesse of each dessert were both on strong display.

Nozomi presented a pretty strong meal. For traditional sushi, it was one of the most topping-creative nigiri presentations I’ve seen in a while (or ever). For the most part, I really enjoyed the different flavor accents this provided. I wouldn’t say this was up to the level of, say, Sushi Zo, but I’d rank it right up there with Mori. For $80, I think Nozomi presented some pretty good value, as well as an impressive variation of fish for the price point.

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.

sign

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.

veuve

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

temaki

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

toro monkfish liver

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

yuba uni

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.

plating

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

sashimi1

sashimi2

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

chawanmushi

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.

green tea

Tempura squid

tempura squid

tempura sauce

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

seafood2

<seafood1

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

shabu1

shabu2

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.

ginger

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.

beringer

Toro

toro

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

seared toro

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

Spanish mackerel

spanish mackerel

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

Red snapper

red snapper

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

Bluefin tuna

bluefin

Mmm bluefin tuna.

Skipjack tuna

skipjack

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

Squid

squid

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

Shiitake mushroom

shitake

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

Uni

uni

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

chutoro

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

Giant clam

giant clam

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

Shrimp

shrimp

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

Gizzard shad

gizzard shad

Tender, with a mildly fishy, oily flavor.

Toro, scallion, pickled radish

toro roll

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

Abalone

abalone

Chewy and sweet.

Sweet shrimp shrimp brain soy sauce

sweet shrimp1

sweet shrimp2

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

mackerel

A lot of complementary flavors and really tasty.

Sea eel

sea eel

So tender, with a nice rich, sweet sauce.

Sponge Cake

cake

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

<fruit jelly

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

ice cream truffle

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.

matcha1

matcha2

Hojicha

tea

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.

group photo