There isn’t much worth reviewing, food-wise, in Northfield, the small Minnesota town in which we live, and so I haven’t reviewed much: only El Triunfo, a small, unpretentious Mexican restaurant and store. For a town with two colleges, we certainly don’t have the usual college town staples: there’s no Thai or Vietnamese; the two Chinese places are execrable and the one surviving Indian place is not much better, despite a welcome change in ownership. Beyond that is mostly sandwiches and the Ole Store, whose food falls quite a bit short of its pretensions and its local reputation and popularity. Which brings us to Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant on Highway 3 that opened about five years ago (I want to say), and of which the best that can probably be said is that it is mostly inoffensive. I hadn’t planned to review it either—I’d only eaten there twice in the years since its opening—but a friend mock-criticized me for not reviewing more local places just a couple of days before I was scheduled to take a visiting guest there, and so here we are. Continue reading
My Twin Cities readers who are sick of my criticisms of sushi in Minnesota and my constant praise of sushi in Los Angeles will be pleased to read this review of Tenno Sushi, a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo that is no better than the places I’ve found lacking here (though also no worse). How did we end up here despite our commitment to eating high quality sushi in Los Angeles? Well, due to the intersection of two reasons: we needed to be at the Natural History Museum after lunch; and our older brat decided on this trip that he wanted to finally try sushi and we needed to find a place that was relatively kid-friendly. Continue reading
Well, it has been two and a half years since my last foray into a sushi bar proclaimed excellent by the local media. Since that less than inspiring meal a new contender has emerged on the scene: Kado no Mise. Unpromisingly, it features the same chef from Origami, Shige Furukawa, who presided over our disastrous lunch there in 2014, and it’s in the same space. At this point you would think that I would know better than to fall for praise that’s so easily dished out in this area but hope of good raw fish springs eternal in my cold, cold heart. And so when an old friend from our Colorado days blew into town on work I made a reservation at Kado no Mise’s bar and met her there for dinner on a Wednesday night. I’m pleased to say that the meal was not a disaster. I’m less pleased to say that it was, nonetheless, passable at best and that a few things were not very good at all. Continue reading
On our last two trips to Los Angeles we’ve done a big, expensive sushi omakase at Mori. On this trip we decided not to spend most of our sushi money on one meal and instead spread it around a bit more. Accordingly, we hit up Osawa a couple of days after we arrived; the plan after that was to go back for Kiriko’s lunch omakase and then see if we could find an acceptable budget place somewhere between Koreatown and downtown. The latter plan came to a bad end—more on this in a couple of weeks—and as it happens, we didn’t end up going to Kiriko either. Instead, we ended up at Shiki in Beverly Hills. I’d read accounts of their lunch omakase that sounded quite appealing and we decided we’d give a new place a go. And we were very glad we did. In the process I also ended up with my first and probably last ever bit of restaurant breaking news: the return of one of Los Angeles’ sushi legends to the sushi bar. Continue reading
As I’ve said a number of times before, sushi is the one thing we no longer eat in Minnesota. Rather than be disappointed (at not insignificant cost) over and over again, we save our sushi dollars and get our fill on our annual trips to Los Angeles. On the last few trips this has involved a blow out dinner at Mori (see here and here). On this trip, however, going out to dinner sans the brats turned out to be a no-no and so we’ve had to pass on Mori (they stopped opening for lunch a couple of years ago). We decided instead to turn the cost of an omakase at Mori into a few more meals at mid-tier places. This is where Osawa comes in. Continue reading
Apple Valley, a suburb of the Twin Cities, is not a place you’d probably look for Japanese food in and my experiences at Masu Sushi & Noodles suggest that it’s probably best if you don’t. It’s not bad per se but the best I could say of the best of what I ate was that it was inoffensive. This is generally true of the larger Japanese food scene in the area. Whether it’s the original Origami or newer places like Sushi Fix or Kyatchi, restaurants that would be marginal in most major cities in the US are talked about breathlessly here by the professionals as though they could hold their own anywhere. This makes it hard to know what to make of highly-praised newer places, whether at the high end (see, for example, the new sushi and kaiseki place by an ex-Origami chef) or at the more affordable end (see the newer noodle/ramen shops that have opened in Minneapolis). Well, I can tell you that Masu Sushi & Noodles in Apple Valley is not a place you should go to expecting good sushi or noodles. Believe me, I would be very happy if I could tell you otherwise. Unfortunately, they’ve put far more effort into their vaguely Orientalist decor than into their recipes and execution. Continue reading
Our first visit to Mori was almost a year ago—it was our very last meal out in 2015 and it was one of the best meals we ate all that year. It was not cheap—the most we’d spent on a sushi-centered meal so far. It was, however, an excellent meal—by far the best sushi we’d ever eaten and we knew we wanted to go back on our next trip in the summer (yes, it has taken me five months to finally finish writing up all our meals from our L.A trip in the summer). We’d planned to go back for lunch and eat slightly cheaper: we’d been told on our last visit that at lunch the omakase ran about $80 and served up 15 pieces of fish; that seemed like the sweet spot between our appetites and our wallets. Alas, right before we got to L.A. Mori stopped serving lunch. I thought briefly about going somewhere else for our anniversary meal but the missus suggested that we just bite the bullet and go back to Mori and just eat one less meal of sushi elsewhere in the trip. And so we did. It was very good again but the experience fell a bit short of our first visit. Continue reading
I will not annoy my Minnesota readers again by repeating my views on the quality of sushi in the Twin Cities metro area. Suffice it to say, we save our sushi dollars and eat sushi when we’re in Los Angeles. While we splurge on one high-end sushi meal on each trip (it was Mori again on this trip—review coming in a few weeks) we also eat a lunch or two at mid-range places. On this trip we decided to go back to Hirozen in Beverly Hills, a place I used to eat at every once in a while more than 12 years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles. Well, time doesn’t stand still. The name has changed (it’s Matsumoto now; everything else about the restaurant remains the same—Matsumoto is the old chef’s name) and I didn’t like it quite as much as I did back in the day. Is that because they’ve changed, or is it because then I hadn’t had any sushi that was better? Tough to say, but I suspect it’s the latter. Continue reading
Here is the last of my meal reports from our recent trip to Los Angeles. I began those trip reports with an account of a very expensive omakase dinner at Mori and so it’s appropriate that the last one be of a quick lunch closer to the opposite end of the sushi continuum in Los Angeles: at Sushi Go 55, an unassuming restaurant in a mall in Little Tokyo that serves largely people who work in nearby businesses and for which no one (well, no one who is not on Yelp or Tripadvisor) has ever made any strong claims. We were going to be in the area and needed a quick place for lunch and given how poor the sushi scene in the Twin Cities is, were more than willing to roll the dice on an affordable fourth or fifth tier place in L.A. And wouldn’t you know it, the meal was, on the whole, superior to all my sushi outings in the Twin Cities, and far cheaper.
This is part of my quest to eat at Los Angeles area sushi restaurants whose names resemble those of the dwarves Bilbo Baggins accompanied to the Lonely Mountain: first Mori, now Nori; come back later in the week for Ori! Actually, no: if there is a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles named Ori, we have not eaten there. We only ended up at Nori after our meal at Mori because a) we were in search of a decent place that would be open late for lunch on a Monday and b) was not going to be a major hit on the wallet. Why even bother with cheaper sushi on a Monday when there are so many other excellent cheap eats in Los Angeles? Well, when you live in Minnesota where finding even average sushi is an achievement, and it’s priced like it’s better than that, you don’t need to eat at the upper echelons of the L.A. scene to be happy. It’s also the case that my reviews of sushi in L.A. have hitherto covered better known places and I was curious to see what hidden gems there might be out there. Well, I’m not sure if Nori quite rises to gem level but it was surprisingly good and very good value. Continue reading
My first restaurant review of 2015 was of a dinner omakase at Shunji and so it seems fitting that my last restaurant review of the year is of an omakase meal at Mori. Shunji, Mori and perhaps Zo are the three sushi bars that are likely to be near the top of most Los Angeles sushi aficionados’ lists—though some make the case as well for the recently opened Q, and some for the far less classical Kiriko . (I’m not counting Urasawa here both because the base experience there costs several hundred percent more and because it’s known as much, if not more, for its kaiseki dishes as for its sushi per se.) Continue reading
Nozomi is in Torrance, a city in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but for the purposes of my reviews Los Angeles more or less refers to all of LA County (the San Gabriel Valley isn’t part of the city of Los Angeles either). Torrance has a very large Japanese population, especially as a percentage of the total population. A large part of this stems from Toyota opening its US headquarters there in the late 1960s, followed by other companies. Nissan moved out in 2006 and, more seismically, Toyota announced plans to move to Texas last year. This has doubtless been a big blow to the many businesses that cater to Japanese executives—a clientele that has also driven the high quality of Japanese food in Los Angeles at large. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect will be, or if there’s now going to be a Japanese food renaissance in Plano, Texas (which is where Toyota is going). Continue reading
Kyatchi is a relatively new entrant to the Minneapolis sushi market. It opened just about a year and a half ago and has steadily acquired a strong reputation. When I posted my account of our not-very-good meal at Origami last year a friend recommended it instead; and since then it’s been showing up near the top of many people’s lists. But the same is true of Sushi Fix and I was very far from impressed with my meal there. So, while I’d planned to hit Kyatchi right after that meal, I was a little gun shy. But then I read this interview with Chef Hide Tozawa on City Pages and he seemed to hit all the right notes for me, promising an experience not centered on wacky rolls, unlike at most MSP restaurants (“if you look at my menu, especially sushi, there are no Americanized rolls. I made those things enough in my career in the United States. I want diners at Kyatchi to see what a single ingredient can create if it is done right”); and suggesting that their selection is not limited by their laudable focus on sustainable fish (“Welcome to 21st century transportation. It’s great. You can get whatever you want overnight”). Continue reading
Every time we come back from Los Angeles in the summer I go through sushi withdrawal and begin to think hopefully about sushi in the Twin Cities. I’ve described my prejudices before, in my review of Origami, which, unfortunately, also seemed to see those prejudices confirmed. That experience seemed at the time enough to ward off thoughts of sushi in Minnesota for another 10 years. However, predictably enough, at the conclusion of this summer’s trip I once again began to think about eating sushi here.