Sushi Zo

Restaurant: Sushi Zo

Location: 9824 National BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90034. (310) 842-3977

Date: April 8, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: Top warm rice style sushi.

LA is a sushi town. I eat a lot of sushi (just take a look at my LA Sushi review page!). People say Zo is the best in town. I finally went.

Unfortuantly, this outside shot is all you get, because they don’t allow photography. Bummer, because the sushi was good.

Zo is omakase only. You sit down. They bring you stuff. They charge you by the piece but don’t really tell you how much. They keep bringing you sushi. Eventually you get full and they hand you a (stiff) bill. It’s closest in style and format to Sasabune (my detailed reviews of that, with photos, HERE and HERE).

This is Osaka-style “warm rice” sushi, like Sasabune, and presumably descended from the same Chef Nozawa source. The individual pieces are made one at a time, no precutting, and given to you in a hurry. The fish is superlative, although each piece seems to have been placed in a miniaturization machine set to 70%. I’ve never seen sushi this small. This was particularly humorous when it came to the “battleship” style ones like Uni (sea urchin). They just looked so cute and diminutive (maybe 50-60% size for these). But I’m not sure this size issue resulted directly in less value. At the end I was still just as full as at Sasabune, although it cost perhaps 10-20% more. I perhaps had more pieces numerically. But each was certainly smaller.

The fish was a bit better than Sasabune, and certainly better than Echigo. The preps are very similar, with 90% being “no soy sauce” — a fact of which we were emphatically reminded each and every time. There was a lot of use of vinegar, yuzu and other brightening flavors. I do like these, but I think it did tend to distract slightly from the fish — which was stellar.

The chef had a bit of an attitude. Bordering on brusk. First the no camera bit. Then the sushi-nazi style directions on the table about proper sushi etiquette, the hurried pace, and the “no soy sauce” or “yes soy sauce” commands — barked.

But food wise, this is overall the best warm-rice style sushi I’ve had in recent years. I really should go back to Nozawa, but it’s been way too long for me to give him proper perspective.

But I’m thinking I prefer Sushi Sushi (reviews HEREHERE, and HERE). The deal is a little better, it has more variety of style, the fish is just as good, and I prefer the more traditional Tokyo (cold rice) style, the friendly chefs, and the emphasis on the taste of the fish.

For more sushi reviews, check out my LA Sushi page.

Food as Art: Pearl Dragon

Restaurant: Pearl Dragon

Location: 15229 West Sunset Boulevard Westside CA 90272.  (310) 459-9790

Date: Jan 16, 2011

Cuisine: Pan Asian / Sushi

Summary: Great “new style” sushi.


Pearl Dragon is one of the few dinner restaurants in Pacific Palisades, and the only one with a full bar. For most people it has a palatable but slightly uninspired menu of pan asian goodies and an extensive repertoire of tasty but slightly overdone sushi rolls. But one of the dirty little secrets is how fun the sushi bar can be — and how talented lead sushi chef Ryo is when he strikes off the beaten path. He takes the style pioneered by Nobu Matsuhisa (REVIEW HERE) into even more radically over the top territory.

First of all, the sushi bar is unusually friendly. This is a place where half the people know each other, and the chef, and where most aren’t afraid to chat with the other half. If I have to go out to dinner locally alone I’ll pretty much always go here — as it sure beats sitting alone at a table.

I also apologize for the lame photos. I forgot my cameras and only had the iPhone 4. Considering it was nearly pitch black in here, it did a credible job.

“Miso soup.” Pretty much what you’d expect.

This cold sake was very tasty. My brother and I drank a lot of it. On occasion Ryo has “made” me do 5-7 double shots of Patron. Good thing I live so nearby.

Sunomono,” cucumbers pickled in a sweat vinegar/miso sauce.

Ryo is blow torching a “Surf and Turf” role. When I eat here I don’t like to order, but get him to just make stuff. This particular Sunday he was very busy and so he didn’t have time for his most inspired creations — still, the “quicker” fare sure was tasty.

“Halibut in ponzu, with jalepeno.” Slight varient on the Peruvian classic introduced by Nobu.

“Albacore sushi,” with at least two sauces. Sure all this saucing isn’t traditional Japanese, but it does taste pretty good.

“Seared tuna sushi,” with raw onion and what basically amounts to Italian dressing. This too works, not so far off from the classic Dutch dish of raw herring served with raw chopped onion.

“Crispy rice with spicy tuna.” These were really tasty, and the interplay of textures is fun.

“Seafood patty, nori, vinegar, other sauces.” A kind of tempura omelet ++ sauce.

“SURF & TURF. shrimp & asparagus tempura with avocado wrapped in searedrare filet mignon, topped with garlic & chopped white onion.” Decadent, crazy, but really good.

“Yellowtail, with truffle, and yuzu.” This is a more rarefied dish, and bordered on the sublime. The interplay of the fish, Unami flavors of the truffle, and the bright tang of the yuzu (Japanese lime-like citrus) was really sensational.

“Lobster roll.” This isn’t a variant that’s on the menu. Really it tasted like a lobster risotto roll. Ryo sauteed up the lobster in a lobster/Norfolk type sauce first. Pretty darn good too.

In any case, this was a very fine meal to end the weekend on, and I need to go back sometime on a less busy night, with my good camera, an empty stomach, and let Ryo really cook up some interesting stuff (he has before).

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.