Pleased by Picca

Restaurant: Picca [1, 2]

Location: 9575 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tel: 310 277 0133

Date: August 15, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Peruvian

Rating: Really interesting flavors


I was really excited to try this new Modern Peruvian. As best I can tell (having never been to Peru other than an airport stop in Lima) Peru has a really interesting culinary melange going on merging Spanish, traditional South American, and Japanese influences. I’ve heard that much of the wave of innovation in American Modern Japanese started by Nobu Matsuhisa (detailed look here) is really just Peruvian. In any case, on to the food.

This space is just above what used to be Test Kitchen last year and is now the excellent Sotto. The chef is Ricardo M. Zarate, a Lima native, and as far as I can tell, he rocks.

The menu. This is all served Tapas style, which you all know is my favorite.

Burgundy! Parker gives this 92, “Bachelet’s 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes – from 60- to 70-year-old vines both below the route nationale and north of Gevrey in Brochon – offers lovely black fruit aromas with hints of anise and mint. A truly palate-staining intensity of vividly-fresh, tart but ripe black cherry and blackberry is underlain by firm, fine tannins (not precluding an emerging silkiness of texture) and augmented by bitter-herbal and stony notes. Although palpably dense and abundantly tannic, this outstanding village wine still comes off as juicy, sleek, invigorating and refined. Put it away for at least 5-7 years.”

jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce.” Some really good fried seafood. The tartare sauce was fantastic too.

chicharron de pollo. marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce.” Also good fry. Like uber chicken nuggets.

tres leches de tigre. rocoto, aji amarillo, sea urchin shooters.” Three different gazpacho-like shooters. I had the Uni one. It was very limey/vinegary which I like.

ceviche mixto. mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo.” Mixed fresh seafood marinated. Those things on the right are the giant peruvian corn kernels. The fish was very fresh, particularly the shrimp. The marinate was tasty, but certainly had a very strong lime/vinegar thing going on.

On the left: “santa barbara prawns. lemon grass yuzu kosho pesto.” Very tender sweet prawns, with the sauce definitely adding.

On the right: “black cod. miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato.” Tasty too. The potato chips though were even better 🙂

Apparently in Peru sushi is done with these yellow blocks instead of rice and called causa sushi. The stuff looks like polenta but is actually a mash of yellow potato with some spices.

This is the “unagi. avocado, cucumber, eel sauce” and it’s pretty much your eel sushi. Of all these causas this was my favorite as the polenta is heavier and stronger flavored than rice and the eel held up to it best.

scallops. mentaiko.” Certainly tasty, but it would have been better with rice.

albacore. garlic chip, ceviche sauce.” My second favorite of this set.

spicy yellow tail. spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko.” Also good, but the fourth potato bar was beginning to feel too heavy.

arroz chaufa de mariscos. mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish.” This was a nice version of paella. Brighter and more citrusy (by far) than it’s Spanish cousin. The ingredients were very fresh.

seco de pato. duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice.” This was a slight disappointment. It was perfectly cooked, but given the volume level of the flavors of this meal it felt a little muted, particularly the rice.

chicharron de costillas. crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla.” This however was pretty spectacular, one of the best pork sandwiches I’ve tried.

We finished the wine and decided to explore some of the awesome cocktails as “dessert beverages.” These drinks are by mixologist Julian Cox. The cocktail menu.

This was “chilcano de anis, lime juice, ginger syrup, anise syrup, pisco, soda, mint sprig, pernod.” It was pretty damn good, tasting like sweet mint licorice.

Sabertooth. cachaca, muddled blueberries, apricot liquor, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, shaken, lime wheel & blueberry.” Pretty great too.

Rhubarb Sidecar.” Cognac, pisco, fresh lemon juice, rhubarb gastrique, shake violentyly (and they mean it), garnished with spiced sugar.” Also great.

Christopher Oaxacan. Single village mezcal, passion fruit, fresh lemon juice, orgeat, lavender bitters.” The super smokey (and very good) mezcal overwhelmed everything else. It basically tasted like mezcal with lime.

“Lemon tart.” This was a pretty amazing dessert. Light and airy, almost foamy, the intense lemoness paired nicely with the sweet pineapple stuff on the side.

I love even street cart churros but these were pretty supreme. The churros were stuffed with some kind of dulce de leche custard. It kept squirting out but was intensely good. The carob sauce was surprisingly amazing. I remember carob from the 1970s as the horrible chocolate bars that weren’t. This could have been caramel.

Picca was pretty fantastic. They didn’t hit every note perfectly, but it’s a fun (and loud space), the server was very very nice and enthusiastic about the food, and the flavors were bold and powerful, the ingredients first rate. What’s not to love? Unless you prefer crap like el Torito.

For more LA dining reviews, click here.

Zengo – Macro Mall Medley

Restaurant: Zengo [1, 2, 3]

Location: 395 Santa Monica PlaceSanta Monica, CA 90401. Tel. 310.899.1000

Date: May 20, 2011

Cuisine: Latin-Asian Fusion

Rating: Color me confused — It’s in a mall, and it’s pretty good.


As I discussed previously, this is a slightly commercialized but pretty tasty mall restaurant whose appearence has accompanied the rooflift of Santa Monica Place. This one is Latin-Asian fusion. Sort of Asia de Cuba meets Rivera.

The roof terrace is pretty awesome. I wish more places in LA had great outdoor spaces.

“Hot & sour egg drop soupfoie gras-pork dumplings / enoki / green onion.” This is one of two repeats from last time. It had a very inserting note to the sour, from tamarind I think. The richness of the dumplings too is very nice as is the texture of the enoki.

“Crunchy calamari salad, Lemongrass / Mixed greens / Orange-coriander sauce.” This was a tasty salad, mixing a nice dressing with tasty calamari. The batter was very good, with something sweet in it. The fry was a little strong, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good.

“Thai chicken empanadas. Chile poblano / Oaxaca cheese / mango-curry salsa.” These were heavy little fellows, and I mean literally. They weighed about twice what I would’ve expected. They tasted good too, but weren’t exactly light.

Achiote-hoisin pork arepas, corn masa / avocado / crema fresca.” These are serious flavor bombs. The meat tastes a bit like a good short rib, and goes perfectly with the typical pairing of avocado and crema fresca. There is just a bit of heat from the chilies. This is one of my favorite dishes.

Chicken Tandoori. Masala-achiote roasted chicken / black bean dal / cilantro & mango salsa.” The chicken itself was so soft it felt (and looked) a bit like shrimp. Tasty too, but not one of my absolute favorites.

“Chipotle-miso glazed black cod. Daikon radish / pea sprots lemon-togarashi aioli.” This is a reinterpreted version of the Nobu Matsuhisa classic. It’s a tad overdone.

“Beef short rib udon noodles. Shitake / Asparagus / Basil / Cilantro / Ginger-hoisin broth.” It’s hard in this picture to see the beef and the noodles underneath, but they’re there. This and the calamari were probably my favorites of the new dishes we tried this time.

Another view of the roof deck.

While this was still a tasty (and reasonably priced) meal, we did better with our selections the previous time. Perhaps that is because we forced ourselves to order some new things when some of the other ones (that we’d tried before) sounded better. I guess we know our own taste because they did!

Matsuhisa – The Private Room

Restaurant: Matsuhisa [1, 2]

Location: 129 N La Cienega Blvd Beverly Hills, CA 90211. (310) 659-9639

Date: May 6, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: As good as it’s always been!


Some good friends were in town who had never tried Nobu Matsuhisa‘s particular blend of Japanese Peruvian Fusion. As popular as this has become in the last fifteen years, and how every derivative restaurant in America throws a few of his dishes on the menu, the original still rocks. I also scored a Friday night reservation in the coveted and private “Omakase only room,” where his cooking is showcased to the best effect.

The original storefront.

This aged 1st Cru white burgundy from my cellar was the very expression of mature chardonay.

As you can see from the color. This wine is ready, more than ready, as it might have been a tad better two years ago. Still it had a wonderful floral perfume to it.

The private room seats eight, and has it’s own sushi bar and kitchen.

“Seafood springroll with heirloom tomato and caviar.” This is the only repeat of the night, a Matsuhisa classic.Fry is always good, but it’s actually the combination with the spicy tomato chutney/salsa that really sells the dish.

One of the private kitchen chefs working on the appetizers.

Grilling up some conch!

Different members of our party got slightly different versions of this quartet of amuses.

“Seared salmon, new style.” That is with sesame, ponzu, and warm olive oil.

Kanpachi (young yellowtail) with a bit of red peper and ponzu on a radish.

Red snapper carpaccio, with chives, garlic, and vinegar.

A second version of the plate.

Lobster cerviche.

Tai (red snapper) sashimi, new style.

Yellowtail collar marinated in miso (a Nobu classic), baked, and then served with a bit of garlic and texture on letuce. You wrap it up and eat it like a soft taco.

Japanese baby conch, sauteed in garlic butter (escargot style).

The creepy crawly himself. Chewy and a little bitter, in a good way.

Burgundy goes very well with the Matsuhisa flavor profiles. The first time I ever went here, in 1996, I brought a Gros Frere Clos Vougeot. This 2005, Parker gives a 92. “The 2005 Clos Vougeot from Drouhin’s two parcels in that famous cru, is much more earthy and less fine-grained than the majority of their wines from this vintage, but it exhibits impressive concentration. A bone meal-like meld of mineral and meat dominates the nose and suffuses the palate along with black raspberry, plum and cherry fruit accepted by faintly bitter fruit pit notes. This is quite full and rich, but without being heavy; overtly tannic and chewy, but without being coarse. A promising more tart than sweet juiciness of black fruit mingles with roasted meat and stony, chalky minerality in the finish.”

Sashimi salad, with yellowtail, seared blue fin tuna, various dressings, and hearts of palm.

Par boiled Santa Barbara prawn with a tiny bit of salad (including hearts of palm). This was really yummy, even better than the cooked version we had last time. The meat is very sweet and succulent, delicious warm but essentially raw.

Sea bass on a bed of mushroom “risotto” with white truffles. The little spears are pickled ginger shoots.

“Fois gras, seabass, mushrooms, in a very rich reduction sauce.” Very meaty and tasty, the sauce was a pretty awesome blend of all three contributors of yum: salt, sweet, and fatty. The little red fruit is a pickled leeche.

Another very nice, red burgundy, this one (unlike the others) from the restaurant’s list. We drank more than I thought. 🙂

Grilled Toro, with enoki, aspargus, and other mushrooms.

American Kobe Beef with asparagus, garlic, and a spicy sauce and mustard. Really yummy (and rich) dish.

Each person gets a little sushi plate, there were a couple variants, this one has no shellfish.

A version where everything is cooked.

The “normal” plate for those who eat everything.

Chu-toro (medium tuna belly). Perfect!

Kanpachi (young yellowtail). Like butter.

Orange giant clam.

Uni (sea urchin).

Anago (sea eel), in the classic sweet BBQ sauce.

The pretty laquer soup container.

Inside is snapper soup. I haven’t had this one before, although it’s a classic mild Japanese fish broth with cilantro and scallions. The fish is soft mellow whitefish in this context.

My brother got a special surprise, the eye. The chef’s convinced him to try it. “Good for the sinews and joints.”

Taco (octopus). Very tender.

Japanese Sea Scallop sushi, with a bit of yuzu. Always one of my favorite sushis, and this didn’t disappoint.

Kohada (gizzard shard).

Baby squid, battleship style. They’re raw, but tossed in a kind of sweet miso-lemon dressing. Really tasty.

And we finally make it to desserts. Fruit tart with ginger ice cream. This was a total fan fave with the ladies.

Green tea tiramisu with chocolate gelato. Both were good, with the pastry having a nice creaminess and the ice cream a deep richness.

Butterscotch cream brulee with a citrus ice cream. Also really nice and creamy.

Coffee ice cream with chocolate crunch. This was great too, probably my favorite. The crunch added a really nice texture.

Shave ice. Below are a couple balls of vanilla ice cream (very good vanilla ice cream), red bean sauce, and very finely shaved ice.

Then green tea sauce (or maybe just tea) is poured over it. In the end, a very interesting (and Asian) mix of flavors and textures.

Even the urinal is cool.

The main room.

The chefs at work back in our private room/kitchen.

This was probably the best meal I’ve ever had at Matsuhisa, and I’ve had a LOT of great ones. Because I’m jaded now, and used to the cuisine, it wasn’t utterly mind blowing innovative like the first time I ever ate here. But the cooking is as good here as it ever was. Nobu (and his sucessor cooks) still really know their stuff.

For a previous meal at Matsuhisa, see here.

Food as Art – Nobu

Restaurant: Nobu Malibu

Location: 3835 Cross Creek Road # 18, Malibu, CA 90265 (310) 317-9140

Date: Febuary 16, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: Maintains it’s very high standards, and price.


In my continuing quest to eat the oceans of the earth clean in the form of sushi I returned to one of my “old” haunts, Nobu Malibu. The various Nobus represent the corporate version of the Japanese-Peruvian fusion begun by Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous Matsuhisa (REVIEW HERE). While not quite as inventive as the original, the Xerox job is pretty darn good. Food quality is extremely high and highly consistant. The atmosphere is fun. The only deficit is the price, which is perhaps 40-50% higher than most similar restaurants, like say Takao (REVIEW HERE). And it’s not like these are cheap either!

From my cellar, parker gives this Rhone white 94 points. “The 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc (80% Roussanne and the rest Marsanne, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc) possesses classic notes of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, and rose petals, a full-bodied, unctuous texture, gorgeous purity and richness, and a stunningly long finish. It can compete with the finest full-throttle, dry whites of France as well as the world. It is difficult to find a better white Chateauneuf du Pape than Beaucastel. Much like their reds, their whites are made in a style that is atypical for the appellation. It is put through full malolactic, and one-third is barrel fermented, then blended with the two-thirds that is aged in tank. Extraordinarily rich and honeyed, it is ideal for drinking with intensely flavored culinary dishes.”

In the glass, this has a nice yellow/amber color not seen in duller (read generic Chardonnay) wines.

“Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno.” The total Nobu classic, but it still holds it’s own. This version is as good as any i’ve had.

“Sashimi Salad.” Another Nobu classic. The dressing has this nice flavor and texture I’ve always liked, and the mildly seared tuna is succulent. The overall salad is a bit salty, but Japanese cuisine usually is.

“New Style Sashimi.” Classic again. Apparently this is very Peruvian, although I wouldn’t know directly as my closest contact to that country was an hour spent in Lima airport. However, the halibut is supremely tender, and the warm olive oil, ponzu and sesame thing gives it a toasty richness.

“Shrimp Tempura with Ponzu Sauce.” More classics. I’ve always loved these little fellows. Basically the normal Shrimp Tempura, but pre sauced, and in smaller bite sized chunks. Addictive, but eat quickly before it sogs up.

“Rosemary crusted Scallops in sweet and sour crust with cilantro sauce.” This was my first new dish of the night, and it was pretty incredible. The pseudo fried crisp on the scallops was a bit sweet, and the cilantro sauce mild, but it all went together perfectly, and inspired marriage of textures and flavors.

“Lobster Sweet and Sour.” Another new dish, and pretty delectable. Tender lobster on a spinach bed, with a subdued sweet and sour sauce and then the whatever-it-was on top adding a bit of texture.

“Austrialian Wagyu Beef, butter truffle sauce and crispy onions.” Yum. The beef was almost like candy, sweet and rich. The onion-ring-like crisps were good for soaking up the sauce.


“Miso Soup.” Classic, and as expected.

A bit of sushi.

In the front, Tai (red snapper) with shiso, toro (tuna belly). The white thing with frisy stuff on top I can’t remember.

In the middle, Kani (king crab leg) sushi.

In the back, Unagi (Fresh Water eel).

The white stuff in the middle. Ika (squid) with shiso leaf and a bit of ginger.

The yellow chunks Tamago (sweet omelet).

On the left Ikura (salmon roe) and on the right Uni (sea urchin).

Completely stuffed, we rolled out of here well satisfied. My only complaint is that Nobu is so expensive. For example the “Toro Tartar w/ Caviar” is $36 compared to $25 at Takao — identical too.

Food as Art – Takao

Restaurant: Takao [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: March 9, 2010 and February 12, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi


Takao is my local outlet for high-end “new style sushi.” While my last sushi review, Sushi Sushi, is an example of a fairly traditional sushi bar Takao is more based on the model created by pioneer Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous restaurant (REVIEW HERE). In fact, Takao himself worked with Nubu at said restaurant in the early 90s. But he spun out in 1995 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 Japanese restaurant format. In fact, in homage to that tradition, Takao looks more like an old-school Japanese restaurant, and its menu includes the various set dinners like chicken teriyaki etc.  Nevertheless, this is some really good stuff if you take advantage of what they have to offer. One of the nice things about this place is that you can take people who just aren’t that into sushi. Takao is also the biggest beneficiary (in our family) of the Hump’s death, as we used to split our family Japanese outings between Takao and the Hump — now Takao gets them all.


Storefront in Brentwood, conveniently located for us westsiders.


Big Menu! Click parts to embiggen.

IMG_9785 IMG_9786 IMG_9787 IMG_9788 IMG_9789 IMG_9790

I’m going to review a bunch of different takes on eating here, derived from two actual meals and several people. One option, for the more timid, but also an excellent deal, is to get the “set dinners.” They come with soup, salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert. This is the salad. If you ask you can get sunomono or possibly some other optons instead.

If you are an advanced eater you might find these next 8 or so pics boring, keep going, the good stuff is below!

Miso soup. I think if you ask they have a couple different types. This is the basic scallion and tofu.

Vegetable tempura. Again, there are some typical options in the set meal.

This is a basic “sushi dinner” plate. There are lots of other options like miso glazed cod or terriyaki salmon. You can ask for more or less whatever sushi you want (but perhaps not a whole plate of Uni and Toro). In the center, Ikura (salmon egg), cut tuna roll.

In the front, left to right. Halibut, albacore belly, Tamago (sweet egg omelet).

In the back, left to right. Maguro (Tuna), salmon.

In the back after the salmon, hamachi (yellowtail) and regular albacore.

Vanilla and mango mochi is one of the many dessert options.

This next “meal” is a custom high end meal with a sashimi/sushi focus.

House cold sake. Masumi “Okuden-Kanzukuri” Nagano prefecture.

Tai (red snapper), with garlic, salt, red peppercorn, onions, olive oil. A very bright flavor, and the peppercorns, not spicy at all, add a nice textural component.

Toro tartar and caviar. Chopped tuna Toro, onions and wasabi mixed with light soy sauce topped with caviar. The classic found at Matsuhisa (you can even see it in my last meal there). It’s still good, a big blog of succulent Toro!

Kampachi (young yellowtail), jalepeno, cilantro, and ponzu. Another Nubu classic, but for a reason.

Main lobster tempura (1/2). Takao has a lot of interesting tempuras. Uni (my second favorite), sardine, crab, unusual seafood pancake with shiso, and more. This is a decadent favorite of mine, and in a half portion is pretty reasonable.

Japanese scallop sushi. With yuzu and salt on the left, and with shiso on the right. I LOVE good scallop. I couldn’t decide which was was better. The yuzu/salt has a gorgeous tang, bringing out the delicate flavor and texture of the scallop. The shiso also pairs wonderfully, although it’s flavor dominates to a larger degree.

Aji, Spanish mackerel. Very solid mackerel in the traditional preparation. Soft, with only a hint of fishiness.

Blue fin tuna, special soy sauce. Straight up tuna at its best.

Taco (octopus) with shiso on the left, and sweet soy and wasabi on the right. Again, tough to choose, but I think perhaps I prefer the shiso by a small margin.

Chu-toro with sweet sauce. Pretty melt in your mouth.

Sweet shrimp, as sushi and with the head fried. The shrimp itself is sweet and soft, sort of the essence of fresh crustacean. The head (you do eat it, the whole thing), is crunchy, fried, sweet. Very tasty too, but watch out not to get stabbed by the legs as you munch it down.

Uni (sea urchin) with sweet sauce on the left, and yuzu on the right. Some top Santa Barbara Uni. The sweet one is good, but I think I prefer the yuzu as it shows off the uni itself to perfection.

Unagi (fresh water eel). Typical version of the BBQ eel, and good. Not quite as good as the eel at Sushi Sushi (HERE).

Tamago. Solid, with a nice sweetness, but the texture is just a tiny bit heavy, and feels less “handmade” than the superlative Sushi Sushi version.

This next meal represents the $90 Omakase, allowing the chefs to put together a full meal. They do an excellent job of this, and you can customize it fully. It’s actually considerably cheaper to do an Omakase then to assemble a big custom sushi meal like above.


White burgundy is always a good choice with sushi.

91-92 points. “Similar to prior notes, though this time the oak is joined by a noticeably sweet perfume on both nose and palate, particularly immediately on opening. A hint of nuttiness comes as the wine evolves the glass. I really enjoy this style, and most of the wines I’ve had from Girardin.”


Wine in the glass.


Halibut carpaccio. Thinly sliced halibut sashimi with salt, black pepper, chives, garlic, and pink peppercorn topped with yuzu and olive oil. Very nice and light, emphasizing the flavors of the condiments and the texture of the fish.


Toro sashimi, black truffles, sweet sauce, wasabi. How can you go wrong with this?


Tai (red snapper), sea salt. The lemon and salt dominate, but I find myself very much enjoying that as they don’t overwhelm the very subtle fish.


New style salmon sashimi with truffle. Thinly sliced sashimi with truffles, chives and ginger topped with hot olive oil. This is much richer, and the pairing of the warm oil always throws me a bit, but it does taste good.


Santa barbara prawn, ponzu. Emphasizes the sweet meatiness of the prawn, as the sauce is fairly light and citrusy.


Miso glazed snapper. Scallop dynamite. The fish is pretty close to the Nobu classic cod. It’s fine, but not really my thing, and the cod might be better. The dynamite, with it’s mix of flying fish roe, scallops, and whatever eggy rich thing dynamite actually is — is quite wonderful. I love to suck on the marinated ginger shoot at the end too.


Fish tempura. One of the above mentioned “interesting” tempuras. Not unlike something one might get in Spain. They fry a lot of small fish there. I guess the Portugese did too, as they brought Tempura to Japan.


The Omakase comes with some sushi. If I’m at the bar I will steer it more interesting, but I wasn’t. Left to right.  Blue fin toro, yellow tail, Spanish mackerel, ika (squid), sardines (?). All are good examples of type.

The Omakase also includes miso soup (of your choice — there are mushroom and clam versions) and desert. I didn’t picture them however.

The chefs at work. Takao himself on the left.

Overall, Takao is a great place. It’s perhaps 90-95% as good as Matsuhisa or the late Hump which it resembles. And it’s cheaper and much more approachable. We go here more often. There is/was a “mise au point” (sharp) quality to the above places that isn’t totally honed here — but it’s still fantastic — and bear in mind that I’m a pretty damn snobby and experienced sushi eater. Been doing so (a lot) since 1978 plus over 20 trips to Japan and many Japanese friends. There is certainly better straight sushi in LA, but I still go here more often because there is an enormous variety of very well made food, and they are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Our two year-old has even eaten here!

For a second Takao review, click here.

For my LA Sushi index, click here.

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.