My penultimate meal report from our Los Angeles trip in June is of what was probably my favourite meal of the trip, and definitely the most melancholy. Favourite because, well, sushi and particularly the lunch sushi omakase at Kiriko has always been excellent (see here and here). Melancholy because a few minutes after finishing and pledging to once again start eating regularly at Kiriko on our Los Angeles trips we discovered that they were only two weeks away from closing for good. We kicked ourselves for our years of neglect—though I should add they did not close due to lack of business; rather, due to exhaustion borne out of the stresses of the pandemic. Well, as sad as we are to see Kiriko go and to know we won’t be able to eat there again, it was a wonderful last meal. That’s something.
We had spent the morning at the Getty Center and arrived for a late lunch at 1.30. The restaurant was not empty but not deserted either. We sat at the sushi bar—a first for our boys—and got down to business. The older boy—whose widening sushi horizons I’ve previously noted—opted for the Kiriko Sushi lunch set. This comprised seven pieces of nigiri (tuna, yellowtail, salmon, halibut, albacore, shrimp and smelt egg) plus six pieces of spicy tuna roll. The younger boy got the Honey Balsamic Teriyaki Chicken. The missus and I got the Sushi Omakase—9 pieces of nigiri plus a hand roll. All our lunches came with miso soup and salad.
Both boys were happy with their lunches. The younger pronounced his teriyaki chicken the best he’d ever eaten—I took a bite and agreed with his estimation. The older likewise said his sushi was head and shoulders above any other he’d had (and since we’d eaten at Kanpachi just the day before he was able to compare the difference between decent-good sushi and very good-excellent sushi at back-to-back lunches). The missus and I were likewise very pleased with our Sushi Omakase, as we always have been at Kiriko.
I should note that this is not their big Sushi Omakase but the lunch special omakase. At our first meal at Kiriko this had cost $40/head. Now it was $60/head. But it still felt like a steal for the price (more on this after the slideshow). What did it include on this occasion? In order:
- Tai (snapper), lightly dressed with lemon and sea salt
- Kanpachi (amberjack)
- Komasu (barracuda), seared
- Engawa (halibut/flounder fin muscle), dressed with soy, pickled plum and chives
- Kohada (gizzard shad)
- Hotate (Japanese scallop), lightly dusted with sea salt and yuzu peel
- Kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), lightly seared
- Lightly smoked salmon with caviar—their signature dish
- Shima aji (striped jack)
- Sea eel hand roll for the missus; a blue crab handroll for me
We also could not resist adding on a few pieces between the shima aji and the hand rolls. We both got a piece of tako/octopus. This had been lightly smoked, I think, and was fabulous. We also both got a piece of Santa Barbara uni and I added on a piece of ikura (salmon roe).
Highlights? Well, everything was at least very good. If I had to choose a few, I’d pick the tako, the tai, the engawa, the kohada, the hotate, the smoked salmon and the shima aji. Well, I guess that’s almost everything.
Pictures are in the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it cost and for a few more thoughts on Kiriko in closing.
The total with extra pieces, tax and tip came to $270. More than half of that, of course, was the two sushi omakases. Compare with our meal at Kanpachi. That was a pretty good deal we thought at $215. Here we paid $55 more but the fish was a few levels above and everything else was much better as well. And so I’d say again that this was a deal for what it was—which is how we’ve always felt about Kiriko.
I want to note in closing how much we appreciate Kiriko and Chef Namba’s resistance to the Temple of Sushi syndrome that has always afflicted most of the high-end in Los Angeles. I also want to salute their refusal to join the price arms race at the high end in Los Angeles in the last several years. Now it’s true that you could have spent a lot of money—especially at dinner—at Kiriko as well if you did the unrestrained omakase; my point, however, is that they offered many price points at lunch and dinner. They were in this sense always a neighbourhood sushi spot, serving excellent fish, yes, to those who only wanted to eat that, but plenty else to everyone else—and not requiring the sale of a kidney to eat any of it. And, of course, Chef Namba’s non-purist approach to sushi was central to the development of a Los Angeles style of sushi.
Kiriko will be deeply missed. I trust that after a rest, Chef Namba and his team will reopen another incarnation elsewhere. If it’s in the mold of Kiriko, we will not be foolish enough to take their presence for granted.
Okay, my last report from this Los Angeles trip will be posted in a week. Tomorrow, I’ll have another Kauai report. On Tuesday either a Minneapolis or Bloomington report. Whisky in between.