Mori Sushi (Los Angeles, CA)
11500 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 2/19/11
Mori Sushi has the distinction of being one of three Japanese restaurants (Urasawa, Sushi Zo, Asanebo) to have garnered a Michelin Star in the latest guide…a distinction which seems to be indefinite. I’ve been to Mori once before, but for lunch. I ordered one of the sushi combos with some a la carte items, but I didn’t think I got an accurate representation of what Mori had to offer (I was underwhelmed).
One claim that struck me is that Chef Mori Onodera only buys fish and vegetables for the restaurant. The rice and soy are both homemade; quality control is of utmost importance. Even most of the plates used are handcrafted by Mori himself. Sounds like my type of place!
Three different omakase are available: we opted for the sushi omakase. This would have a couple of small plates, but primarily be sushi.
Homemade Tofu, Wasabi, Soy
Here we started with a simple starter with just three components – an excellent way for Mori to show off his homemade tofu, homemade soy sauce and freshly grated wasabi. The tofu was very mild in flavor with a subtle soybean flavor – the wasabi and soy were integral in drawing out some of the flavors.
Monkfish Liver and Kumamoto Oyster
Next was monkfish liver in a cucumber, scallion and seaweed salad, along with a fresh oyster, straight up. The monkfish exhibited a characteristic richness, delicious without being fishy. The oyster was good as well, though quite small.
Fish Soup shrimp, clams, cod
This would be the most “complex” dish of the night. A hot soup came to the table with shrimp, clams, cod, parsley and bell peppers. I tend to fear soups like these as it’s so difficult to cook the fishes appropriately while it’s sitting in hot soup. I thought the cod and clams were pretty spot on, but the shrimp were overcooked. The broth, however, was very nice – a subtle but present seafood flavor was accented by the sweetness of the bell peppers, as well as herbal notes from the parsley.
This platter (perhaps designed by Mori himself) signaled the start of sushi.
Red Snapper marinated with kelp
We started with this solid red snapper. I first noticed (as I had during my previous visit) that the sushi pieces here are some of the smallest I’ve seen. The fish:rice ratio was good, but I wanted just a bit more fish and rice in each bite. The rice was perfect – warm and loosely packed, with just a little bit of textural feel.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever had needlefish, but I enjoyed this one as well.
Characteristically tender and soft, this was a good bite.
Yay for toro! As expected, the fish was silky smooth and melt-in-mouth. A good example of toro, though not really close to Urasawa’s.
This piece was a little fishy, though I’m not really sure if that’s just characteristic of this type of fish. Very tender, however.
I liked this chutoro (medium-fatty) example as well, smooth and tender; however, I enjoyed the bluefin toro a little more.
Another fish that was subtly fishy and very flavorful.
Sweet shrimp (amaebi) is typically one of my favorite pieces of sushi. This one, from Boston, was no exception; sweet with a squishy texture – I really enjoyed this one.
The squid and octopus were both similar in texture – surprisingly quite tender, though a little…slimy. I was surprised by the octopus though, as I’m more accustomed to chewier textures.
Topped with yuzu, this piece was a lot chewier than I anticipated. I liked the flavors of the fish and yuzu, however.
The barracuda was seared with a blowtorch, giving this a nice charred, smoky flavor as well. Similar to the halibut fin, this was a little chewy, but I enjoyed it.
Not fishy at all. The eggs burst with a briny taste of the ocean. When I was younger, I didn’t enjoy these eggs but I’ve grown to actually really like them.
Uni (Hokkaido and Santa Barbara)
Loved that we were presented with two types of uni for comparison. The Hokkaido uni is on the left, while Santa Barbara on the right. I actually preferred the Santa Barbara uni (and thought its color was more brilliant), as it had a sweeter, cleaner flavor.
Red Snapper with yuzu
Lastly, we had another example of red snapper, this time with a yuzu accompaniment. I almost always like the citrusy fruit with fish, and it did not fail here.
Black Sesame Ice Cream
Made in-house. Loved this ice cream; it was rich and creamy, with just the right sweetness. The sesame flavor was very evident…just delicious.
Roasted Green Tea
I often see this tea at the end of Japanese meals; always something to look forward to. The roasting gives the tea a distinct flavor.
Food only, the omakase came out to $110 pre-tax/tip, which I thought wasn’t bad. Though, there wasn’t a wide variety of fishes served. My biggest qualm was that, personally, I thought the sushi pieces were too small. It was good for a few chews and that was it, and the 16 sushi pieces weren’t really a lot of food.
Nowadays, I always compare my sushi restaurants to Urasawa, which probably isn’t fair considering this meal was 1/3 the price. However, I think Urasawa, then Sushi Zo are a cut above; Mori and Sasabune are on the next tier for sushi.
similar feelings on my end about Mori though his saba was The Best I’ve ever had! maybe it just happened to be that day… but man.. it was dense and oily..a stellar example of mackerel.
Though I’d have to say Zo is about the same level as Mori… and of course, Urasawa is on a completely different level. Have you been to Kiyokawa?
I really liked my last visit to Zo, which I thought was much better than my first visit. Have not been to Kiyokawa, I should check it out though.
oh wow, i never knew the 2 types of uni looked different until you put them side by side. Both delicious in my book!
Yeah that’s the first time I’ve had them side-by-side, I thought it was a nice touch! And yes, both delish.
What are the other levels of omakase… will kevin and I both have to order all three of the omakases?
I think there was a “regular” omakase, sashimi/sushi-based omakase, and sushi omakase. I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap, so hopefully you guys won’t have to subject yourself to that…
I imagine that we’ll get the “regular” and just supplement with additional sushi courses. And to answer your question, yes, gizzard shad (kohada) is almost always quite fishy.
Sounds about right…you guys are going tonight right? Look forward to your post!
Ask and ye shall receive: http://tangbro1.blogspot.com/2011/03/mori-sushi-03052011.html
Thanks Ryan! Great pictures here – interesting that the food served at Mori hasn’t quite changed since your prior visits.
The salmon roe, toro, and mackerel – and the octopus – here were the best I’ve had. And probably the uni, too. I definitely rate Mori over Sasabune.
I had a second try at Sugarfish today (wasn’t my idea) and was pleasantly surprised! The Santa Monica location in my experience was far better than Marina Del Rey’s.
Writing from Infuzion off the Promenade… meh. Going to grab a slice of pizza at Joe’s per a knowledgeable recommender 🙂 Ta-ta!
Thanks for coming and dining with me at Mori; we had some good stuff for sure.
I’m glad you liked Sugarfish..I think they have some good fish for a reasonable price. Not exactly the most unique, but it hits the spot. Joe’s! Nice.