Omakase at Z-Sushi (in Alhambra)
Sorry this is a bit long-winded but if you're looking for details before you try it out. btw, I noticed that other Omakase postings for Z-Sushi have a completely different menu!
Had my 2nd omakase this weekend (Sat dinner). Me and my girl headed over to Z-Sushi in Temple City for an "Omakase-Z" dinner. You can say it was a 13-course meal but it really was a bunch of sushi's served individually. Here's what the chef served.
1. halibut sashimi w/ ponzu sauce, tofu, cooked seaweed. most dishes were served w/ seaweed. the halibut was so thin and delicate. great starter.
2. sushi assortment. yellowtail, tuna, red snapper [from Japan!], squid, uni, all raw. this plate was a huge disappointment. it was poor quality sushi in large quantities.
3. seared sweet shrimp and seared scallops [from Japan!]. the shrimp was delicious but the scallops were disappointing. i've had better scallops. we started to feel our stomachs bulge at this point and the large quantity of raw foods were getting to me.
4. bright red tuna served with a sushi roll filled w/ rice and salmon roe. and yet another serving of raw food. at this point, i had to wonder "is the chef crazy or is he on to something?" this roll looked gorgeous like some bright red gem crammed into a sushi. it could have used more flavor but the texture was very creamy.
5. red snapper sushi. i don't even remember eating this but my girl insists that we did.
6. fried shrimp head. the head of the sweet shrimp that we had earlier arrived a bit later.
7. unagi sushi. it was a small portion and looked very plain. but w/ our expectations low, we were surprised to find that the unagi was very crunchy and tasty.
8. mackerel sushi served w/ a heap of minced ginger. i believe the cut of meat was from the tail of the fish. for some reason, this part of the fish was bloody looking and looked a bit unappetizing. it turned out to be so delicate and flavorful.
9. lightly seared toro sushi. there were two sushi pieces. one was a toro sushi served with a thin slice of jalapeno and the other was what seemed to be mashed toro bits mixed with scallions and random stuff and then layed over sushi rice. i've never had toro so i was very excited. keep in mind that both of us felt completely stuffed at this point. and yet both of the rolls were so good. please don't let me describe what makes toro so good because i wouldn't do it justice.
I wonder if the chef deliberately fed us so much food in the beginning to help us appreciate the toro not as a sushi to scarf down but a delicacy to appreciate bite for bite. While I was chewing on the toro, Theresa suggested that I stop chewing and feel the fish melt in my mouth. It was that delicate.
10. clams and mushroom. this was our first hot dish. i was relieved because this meant the dinner was coming to a close. my stomach was ready to burst but i tried a few bites out of curiousity. the plate didn't impress me but still i felt so relieved.
11. fried mackerel head and tail. we tore apart the head and scarfed down the head guts (appetizing yea?).
the next dish took a bit longer than the others. at this point, i signaled the chef that we couldn't eat anymore. but he wanted to serve us a soup that he was working on. the soup probably took a bit longer because, well, it's a soup.
12. soup and cooked mackerel. so the rest of the mackerel was served. we ate an entire fucking mackerel, served 3 ways. tasting the versatility of this fish was an incredible experience. and even better, this dish marked the end of a long journey.
13. tempura green tea ice cream. delicious!
I was a bit disappointed that the chef at Z-Sushi completely overestimated our appetite but in retrospect, I can appreciate his delivery of the sushi. He started with a big tease followed with a plate of standard sushi. Then each sushi after that increased in quality by one notch until we climaxed at the toro. Then we reminisced on the experience in the warmth of a soup and the finishing touch of dessert. Yes, it was very much like sex.
Dinner came to be $110.
Is there a Z Sushi in Temple City, or are you talking about the one in Alhambra near Twohey's?
If it's the latter, I've been there several times for omakase. They list several omakase options at different price points, but I've always preferred to let them keep making me dishes until I'm full.
The first time I ever went, the sushi chef (don't remember which one, unfortunately), asked my friend and me if we wanted to split each dish presented so that we each got one piece of whatever was served instead of two, so that we could try more sushi.
All the meals run together in my mind, but I've always been very pleased with what was presented to us, and have never had the sushi assortment (your #2) that you described. Meals have run between $35-40/person, without alcohol or tax/tip, every time I've gone.
I believe he's referring to the place between Twohey's and In N Out.
Not to get in a pissing match, but I ate there the night after the OP and had yellowtail and tuna sushi and both were superlative. I also had salmon, also excellent, and albacore, which I thought very good, but not excellent.
Overall, I think this place is a match for Sushi Gen downtown -- without the crowds -- and if I lived in Pas/S.Pas/Alhambra/Arcadia, I would feel very lucky indeed.
re: Alimentary My Dear Watson
Z is the only place in the area i would recommend to anyone who is serious about their sushi. i recommend (among other things):
- the anago - he prepares it himself (a lot of places serve the commerically processed stuff) (and this way he also has the bones to use to make the tsume) and he somehow makes his anago almost fluffy in texture;
- the kohada - which he also prepares himself - but his kohada has an almost smoky kind of tinge to it;
- the seared salmon with yuzu-gosho;
- the tai - which he dresses with yuzu and sea salt;
the latter two i've had elsewhere (but not around pasadena - no, i think you might be able to get something w/yuzu-gosho at zono sushi in glendale but you have to know to ask), but the flavor & texture of the kohada & anago are in my experience unique to toshi (the itamae).
toshi also does a credible version of osaka-style batera - minus the wooden box - but you have to know to ask for it.
gotta go or i'd wax on for another hour or two....
Wow, I'm impressed w/ the number of responses to my original post. Anyone know of a way to receive alerts when my posts are responded to?
I had Z-Sushi a second time, this time w/ my parents. It was a bit of a disappointment so I wanted to make sure people are aware of this.
Please don't get me wrong. The food was absolutely delicious; but we expected heaps of exotic sushi like what we were served on our first visit. Instead, Toshi served more hot foods like a red snapper served 3 ways (sushi, soup, fried fin). He probably recognized me from my first visit and wanted to serve something different. And while it was really good, I kinda wanted more of the toro and spanish mackerel and made a dumb assumption that's what he'd serve. btw, the baby yellowtail was so good; almost like toro!
So if you're expecting specific fish then make sure to request it explicitly. Otherwise, "chef's choice" is literally what you get!
btw, Toshi's exuberance in making his food is very contagious. Make sure to have him describe the dish when he serves. He seems to take great pride in everything he makes. I can't wait to go back.
also, here's what we had that night at Z-Sushi.
- starter: halibut sashimi
- unagi (or anago?) sushi
- salmon sashimi w/ skin torched
- red snapper sashimi; so fresh
- fried red snapper fin: Both of the main fins were deep fried. The muscles that power these fins are very tender. I really enjoyed this dish.
- fried red snapper tail and skin: I didn't really understand this dish but ate it anyway.
- baby yellowtail sashimi: It was so tender and plump.
- red snapper soup
- soup w/ mushroom and sea salt: Toshi had us smell the mushroom when raw. It was a pungent/sweet aroma and tasted really good in the soup. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, the soup was very tasty.
- halibut fin sashimi
- green tea ice cream
With sake, the bill came out to $150 for 3 people.
- omakase generally also reflects what the chef may consider special that day. toshi seldom mentions the red snapper to me;
- both the fin & tail meat are often quite unique in taste in texture;
- the mushroom in question (IIRC found only on certain black pine trees) is generally in season only during the fall and runs over $100/lb. just a little goes a long way in flavoring a soup.
one last thing - if you give toshi advance notice for a special omakase - he can include fugu when it's in season (as it is now)