I have a large number of meal reports left from my Los Angeles trip which ended two weeks ago, a number of them of sushi lunches. So as to not give you mercury poisoning from too many sushi meal reports in a row, I’m going to space them out. Here first is a brief account of a lunch omakase at Sushi Sushi in Beverly Hills.
Sushi Sushi is located right off Robertson on Beverly Drive. While there are some who praise it highly, it’s not really in the upper echelons of Los Angeles’ sushi scene; but we can’t afford to eat only at that level. As it happens, we liked our meal fine but it had the unexpected effect of making us appreciate all the more our more expensive omakase at Sushi Tsujita.
You might say, and you might not be wrong, that Sushi Sushi has the silliest name of all sushi restaurants, but I think it’s meant to indicate that they’re a sushi-only place and that you should go elsewhere if you’re looking for teriyaki etc.. And indeed, nigiri, sashimi and traditional rolls are the only things they have on the menu (well, that’s not true: they have some grilled fish too). You can get your nigiri in the form of combinations, piece by piece or in the form of one of three omakase meals. Combinations are served only at the tables. We sat at the bar and got the cheapest omakase, which is $65/head (not cheap in the abstract but cheap for omakase at a L.A sushi bar with a good reputation).
This is what we ate (crappy pictures in a slideshow below):
- The meal started with a plate of suzuki (seabass) sashimi with marinated kelp and uni over marinated squid. This type of looser uni has an unfortunate appearance but this was a very good beginning.
- The procession of nigiri began with a piece of hamachi (yellowtail). The cut was a bit sloppy and the rice was likewise not packed well. The fish was good though.
- This was followed by a piece of salmon, provenance unspecified and I forgot to ask. Good but nothing special.
- Next up was a new fish for me: hata or grouper. Crisp/springy and slightly chewy, this was quite nice.
- Then a lovely piece of shima aji (striped jack), a fish I hadn’t had in a while. This was the highlight so far.
- Albacore to follow, with the usual scoring and seasoning with scallions. Quite nice.
- The Japanese scallop that was next was more than quite nice. A very nice texture presenting a bit of resistance as the teeth first meet it and then yielding up the sweet flesh.
- The positive streak continued with a piece of mirugai (geoduck clam), simply presented.
- We returned to the realm of the ordinary with a piece of ama ebi (sweet shrimp). The shrimp had been previously dispatched and its shell disappointingly did not make an appearance later in the meal.
- Next up was a plate with a piece of pressed saba (mackerel) sushi and a piece of tamago (“omlette”). The mackerel had a very strong cure as is not unusual for this style and it divided us a bit. The tamago was fine but, appearances to contrary, very much a regulation layered omlette.
- Up next was a hamachi handroll with scallions. This was okay, As most meals of this kind end with handrolls we thought we were done.
- But an excellent piece of dashi-marinated ikura (salmon roe) showed up next. Not as good as the version at Sushi Tsujita but good.
- And then a piece of Santa Barbara uni in nigiri form. Quite good.
- Finally, a decent piece of unagi. Again, the rice was not packed well and it all but fell apart when I tried to pick it up.
Larger comments on the meal below the crappy slideshow (not a whole lot of natural light where we were sitting).
So, quite a good meal, on the whole (and this was the entire omakase: we did not add anything on). But as I said, it had the curious effect of making us appreciate our more expensive omakase at Sushi Tsujita all the more. That may seem like an odd statement coming from me, the middle-class sushi eater who is always going on about value. Let me try to explain.
In the abstract, this meal was indeed very good value, relatively speaking: 14 courses (two of them with at least two components). Nothing was bad and the meal was not dominated by run of the mill fish. And some pieces were really quite good. (Please also keep in mind that we did ask that no bluefin be served. I’m not sure if any normally would be in this tier of their omakase and if so, what might have substituted for it.) But if you compare to the Sushi Tsujita omakase you’ll see there was much more esoteric fish served there. More importantly, the chef’s skills were far superior at Sushi Tsujita: both the knife work as well as the forming of the rice ball. Furthermore, the quality of the rice and even the nori at Sushi Tsujita was clearly on a different level.
As such, we would actually be willing to pay more for slightly less fish at Sushi Tsujita. This is not really a knock on Sushi Sushi so much as it is a belated contextual appreciation of Sushi Tsujita (it’s also possible that this suggests we are making the move out of the experienced novice level to the intermediate level). I’m sure the next tier of omakase at Sushi Sushi is more impressive still. But the price jumps to $95 and based on what we ate, if we were moved to spend that much I think we’d rather go back to Sushi Tsujita, Kiriko or Shunji (we’re yet to eat anything but the lunch sushi special at Kiriko). If you’ve had the more expensive omakases here and would disagree, please write in below.
(By the way, I’d read some reports of the head chef being somewhat mercurial. We saw no sign of this at first or through most of the meal: even though we were not seated in front of him he greeted us very warmly and he was chatting happily with the diners who sat down in front of him later. However, right at the end we caught a flash of his temper as he almost wordlessly reprimanded the chef who’d been serving us. The poor man misunderstood a substitution the boss had made on a plate going out to another diner and had the temerity to move a piece from one plate to another. The boss growled at him under his breath and moved the piece where he wanted it to be with a motion so extravagant that it left the other dude completely discombobulated.)
Our other sushi meals on this trip were less involved (at Nozomi in Torrance and the Beverly Hills outpost of Sasabune). And then I might even have some reports on a couple of sushi places in the Twin Cities as well.