Shibucho (Los Angeles, CA)
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.
The chef allows diners to fully customize the meal, whether we wanted just sushi/sashimi, everything, and to name our budget. We should’ve done more research, not knowing that the full omakase comes with some pretty random Western-influenced dishes. We gave him the freedom to craft a meal with a $130pp budget (pre-tax/tip).
albacore tataki tomatoes
This dish was refreshing; cool, sweet tomatoes combined with the bitter bite of arugula and tender slices of albacore.
salmon pâté and mortadella
This duo of dishes brought out our first signs of the Western flair. I found the olive oil and balsamic to be a little heavy-handed, masking the flavor of the fish. The chef seemed shocked that I had to ask what kind of fish this was, slightly ridiculing for the question. The mortadella and salmon pate (unpictured) were good, but the bread seemed a little stale and, at the very least, needed toasting.
I wasn’t expecting this to be the next item served. Japanese eggplant, creamy ricotta and a zesty tomato sauce made this a simple, good eggplant parm. Felt a little out of place though.
scrambled eggs, crab, truffle
The best dish of the night was this one – hard to go wrong with fluffy (though slightly runny) egg with sweet lumps of crab and shaved truffle. Well, unless you leave crab shells hidden inside. We found pieces of shell in both of our servings.
With the completion of the somewhat odd progression of small plates, we moved to sushi service. I don’t have all of the names of the fish served as the chef refused to provide them.
yellowtail and green onion
cooked marinated salmon
fresh peaches with peach jelly
Desserts were fine but nothing special. Plating seemed particularly sloppy.
While cooked dishes were brought out by the server and described, the sushi chef did not name any of the fish served. After the first few when I asked, he reprimanded me saying that it didn’t matter what kind of fish it was…only if it was good or bad.
The sushi itself was okay, having some ups and downs. Many of the cuts were relatively pedestrian with some highlights (shellfish). The slices of fish were on the thinner side; the uni sushi had one lone sliver of the urchin. In addition, I thought the chef was fairly heavy-handed on the wasabi, having my nostrils flare a couple of times. Especially at the $130 price point (and $200 all-inclusive with a bottle of wine), there wasn’t a whole lot of variety into the more typically expensive fishes, either.
While the food hardly lived up to the expectations or prices, the chef’s attitude and ridiculous comments are what really brought the meal to its lowest levels. The chef noted that he had a Japanese certification allowing him to serve sushi, while almost everyone else in LA doesn’t. He doesn’t eat at other sushi restaurants for fear of death. He also criticized other restaurants for using previously-frozen fish for sushi. Prying further, the chef revealed that he hates eating fish (even his own) since he’s been serving it for fifty years. It’s possible that he was joking…but he gave no indication of it.
Shibucho was a disaster of a meal in just about every facet. Given that we were the only diners in the restaurant from around 6:30-8, I’m curious just how much business this place gets. It’s definitely gotten more than enough from me.
Your meal is exactly why I’m afraid of trying the place (because you’re not the only one who has shared such sentiments)…
Sadly, wish I had done more research beforehand..
This place should just go away. Terrible sounding experience there. I know I will never go.
Its longevity defies logic…
So I’ve eaten here 4 times over the past decade, and every single time its one of the best meals of my life. Every guest I’ve brought with me has thought the same. It’s quite possibly one of the top 10 sushi restaurants in the country – LA weekly certainly thinks its one of the top 10 in LA – http://www.laweekly.com/2012-04-19/eat-drink/sushi-los-angeles-top-10/
Well, that’s good to hear. Clearly the restaurant must be making some people happy if it’s been in business this long.
Clearly, I can’t agree with that LA Weekly article.
I had an amazing experience and sat with people who had been coming for 30+ years to eat there . Sometimes a great meal is lost when expectations get in the way. The charm of this place is the quality of the fish. The rest of the dine is the magic . But only life experiences could reveal that.