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LA Kaiseki/Sushi: Yamakase (Apr. 2013)

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Author: Victor
Restaurant: Yamakase
Chef: Kiyoshiro Yamamoto
Website: http://www.yamakase.com/

Date: April 19, 2013
Dinner #2

Notes:

(Whew, Dinner #2. I just had 38 pieces of sushi at Sushi Zo at 5:30 p.m., and here I am at Yamakase to eat a lot more food at 7:30 p.m. I’m going to gain a looooooooooooot of weight today.)

Yamakase recently opened, and they call it an “invite-only” restaurant. It’s not hard to get “invited”, though. You just fill out a form online on their website, and they’ll reply back with an “invitation” soon enough.

The restaurant’s pretty hard to find, and parking was annoying. It’s street parking–only, but, if you’re like me, you’ll just park in a nearby lot and hope that your car doesn’t get towed away. Once we arrived at the restaurant, we had to knock. There’s no sign, and it even says “closed”. They even lock the door hahaha—it was pretty shady.

The meal was wonderful. Chef Yamamoto seemed a bit strict at first, but you realize a few minutes in that he’s a really, really nice guy. He’ll also like you more if you’re really enthusiastic about the food. (He seemed a little offended when one of the customers near us wouldn’t eat the rice when he was serving nigiri.) It was one of those meals that reminded me of Urasawa—you could chat with the chef a lot and even drink with him!

Sushi notes:

The rice was even warmer than Sushi Zo’s, which was kind of a con for me. The rice was similar to Sasabune’s rice in NYC when I went; I have to admit that the rice was really soft and fluffy, though it did break apart easily once or twice (a problem that Sasabune also had). It did feel a little inconsistent at times, though—for a few pieces, the rice would at times feel slightly grainy, but this particular issue wasn’t too big of a deal.

The fish was VERY fresh, and it seemed like nearly all of his ingredients came from Japan.

Click here to see pictures of our meal!

LA Sushi: Sushi Zo (Apr. 2013)

April 22, 2013 2 comments

Author: Victor
Restaurant: Sushi Zo
Chef: Keizo Seki

Date: April 19, 2013
Dinner #1

Notes:

(I really should not have eaten here hahaha. I made a reservation for 5:30 p.m., two hours before my Yamakase reservation at 7:30 p.m., and I ended up eating 38 pieces of sushi here… somehow. I’m faaaaaaaat.)

Sushi Zo is often a contender for second-best sushi in LA; other contenders include Mori Sushi, Kiriko, and so on. (Urasawa is pretty much first in my book and many others’ books.)

Sushi Notes:

Chef Seki is known for his warm rice, and it reminded me a lot of Sasabune’s rice. It was REALLY soft and fluffy—I think Chef Seki’s philosophy is that warm rice helps you focus on the taste and texture of the fish more. (However, there’s that whole controversy where people are against warm rice and so on. Oh well.) Anyway, the rice wasn’t quite as warm as Sasabune’s, and it broke apart less (as a result of that, I think). Also, the nigiri pieces were smaller, so the warmth of the rice wasn’t as big of a deal to me.

The fish was very fresh, and there was a decent selection of the normal fish you see as well as fish from Japan. I kind of wish they used less condiments, but that’s entirely up to the restaurant and chef, and I enjoyed the sushi regardless. Still… it would have been nice to be able to taste and focus on the fish by itself, free from condiments such as sea salt or yuzu.

Click here to see pictures of the food!

SF: Hachi Ju Hachi (in Saratoga, CA) (Feb. 2013)

March 13, 2013 2 comments

I love Hachi Ju Hachi. There are a couple restaurants that make me feel instantly at home the moment I step into the dining room, and Hachi Ju Hachi is one of them. It’s not just the clean and neat decor, or the increasingly numerous handwritten notes on the walls of the restaurant from former customers (if you order the kaiseki, you literally get to leave your mark on the restaurant – my sister somehow wrote on the ceiling).

What makes Hachi Ju Hachi wonderful is the food and the chef. It’s like stepping in my grandma’s kitchen, if my grandma cooked badass Japanese home-style cooking and had a wonderful sense of humor that made me feel at ease. Chef Suzuki-San is always in the kitchen with a bright smile plastered onto his face and has a fantastic sense of humor that just makes you feel like you’re part of the family. And he serves fantastic food that reveals an underlying intensity about food that hides well behind his friendly grin.

This isn’t an izakaya or a sushi bar (although there is hakozushi (boxed style sushi)). It’s much closer to kaiseki a la carte, with actual kaiseki options available if you call ahead. On my most recent trip I didn’t try the Kaiseki, but we did order a ton of the dishes and a lot of them kept me floating on a blissful cloud 9 made of great flavors. Let’s get to the food:

Eggplant deep fried with grated mountain yam and seaweed

20130223_192518Oops my chopsticks got to this dish before the camera did. I don’t know how that happened. The eggplant was slightly sweet and salty, and I loved the milky texture of the grated mountain yam.

Click here to see the other dishes!