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Jan 18, 2007 04:13 AM

Asuka Restaurant (Westwood) - new and improved

A recent Asuka review!

I have been so impressed and satisfied by Asuka that I have been back twice in the past week (lunch and dinner). This is a long review, so to summarize: fresh seafood, creative chefs, absolutely great selection on the sushi menu as well as overall with fish, meat, and salads; all coming at a reasonable price and friendly service (the parking out back help).

Before this, I had visited on and off, the most recent being over the summer last year (Aug 06) and didn't think twice of it. The sushi in particularly was made by seemingly uninspired chefs and showed in the product.

I am originally from Japan so I am picky with my sushi, although I have readjusted my standards for American sushi. Décor, apparently, means more in America --- for example Koi and Tengu are severely unbalanced in terms of presentation versus quality of food.

Anyways! Onto Asuka! I sat at the sushi bar and the first thing that I noticed that was different was the amount of specials that were available (about 15-20). My sushi chef Aki told me that the specials change daily (even between lunch and dinner) and recommended the Live Sweet Shrimp (amaebi) to start. Beautifully plump; the sushi simply melted in my mouth. I was pleasantly surprised when the head was brought out as a tempura dish soon after with the waitress saying with flourish, "It was alive 2 minutes ago!".

Well, another testament to freshness followed with the Blue Fin Toro. The color of the fish was bright, not dull. I loved the fleshy bite (not rubbery, yes!), and of course the awesome rich, toro taste.

Another thing that was different about this "new" Asuka was the creativity of the sushi chefs. I tried the Shiitake-Mushroom sushi. I was skeptical, but it was juicy and clean tasting. I highly recommend it as a finisher! The Orange Clam was something else I tried out of pure interest and it turned out beautifully. The presentation with the obaa leaf and sprinkles of masago with lemon was great.

I also tried the Edamame-Tofu, which is "yuba" in Japanese, Kyoto based and one of my favorite childhood 'nutritious' foods and it lived up to my expectations – tasty. I gulped down the cold broth, mm...

There were so many other things I wanted to try on the menu...from what I remember there was Bonito sashimi with Cilantro and Jalapeno, Kama (yellowtail neck), Oyster half shells, etc...

Non sushi items of note was the miso soup: it looks and tastes authentic (if you let it sit, the soup gets incredibly clear at the edges with the murkiness collecting in the middle) and the salads. Also try the Japanese Shiso Beef from the Robata.

For lunch, my friend had the "Tuna Plate", which included Albacore Tuna sushi, Big Eye Tuna sushi, Super White Tuna sushi and Spicy Tuna rolls. The rolls were good, but it is hard to mess up a roll. A good sushi shop does not feature more rolls than sushi. Asuka is definitely rooted in sushi, not rolls, but the ones they have are interesting and tasty, like the Lobster Langoustine Roll. You can also always request your favorite one like I did ;).

Before I forget! I chatted with the staff and was interested in hearing that there will be more changes to come in the next 2-3 weeks, one of which will be to start serving lots of different high quality wines and sake. I can't wait. If anyone has been there recently, your comments would be appreciated; if not, you should go and taste the changes! (Btw, on a completely different note, it snowed at UCLA tonight, so if you are going soon, dress warm!)

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  1. Did they improve the decor as well? What happened? A change of ownership?

    1. funny you should mention it. We were there on Sat night and the food choices--non sushi--were far better than the average Japanese place And the joint was jumping. We enjoyed it too.

      1. Asuka is our neighborhood sushi joint and Mme Zoe and I have been pushing this place on the board for years (on and off). It truly is a gem in the concrete jungle of Westwood - OK the decor is a bit 70's but you can't beat the warm welcome of the host person, owner, waitperson and the attention of either Ken or Was the sushi masters. There is a great buzz to the room with people eating good food, well prepared, good service - water, tea, booze and warm attention from the sushi deck. Chowpuplet and I had lunch there a couple of weeks ago at the grill (?) opposite the sushi bar, delicious. Appreciate Naomi's input since she really knows Japanese foods - we are just lovers and glad to know our taste is up there. I love Friday nights, its like a big party.

        1. The chef named Aki that you mention worked for many years at our favorite local (Sherman Oaks) sushi bar, Iwata. We were heartbroken when he moved to Asuka because he was our favorite chef at Iwata and he always treated us beautifully. We have been meaning to try Asuka but it's not exactly convenient for a weeknight, which is when we eat most of our sushi. Reading your positive review will serve as a nudge to get over there one night.

          1. We enjoyed Asuka this past Saturday evening. We arrived when they opened at 5:30pm and our service was very attentive; we were never without a full cup of hot tea! I ordered from the recommended fresh fish chalkboard, went from top to bottom, and everything was very fresh. I will return for the white shrimp with black caviar (if they have it)...really different.

            I thought the prices were quite reasonable for the quality. With only tea and no alcoholic beverages, we were about $60 for two. Although we did not eat a huge quantity, we were quite satisfied and even had room for a Ditty Reese cookie! When we walked back past Asuka about 7:00pm, the restaurant and sushi bar were full.

            It might be helpful to know that they have a huge (for Westwood) parking lot with valet parking.

            1266 Westwood Blvd. in Westwood