Food as Art: Sushi House Unico

Restaurant: Sushi House Unico (SHU)

Location: 2932 1/2 Beverly Glen Circle – Bel Air, Ca 90077 (310) 474-2740

Date: Nov 12, 2010

Cuisine: New Style Sushi

Rating: A great “Nobu” clone with some dishes of its own.

 

Nearly 15 years ago now when I first ate at Matsuhisa I was blown away. I was already a veteran Sushi eater, having started going to Washington D.C.s one (then two) places in the late 70’s, and having been to Japan 2 or 3 times at that point (now it’s around 20). At the time it seemed like a culinary breakthrough. Classic sushi was great, but here was a whole new cuisine based on “modernizing” and combining Japanese elements with some other sensibility. Fundamentally it seemed intensely creative. But nowadays half the restaurants in LA have Miso Cod or Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno. In Food just as in any other art, creativity is surprisingly rare. SHU is very much derivative of this tradition, but unlike many of the places (Sushi Ryoku & Katsuya you know who you are!) does add a dash of its own style. Now we had read that SHU combined Japanese flavors with Italian. As a lover of both cuisines I didn’t really see this. It was more like a 95%/5% split in the Japanese favor. A few dishes had an occasional ingredient pulled from the Italian palette (like Olive Oil), but that was about it.

 

The menu, left half.

And right.  There is also a separate Sushi menu and a specials of the day menu.

“Edamame,” the usual. They just put it on the table, which some places do.

This is unfiltered Sake, served cold. It looks like the Japanese soda Pocari Milk. I liked it, smoother than many filtered Sakes, with a nice “rice” flavor.

Miso Soup w/ Tofu & Green Onion,” the classic. Certainly well done, but I object to the presence of the spoon.

“Tuna Carpaccio. Thinly sliced Tuna w/ arugola, extra virgin Olive Oil, Yuzu & bottarga,” was very tasty, bright, soft, with a pronounced citrus zing and a good dose of black pepper. While it did have Olive Oil, I’d hardly call it Italian — but I liked it!

“Wild Yellowtail: Tomato Sashimi,” was nice. The sauce had a LOT of zing to it, very vinegary in a good way, with a little hint of spice afterwards.

“Heirloom tomato salad with Jalapenos, onion, cilantro and Jalapeno dressing.” I only tried the dressing, as I detest raw tomatoes (one of 2 foods I don’t like). My wife liked it, although it was a chopstick challenge. The dressing was on the side and I used it on some other dishes as it had a great, very bright citrus, vinegar, jalapeno tang.

“Salmon Carpaccio, thinly sliced Salmon, w/ capers, arugolo, extra virgin Olive oil, sea salt & lemon,” I didn’t try. In fact, I didn’t order, but it was so pretty I photoed it from the next table over.

“Crispy Risotto w/ Spicy Tuna Tartar & Sliced Jalapeno” was a very nice dish, but the Risotto name was a total misnomer. It’s the standard “friend crispy rice cake,” topped with spicy tuna. But it was very good, even though I’m not a spicy tuna fan. Spicy tuna is to Sushi as Spaghetti and Meatballs is to Italian.

“Broiled Miso Marinated Black Cod,” the Nobu classic and one of my wife’s favorites.

“Roch Shrimp Tempura w/ spicy creamy mayo” is another Nobu classic, but it was done just as well here.

Click the pic for a zoom. Starting left to right across the top:  Toro, Salmon, Albacore, Uni, Japanese Scallop, Eki (squid), Fresh Water Eel, and Tamago (Egg Omelet). The sushi was excellent. It was just a notch below what you get at Nobu, the late Hump (sob), or other extremely top LA places. So extremely yummy, but not totally sublime. Bear in mind that I am an extreme sushi snob with over 30 years of practice.

The unasked, but welcome fruit plate. I was too slow with the camera.

The trendy interior.

And exterior, right next to Vibrato Jazz Grill.

Overall, SHU was a very good place. It did the “classic” Nobu dishes well, and added enough originality to give it some flavor of its own.

2 comments on “Food as Art: Sushi House Unico

  1. […] stuff, dumping too much spicy mayo or sweet sauce on everything. A perfect example of this is Sushi House Unico (REVIEW HERE). Like anything more or not always more. Not that Unico isn’t a perfectly tasty joint, but it […]

  2. […] and started his own place, Takao. This however is no total “neo new style” joint like Sushi House Unico, but instead, like the late Hump (REVIEW HERE), marries Nobu-style sushi with a more traditional […]

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