Sushi Sushi Sushi

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: March 30, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Sushi Sushi is fast becoming one of my preferred sushi places. I had actually intended to try out Sushi Zo, but they were closed for the week so I had to “settle” for this new favorite. We decided to try out the “large omakase” this time, as I had done both ala carte (HERE) and the medium one (HERE). It was great as expected, although not much different than the medium, which I think is a better value.

One of the chefs with the big slab of home ground real wasabi. This is one of many ways in which the men are separated from the boys. Accept no powdered green stuff.

Japanese bonito sashimi, lightly seared. Marinated seaweed and pickles. Soft and flavorful.

This device is used to shave the daikon radish into long paper-like strips.

Each of us got slightly different sashimi plates. This one is the “no sea urchin” version.

Ankimo (monkfish liver), with scallions and pickles in a ponzu. Perfectly fresh, with that rich creamy texture that it’s supposed to have, a hint of grainy, a hint of fishy,  but very mild (no such thing as monkfish liver with NO taste of the sea — what would be the point of that?)

Raw Japanese scallops with salmon roe.

Saba Mackerel with miso paste.

The urchin plate, only the middle is different.

Two kinds of uni (sea urchin). Santa Barbara and Japanese. It tops a pile of squid bits and includes pickles and wasabi. The combo is delicious, and all texture.

The rounds of regular sushi begins. Note that all the sushi here has been pre-applied with sauce, even when it’s just soy sauce. This red yummy is maguro (Blue fin tuna). This is some of the best tuna I’ve ever had, totally melts in the mouth.

Yuzu, Japanese citrus. Shavings or juice from this little fruit are added to a number of dishes. The chef keeps it sitting on the freezer pipes in the fish case so it’s easy to shave.

Tai (Red Snapper), with a ponzu and shavings of the yuzu. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.

Chu-toro (medium grade fatty tuna belly). This is also melt in the mouth amazing.

Kampachi (young yellowtail). Like Himachi, but more tender.

The chu-toro was just a warmup for this o-toro, the even more fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.

Some very specific kind of yellowtail, “vury yellowtail?” It was hard to remember the exact name. But it was darn good.

This was a piece of scottish salmon. One of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. Incredible!

Aji (Spanish Mackerel), with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel. Somehow I missed the photo of it AGAIN!

Kohada (Japanese Herring) This was great herring, but is certainly a bit fishy — herring always is.

Saba mackerel, not as good as the Spanish one, but nothing to mock either. There is a bit of “batera” seaweed on top and some pepper.

A fiery new dish in the works.

Seared toro on the bottom, scottish salmon on top. Both delectable. They taste very different half cooked. Warm, fattier, with a bit fo char flavor.

Another round of sashimi. Sweet shrimp, Japanese scallop, giant clam, and taco (octopus). Are were prefect examples of the breed, and doused with a little bit of yuzu (just the fruit, not with the pepper) to test them up. The shrimp had a wasabi “ebi brain” sauce. This is really a mix of shrimp guys (liver). Sounds awful, but tastes good.

And it continues.

Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.

They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.

Kampachi cheek. This was marinated in one of those sweet broths I would frequently get in Japan. There was a bit of bone but the meat was incredibly soft (consistency like tuna fish?) and delectable. I really enjoyed the heavily marinated root vegetable. I don’t remember what these are, but I’d get them in Japan all the time.

Asari miso (clam broth miso soup). This is a very light miso, with a clam brothy quality. Not too salty, very nice.

Uni (sea urchin) sushi. I can’t get enough of this. It amazes me to think that even just a couple years ago (bear in mind that I have been eating sushi since 1978) I didn’t like the stuff.

Diced Toro handroll. This shiso leaf and shaved yuzu inside, which added texture, tang, and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.

Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.

The omakase included dessert, this concoction of fruit, green tea ice cream, green tea panna cotta, sweet bean sauce, and whipped cream. Oh yes, and with a “mens pocky” as garnish and corn flakes underneath. Pretty good, and all Japanese.

If  you like sushi —  and how doesn’t? — then you owe it to yourself to try Sushi Sushi. This is some seriously good fish.

CLICK HERE for a review of the Sushi Sushi medium omakase.

CLICK HERE for a review of Sushi Sushi ala carte.

Or here for the LA sushi page.

Sushi Sushi = Yummy Yummy

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: March 1, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After discovering this place about a month ago I’ve been three times (previous REVIEW HERE). The craving keeps creeping into my mind. It’s old school sushi without all the distractions, just really good fish and rice (and a bit of other trappings). Last time we got the Omakase, so this time we ordered the basic lunch special (the reasonably priced — for sushi — 10 piece plus appetizer, cut roll, and soup). We then added a bit to it.

Aji (Spanish Mackerel) sashimi, with miso paste, seaweed, and some white kelp or rice noodle (not sure). The paste has a very strong tangy sweetness, and it marries nicely with te mackerel.

Lunch specials come with choice of miso. Normal Shiitake (not pictured), or nameko mushroom (above). I like the firm texture of these little button mushrooms.

Clam miso, saltier, more clam broth flavors.

Homemade real wasabi is a sign of a series sushi restaurant.

8 of the 10 pieces of the lunch special. Two came on a sidecar.

And here is the sidecar. On the left, Uni (sea urchin) and on the right Ikura (salmon egg roe). Both are specular versions of the type. The uni was sweet and soft, the eggs little perfect balls of sharp brine, no bitterness at all.

The sushi itself. Left to right. Maguro (blue fin tuna), Hamachi (yellow tail tuna), chu-toro (medium tuna belly), Tai (red snapper), Sweet Shrimp, and Shimaji (stripe jack). All were delicious. Sushi sushi for the most part puts the wasabi and the soy sauce on the pieces before serving them.

Chopped Toro (tuna belly) cut roll, then Tamago (sweet omelet), and Unagi (fresh water eel). Yum!

My brother doesn’t like uni, so he got Kani (fresh king crab) instead.

Some extra pieces we ordered. Left to right. Ika (squid) with shiso, o-toro (premium tuna belly), and raw Japanese scallop. Again all wonderful.

A Kani (king crab) handroll, with cucumber for crunch. Sushi sushi cuts the handrolls at the bottom to make a little flap of nori (seaweed) that covers the bottom. Small, but elegant, detail.

Baked salmon skin handroll. Always has a nice crunch.

Hamachi (yellowtail) handroll, another classic.

Afterward, walking back to our car, we ran into this temptation.

As always, I went for the coconut cream-cheese.

Not a bad version of the type. The top has the proper extreme sweetness, and there was a dab of whipped filling in the center, a bit like some hostess treat.

If you enjoyed this, make sure to check out the previous review, the next review, or some other good sushi like Sasabune, Nobu, Matsuhisa, Takao, or the incomparable Urwasawa.

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

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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.

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Storefront in Brentwood, conveniently located for us westsiders.

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Big Menu! Click parts to embiggen.

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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.

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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.”

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Wine in the glass.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 Sushi

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: February 11, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Last week I ate at this new (to me) sushi place in Beverly Hills, the redundantly named, “Sushi Sushi.” It was great but I didn’t have my camera. So with a bit of arm twisting — not — I convinced my brother to head back for a repeat.

The storefront, on Beverly Dr just south of Wilshire.

A small subset of the sushi bar. “Sushi sushi” is a pretty old-school looking Japanese place inside. Small room, small tables, and a sushi bar of about 12-15 seats. We decided to get the middle Omakase and let the chef work his magic.

He started out with this sashimi plate!

Ankimo (monkfish liver), with scallions and pickles in a ponzu. Perfectly fresh, with that rich creamy texture that it’s supposed to have, a hint of grainy, a hint of fishy,  but very mild (no such thing as monkfish liver with NO taste of the sea — what would be the point of that?)

Perfect Santa Barbara Uni (sea urchin) on a bed of soft Ika (squid). A bit of wasabi mixed with something, and some sauce (had a little citrus in it I think). Both fishes are sweet, with the uni being delectably so. The squid was very soft with that slightly pasty texture squid is supposed to have. While this is not a dish for the land-lubber, it was awesome!

Fresh raw Hama oysters, with a bit of soy vinaigrette. Yum too.

My brother isn’t so into the Uni, so he got sweet shrimp instead.

Blue fin tuna. The chef here “pre-sauces” the fish, so no soy sauce is needed. In this case it’s already been put on. I had this done a number of times in Japan, and at high end places here like Urwasawa (HERE FOR REVIEW). The tuna melted in the mouth. Sushi Sushi uses big pieces of fish and a small ball of rice too. The rice is traditional, not the warm rice favored by Sasabune (HERE FOR REVIEW).

Tai (Red Snapper), with a slightly citrusy sauce. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.

After this we had another course pairing a piece of Chu-toro (medium grade fatty tuna belly) and a piece of Kampachi (young yellowtail). Tragically, somehow I forgot to photograph it. /cry /cry

The toro was soft and delicious, the kampachi firmer, but also very tasty, just not nearly as rich.

The chu-toro was just a warmup for this o-toro, the even more fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.

Then there was a piece of scottish salmon which I also missed a photo of. Maybe I’m going crazy, maybe it was just the hangover from Saam the night before, I don’t know. In any case it was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had.

And another missed one, aji (Spanish Mackerel), with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel.

And a fourth miss. Kohada (Japanese Herring) I swear I photoed these, but they’re not on my camera. This was great herring, but is certainly a bit fishy — herring always is.

Saba mackerel, not as good as the Spanish one, but nothing to mock either.

Another sashimi course. Sweet shrimp, Japanese scallop, giant clam, and taco (octopus). Are were prefect examples of the breed, and doused with a little bit of yuzu (just the fruit, not with the pepper) to test them up.


My brother got albacore.

Kampachi cheek. This was marinated in one of those sweet broths I would frequently get in Japan. There was a bit of bone but the meat was incredibly soft (consistency like tuna fish?) and delectable. I really enjoyed the heavily marinated root vegetable. I don’t remember what these are, but I’d get them in Japan all the time.

Asari miso (clam broth miso soup). This is a very light miso, with a clam brothy quality. Not too salty, very nice.

They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.

Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.

Uni (sea urchin) sushi. I can’t get enough of this. It amazes me to think that even just a couple years ago (bear in mind that I have been eating sushi since 1978) I didn’t like the stuff.

Seared Japanese scallop.

Diced Toro handroll. This had yellow pickles and shiso leaf inside, which added texture and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.

Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.

Our chef. I think he’s been working the knives for a while.

The omakase included dessert, this concoction of fruit, green tea ice cream, green tea panna cotta, sweet bean sauce, and whipped cream. Oh yes, and with a “mens pocky” as garnish and corn flakes underneath. Pretty good, and all Japanese.

Sushi sushi is a new favorite place of mine. This place is GOOD! Not only because the fish is totally delectable, but because it offers that relative rarity now in LA, the “traditional sushi bar.” I like the warm rice Nozawa/Sasabune school and the modern Nobu school, but there is something satisfying about the original.

A second and third  Sushi Sushi meal review can be found HERE and HERE.

Or for the LA sushi index, HERE.

Food as Art: Sasabune

Restaurant: Sasabune [1, 2]

Location: 12400 Wilshire Blvd Ste 150 (South Carmelina Avenue) Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 820-3596

Date: October 29, 2010

Cuisine: Japanese

Rating: Excellent as always.

Today I went to one of my usual lunch spots, Sasabune. This is one of LA’s many top sushi joints. It’s an culinary descendant of the Nozawa school of “warm rice” sushi making. The best way to enjoy these places is with Omakase. I opted for the “Japanese Omakase” which means more “squirmy creatures,” and hence more fun for me.

The appetizer here is some kind of giant mollusk. It was served with pepper/yuzu relish and 10,000 year old sea salt. The clam has a taste similar to scallop, but with a firmer texture. Although salty (no duh) it’s very nice with the yuzu and salt.

Big-eye tuna (Maguro) and Toro. As is typical at this school of sushi place many of pieces already have sauces, and do not need soy sauce. If you are a sushi neophyte you should know that Toro is the fatty belly of the tuna, which means it tastes better. The Japanese rank Toro into different grades of honorability. This is fairly normal Toro (some get almost white with fat), but it melted in the mouth like butter.

I believe this was Tai (red snapper) and another white fish. The little bits of seasoning are customized to each fish and add a nice zing.

Oyster done two ways: raw with vinegar and spicy radish, the other baked dynamite. The later is richer, but the first has the pleasant briny taste of fine oysters.

Salmon with the traditional sesame and the sheet of seaweed stuff (which I love). A very nice Hamachi (yellowtail), with a little yuzu for kick. Giant clam, and sweet shrimp (raw). This last is sweet and soft and melts in the mouth.

Orange clam and two kinds of mackerel, Spanish and Japanese.

After a brief trip to the fryer, the sweet shrimp head makes a return appearance, tempura style. You eat the whole thing, the heat has denatured the chiton in the shell into a softer more sugary form (chiton is a quad sugar organic construct like cellulose).

Waste not, want not. The shrimp roe returns too, marinated in a nice tart vinegary ponzu.

My brother groaned at this from across the table, but I love both. Very sweet Ikura (salmon eggs), which pop in the mouth to release their sweet/salty flavor, and a very nice sweet Uni (sea urchin) — from the taste I would assume from Santa Barbara.

Ankimo (Monk fish liver) and sea eel. Yum! The liver was in a miso sauce. The eel of course is BBQ, with the sweet sauce.

Probably red snapper again? and maybe another cut of yellowtail.

Japanese sea scallop, with salt and yuzu. This is SO good.

This is actually an eel roll my brother ate. But we each got the blue crab hand roll before it. However, the Sasabune blue crab rolls are SO GOOD that we gobbled it down before I remembered to grab the camera and snap a picture. If I hadn’t been full I would have ordred another.

Don’t miss my detailed post comparing the American and Japanese Omakases. CLICK HERE.