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Sushi Zo Review

After reading so many rave reviews about this place, my sister, friend and I eagerly sat down to an omakase dinner Tuesday night with Keizo-san.

At 8pm, we were the only ones there. Two cheerful servers greeted us with hot towels and laid out pretty dishware in front of us. I liked how each piece was unique. We even got to pick out our own sake glasses :)

Then the magic began. Here's a list of what we had (this is from memory, so the order is a little off)

1. A beautiful Kumamoto oyster with ponzu sauce. Absolutely fresh and delicious
2. Baby abalone. I loved the texture, which was less "chewy" and more "crispy"
3. Uni with squid "noodles". OMG, I'm in love. I've heard about this dish before and am so very glad that I finally got to try it. The textures and tastes melded perfectly
4. Ankimo (monkfish liver). I've had this once before and wasn't too fond of it. But Keizo's ankimo was delicious. It was served slightly warm and had a delicate flavor to it. Definitely the foie gras of the sea.

Then we braced ourselves for the sushi. Keizo presented each fish and would instruct us whether or not to use soy sauce, but most of them came already perfectly seasoned.

5. Maguro (tuna)
6. Kanpachi (soetimes called baby yellowtail)
7. Aji (spanish mackerel) - now this was absolutely delicious. I've had aji before and it's usually been oily and fishy. This aji had no fishiness at all.
8. Scallop with yuzu and sea salt
9. Mirugai (giant clam) with shiso leaf. I loved how the shiso added that fresh clean taste....
10. White shrimp. First time trying it and it was delicious! I like it better than sweet shrimp and i LOOOOOVE sweet shrimp
11. Shima aji (amberjack). Keizo explained that it's kind of between mackerel and whitefish. I loved this one.
12. Uni (sea urchin) - I've had better but it was decent
12. Ikura (salmon roe) - Not a big fan of this at all. It's always FISHY and salty as hell. But Keizo's ikura was mild with just a hint of briny salty goodness.
14. Seared butterfish with miso sauce - kind of like miso black cod but then again not. It was buttery sweet goodness
15. Toro hand roll - TORO, people. Simply decadent.
16. Anago (saltwater eel). Never had this before but fell in love. YUMMMMMM!!!!
17. Octopus with yuzu
18. Flying fish - this one was whatever. Wasn't bad, but nothing to wow over

And finally,

19. Yuzu drink - a chilled "shot" of sweet citrusy heaven

2 hours of eating, 2 bottles of sake for three people came out to $215 before tax. Amazing deal.

During dinner, 3 parties of 2 came in, two of them sitting at the sushi bar, one at a table. Surprisingly enough, the two parties at the sushi bar were fellow chowhounds! It was great meeting you, Sasha and CiaoBob :)

Sushi Zo is now my special local sushi bar (my sister lives right down the street) and I'm already dreaming of the next time I go again ....

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  1. I am possessed by dreams of the non-alcoholic liquid-gold well-chilled yuzu drink at the finale...

    Did Keizo tell you about it? Did he tell you where you can purchase it?

    12 Replies
      1. re: PaulF

        Thanks, but this is not it! The one you sent me I have seen in Japanese markets and is used for cooking. This was solely a drinking yuzu beverage. It was crystal clear, almost like a non-alcoholic plum wine. I have checked several Japanese markets and no one has pointed me there, yet!

        1. re: liu

          How funny... I must've just missed you guys. I was there on Tuesday AND Wednesday night as well! I asked about the yuzu drink and the lady said, "It is our secret." However, the first time I went in, Keizo said they mix it themselves... I'm guessing they dilute a yuzu mixture with simple syrup????

          1. re: banquisha

            Yuzu and simple syrup...this is pretty close! I am just wondering how he attained a crystal clear liquid. There was no citrus-y suspension. But I do think you are very close, Banquisha.

            1. re: liu

              i was told it was yuzu and honey. this would not have been impossible if the yuzu was juiced, strained, and mixed with white or raw honey.

              1. re: revets2

                Although it has been awhile, I haven't forgotten Zo's heavenly yuzu drink...did you have it?

                Who told you "yuzu and honey?" We have three fruits on our yuzu tree and one appears almost ready for harvest. I was directed to harvest before the fruit turns too yellow, and then use the zest or aromatics of the skin and not the internal part. So, when we do pick our first yuzu, I will experiment with both a simple syrup and with honey. Detective revets2, thanks for this very well-guarded info.

                1. re: liu

                  I was instructed to use sqeeze fresh yuzu over a pot of matsutake mushroom soup once so it must have some uses...

                2. re: revets2

                  I am responding to JudiAU's comment about using the actual yuzu juice and not just the rind zest or essence. (There are already too many "replies," so I could not place this exactly on the post where it belongs, just under your post.) Thanks for this input. I only have three fruits on the tree, so they are quite precious. With your suggestion, I will try ALL parts when I harvest my first one to see what has flavor. Thanks!

        2. re: liu

          I was discussing the yuzu drink with my sister and she says she could have sworn that the waitress said something about "apple juice"?

          1. re: MeowMixx

            Hmmmm?? It just did not have the apple flavor, but perhaps apple juice was the base with yuzu mixed in. MeowMixx, this is good detective work, and it offers me something to play with when my yuzu tree finally produces its first fruit! You can be sure I will be the Mad Scientist in the kitchen, trying to duplicate what we had at Sushi Zo!

            1. re: MeowMixx

              not sure about the apple juice. =) definitely yuzu though.

              liu - u might want to go to tsuruhashi in long beach and try the yuzu sorbet. so refreshing =)

              1. re: Alice

                Alice, thanks for the suggestion. I will have to file that as I don't get down quite that way too often. But it is something that I won't forget when I am in that part of town.

                I see on your "My Chow" that sushi is at the top of your list...mine, too! So, give me another, more serious reason to get to Long Beach!

          2. see, now, this is what Jonathan Gold, when he does his review in the Weekly, which will bring in absurd amounts of deserved clientele, could hang the whole thing on. the legendary Yuzu drink that drives sane sushi-eaters mad! mad, I tell you! ha hahahhahhh....

            1 Reply
            1. re: annagranfors

              you're absolutely right j gold will hinge the review, on teh yuzu drink, esp, the first paragraph or so, and then start to discuss the sushi.

              i guess this is what set's zo apart from nozawa, the juice drink.

            2. Great report MeowMixx. And nice to meet you as well. Very detailed and I didn't notice you writing at the bar so you have one sharp memory -- even with two bottles of sake. Here is my (more limited or, perhaps, beer-beffudled) post on the night

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              Sounds like he used up the best of the aji on you guys, but everything else was superb.

              1. Meowmixx, great review of Sushi Zo. My gf and i just went there tonight after reading a review a friend had written on Rafu.com. We ordered the omakase and he asked if there were certain things we did not eat. Like many of the other posts written on Sushi Zo, we were one of very few people eating at the restaurant. Almost all of which were sitting at the sushi bar. I'll cut to the point, fish was super fresh, rice was the best i've ever had, and it was a good deal for omakase. As for the chef, I have no doubt that he has skills - you can see that in the Yuzu drink and soy sauce that he prepares himself. However, I don't think he is as amiable as most people say he is. I noticed the patrons next to us had skipped out on one of his dishes. He quickly went over and tried to give her the guilt trip for not eating it and seemed a bit pushy. Seemed like his feelings were hurt. I make it a point to talk to sushi chefs at the bar and let him know what you like/dislike and most importantly, let him know that you enjoy his food. Chef Keizo didn't seem like he wanted to talk much. That's fine. But yes, I would go back there for the food, but probably not say a word to him.

                1 Reply
                1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                  I'm glad you had a great dining experience at Zo. But I'm sorry to hear your "eh" experience with Keizo. He's been nothing but nice, charming and funny to me.

                  btw, i love your blog. I've been a fan for quite sometime :)

                2. Sushi Zo is probably the best sushi I have ever eaten! I have been really fortunate and have had the opportunity to eat at some of the finest sushi bars throughout Japan, and Sushi Zo stands out as the best. Fresh fish, perfectly balanced, perfectly prepared...what more can you ask. I love his attitude of focusing in on one thing...fresh sushi. Chef Keizo has a vision of what he thinks sushi should be and he has brought his vision to life. He once told me that he wants his sushi to do the talking, not himself. So listen to what his sushi is saying to you and not Chef Keizo. Apparently he got his word across to eatdrinknbmerry without saying a thing.... THE FINEST SUSHI!

                  1. any opinions from folks who've had hundreds of pieces of toro, saltwater eel and monkfish liver, for example?

                    what i'm still not sure of is how this place stands against the best places for omakase in the country, which include several in LA.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: epop

                      Epop, I haven't eaten tons of Toro but liked Zo's. I really haven't had bad toro. As for the monkfish liver, my favorite will have to be that of Sushi Zo's. Most restaurants will probably serve it cold with a roll and some ponzu. Keizo does the same but quickly steams the ankimo first. In addition to the warm rice, you're getting warm monkfish liver - and it simply melts in your mouth.

                      1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                        for some reason, i'm not a fan of warm monkfish liver doused in sauce, i think that is the way too hide poor quality out of season ankimo.

                      2. re: epop

                        i'm not a toro expert but there are various grades. o-toro is the creme de la creme and super fatty. chu-toro is the 2nd best cut. i've had chu-toro at sushi zo and it's as good as i've had anywhere (including in japan). i haven't had o-toro at zo yet. but the important thing is that you want a chef who will distinguish between the different grades, either on the menu or if you ask what kind of toro it is. i have had o-toro at nozawa however and it was definitely prime, prime stuff.

                        1. re: rameniac

                          Actually there are several Grades of Otoro. Urasawa uses A grade(followed by B, C) which costs 100- per lb, or more.
                          Sushi ZO is good but not in our top 10. Nozawa is miles better across the board, especially quality wise(big players at the WHOLESALE Fish MKT are Sasabune, Kiriko, Nozawa, Urasawa,Mori,Hiko,Wa,Ansenbo,and a couple of others, but I prefer talking to Keizo anytime. Out of 734 Sushi Bars in LA , Sushi Zo is in the Top 30, not bad? I figured it out recently and I've enjoyed Sushi 5000+ times in 30 yrs and I'm not Japanese.

                      3. did nozawa say it was ototro, usu. it's all closer to chu-toro over there. or else he'd be charging 15 -20 for a duo rather than 7-8 bucks.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kevin

                          it was a long time ago and i don't think he said. but if it was just chu-toro it was an exceptionally buttery selection that day. at the time i may not have known the difference, but i remember that piece of toro as being much better than even some o-toro i've had since then...

                        2. i've never asked, o- or chu-, but nozawa's version just looks different. at most other places, i see the pink and white separated like salmon. at nozawa however, it's just a light pink piece of toro. it's also never stringy there, which can't be claimed by lot of sushi joints. that being said, i had it last week and it wasn't up to par. texture was great as usual but taste was lacking. this was evident in both the toro sushi and tuna roll (which i believe uses leftover toro scraps).

                          1. ate at SUSHI ZO for the first time tonight. don't usually post on the first try, but my family has gone several times before me and let me know my experience was consistent with theirs.

                            i thoroughly enjoyed my meal and experience here. one different dish i had which was not listed above was the blue crab roll. it was blue crab and rice rolled into warm and crispy, crispy nori. it seems so simple, but i much prefer it to crab roll at sasabune. i like the fish just as much and the ambiance better than nozawa.

                            his uni tonight was one of the best i've ever had, dry surface, not gooey and almost certainly from santa barbara.

                            his chu-toro wasn't the best i've ever had, but the my three knowledgeable dining companions thought it was great.

                            the nama-sake or "fresh" sake, is one of the most pleasant pairings i've had with an omakase menu.

                            the slightly steamed ankimo (mf liver) was terrific and mine wasn't doused.

                            can't wait to try it again.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: revets2

                              I went to Sushi Zo (finally) on Saturday night, and shortly after I arrived, it was full, from 7:30 until 9:30. I don't know if the closing time has been extended, but Keizo allowed people to sit at the bar at 9:30 when we were leaving.

                              What everyone else mentioned on the omakase menu was exactly what I had. The monkfish liver was amazing. The sea urchin was wonderful (I almost skipped it after an experience in Seoul where I was given a whole sea urchin and was quite turned off). And his octopus was the freshest I've ever had (outside of Tokyo). I wish I had ordered the blue crab, but maybe next time. I live in Sherman Oaks so go to Nozawa a lot, and I will say, hands down this fish was better and more adventurous than Nozawa. Also the atmosphere was far more pleasing and relazed. Keizo even joked around with a small child who was banging a plastic truck on his table. "Quiet!" he yelled, but you could tell he was joking and the patrons smiled as well.

                              I felt the prices were fair. For three of us it was about $200 w/o tip. The men had more Kirin than I.

                              I wish this were closer to SO, but will surely make this drive to do this again. Also, I parked at the Von's on the corner of Castle Heights and National -- drove right past it on my first attempt at finding it.

                              1. re: foleydog

                                I just have to say that I had another great meal there on Friday night. I live within walking distance and this is becoming a very expensive habit!

                                1. re: Snoopy

                                  I had omakase dinner two nights in a row. I had to put myself on a Sushi Zo time-out for a little while. But I'm planning on going this weekend and so excited :)

                            2. another great omakase meal here this evening.