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sushi zo-yum!

Finally made it here for dinner. Made a rez for 8:30 and there were a few empty tables and seats at the bar. I ordered the omakase and was inpressed at how delicious everything was. Luckily, I was seated right in front of Keizo and I was given a huge amount of sushi I can't remember how many pieces or everything I had, but the standouts were the oyster, butterfish, toro/bluefin combo, ikura/uni combo, red snapper, ama ebi (alas, no fried head). I loved the juice at the end and the blue crab roll. Chef Keizos hands were flying as he made each order and the total with a great glass of sake was $106 without tip. About twice as much as I expected to spend but hey, you only live once. I would love to take my hubby here but will stick to ala cart since the sticker shock might do him in.
I did glance at my itemized bill and everything was from $2.50 to $8 except one piece that was $13. It may have been the Shima aji. The sake (Hakkaisan) was $12.
There are few times that I am stuffed after sushi and this was one of them.
I do wonder what they do with that huge stove behind the counter though.
To top it off, I went home and had red velvet cake from Jamaica's Cakes. Too good!

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  1. Was there tonight as well. Baby squid & toro really stood out, as well as aji, shima-aji, & skipjack w/ garlic. Highlight for me was incredibly fluffy anago at the end, prepared with salt instead of the sweet sauce (called shiroyaki style, I think). For 2 people, at least 15 pieces each, came out to about $160. Definitely on the high end, but we were very very satisfied.

    1. keizo used the grills to cook the live sweet shrimp heads after decapitation for the sushi. i've never had that anywhere else and it's too bad he discontinued that particularly great dish, no time he says.

      1. Isn't this place called K-Zo, not Sushi Zo? I am confused....

        3 Replies
        1. re: Adsvino

          Two different places. K-Zo is on Culver Blvd. in Culver City and Zo is on National in West LA.

            1. re: Adsvino

              http://www.k-zo.com/index.php/site/ge... vs. Keizo Seki at Sushi Zo.

              Like two Ed's or Bob's or Fred's having restaurants with similar names here.

        2. Funny! We were there last night as well, also at the bar. We ordered a la carte with probably 12-15 pieces each, two glasses of their awesome "live" sake (does anyone know why it's called live?), and a few blue crab handrolls and it was 120 for both of us. I love this place! The toro was incredible last night and these are my favorite blue crab rolls, hands down.

          16 Replies
          1. re: mollyomormon

            HI Molly, the term, "live," probably refers to the english translation of the Japanese term, "nama." This type of sake is an unrefined/unpasturized version that is far less common but still very well liked. It's kind of more unpolished or bold in its flavor - not to say that it is of poor quality - just purposefully left in a more primary state for the exact reasons that you (and Keizo-san) enjoy it. It tends to go better with certain foods, and in my opinion has a fuller mouth feel and more satisfying over more of one's pallet. Think of it as a Japanese version of unfilitered beer, similar to the popular Belgian-style ales - big in the mouth, satisfying from the moment it hits your nose, to all the way down your throat.

            The first time I tried this was when my wife had brought some over via a stopover in Tokyo in the early 90s. Other than knowing that it was some sort of sake, we had no clue what namazake was, until we uncorked it, poured it, and my father (to his disbelief) sprouted the words, "amazake!" The cloudy opaque white color put a big smile on his face as he hadn't enjoyed it in some years.

            Keizo-san is a true treasure in the culinary sense. He seems to have intricately thought out every aspect of the dining experience for his guests. I would think he would receive (and deserve) accolades of the highest levels if he were to have the resources to offer Ocha Kaiseki from an exquisite tea house in a masterful bonsai garden. If that were the case, I would think Urasawa-san might have to get used to sharing his lofty status with Keizo-san as heaven-sent.

            I am guessing that your blogname isn't what it suggests? ;-)

            Molly, sorry to edit this, but as I thought about what I first said about the term, "nama," it actually implies live or more natural state, but its literal definition is, "raw or uncooked." This is why it's called nama, as this sake is not pasteurized, much like the Sapporo beer in Japan. Hope that helps. :)

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I wanted to try the live sake but after the first glass pf Hakaisan, I was fine. I was driving after all. Molly, what time were you there? I was solo last night.
              After reading that bills were 2 were around 120-150 for 2, I feel like a complete glutton. I think that the Abalone helped bring the total up. Next time I should pay closer attention to what and how many pieces I am served. I was just very happy and let Keizo take the initiative. Toward the end, I was afraid that he would just keep going but I asked for the blue crab roll and that was emough of a hint. I can't wait to go back!

              1. re: zoomchic

                We were there at 9, so we must have overlapped! I was the blonde in the blue dress sitting at the bar with my boyfriend.

                Bulavinaka, your description sounds almost like the unfiltered sake that I get at Musha. I love that stuff. The stuff we had was clear, though, and actually had a pretty refined taste. Also, definitely had a higher alcohol content than other sakes I've tried. And as for your last question about my screen name...not anymore;)!

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  I'm stumped then... seems Keizo-san puts his spin on just about everything to make it his signature item...Maybe it's a semi-refined sake - I think the typical sake is filtered once and pasteurized once or twice.

                  We have some good friends who are Mormon... well, Mormon-lites. What we are discussing is their one no-no, just once a year. >;-}

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    I think the live sake you are talking about is called Otokoyama Yukishibare Sake (I saved the label off our bottle last time - it was that good). The label says it's an unpasteurized premium pure rice sake - released only in the spring season. It's clear and oh so smooth.

                    1. re: MeowMixx

                      I think that must be it! It was by far the smoothest sake I've ever sampled.

                      1. re: MeowMixx

                        Awesome... thanks. Now the only thing I need to do is find it somewhere for my father...

                2. re: bulavinaka

                  do you guys know if he still serves the yuzu syrup juice thing? thanks.

                  1. re: kevin

                    I believe he does. That sounds PERFECT on such a hot day as today. I think I'll have to make some :)

                    1. re: MeowMixx

                      or he can open a little kiosk at the side and serve them for like 3 dollars a snifter.

                      kind of like an king of lemon ice stand in new york.

                      1. re: kevin

                        Ooooh...yuzu slush -- at a pick-up window!

                        So, MeowMixx, how are you going to duplicate it or even come close? I have tried, and it's not the same. I would love to know your formula.

                        1. re: liu

                          I posted on another thread about this:
                          I love that yummylicious Zo yuzu drink and I came up with something that tastes pretty much like it ...

                          There's a citrus honey tea (Yu Ja Cha) sold in korean markets - it comes in a jar and looks like marmalade. Throw in a spoonful of the "marmalade" into hot water and mix. Then strain the citrus bits and cool. Ta Da~!

                          1. re: MeowMixx

                            Whoops -- I DO remember! Thanks!
                            I have a jar in my fridge at this moment...easy!

                            1. re: liu

                              good work, i'm going to get some.

                              funny: was there recently and a couple had the drink and both spit it out! you shd hv seen their faces.

                              i don't really get it. to me it tastes a bit like ambrosia

                              1. re: epop

                                "...spit it out"????? Yikes!
                                And my reaction -- upon my first hint of the aroma and taste -- was the extreme opposite: I ran out the next day and bought a yuzu tree!!!

                                1. re: liu

                                  yes, like they were drinking something totally gross. they looked at it each other in shock and total agreement, almost laughing at how bad it was. i think they saw my look of disbelief but took it for agreement.

                                  my yuzu tree barely produces

              2. Were you sitting next to Steve (talking about his trip to Oregon)? My DH and I were on the other side. Glad you enjoyed. I think it's a great spot!

                9 Replies
                1. re: Snoopy

                  I think we were! Were you the couple who brought their own bottle of white wine? I think I asked your husband whether he liked his monkfish liver! So awesome that so many chowhounds ended up there unplanned at once!

                  1. re: mollyomormon

                    We were further down the bar, like where the corner of the bar is, I was on one side of corner, DH on other -- but I know which couple you mean.

                    1. re: mollyomormon

                      i thought keizo doesn't allow outside alcohol. has this changed?

                      1. re: revets2

                        I assume is was outside alcohol since I don't remember seeing white wine on the menu, but I'm not sure.

                        1. re: mollyomormon

                          Snoopy, yes I was talking with Steve. Did you and your husband order Omakase? I have read that Keizo isn't as attentive when you go alacarte but Steve ordered a la carte and Keizo was pretty friendly. I wonder if it's because he is a regular.
                          Does anyone know if you do order a la carte, at the bar, do you order with the waitress only? Keizo is particular about his rules and I would hate to ask him for sushi incorrecty.
                          Molly, there was white wine on the chalkboard. A King Estate Pinot Gris I believe.

                          1. re: zoomchic

                            Okay, that would make sense then how that other couple had the wine.

                            We were ordering a la carte at the bar and had to order through the waitress. I did feel like we received less attention than those ordering omakase, but I actually didn't mind since it seemed that the omakase pieces were coming out so fast and I appreciated how we had a little more time to savor each piece.

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              When I've sat at the bar, I've always ordered directly through Keizo, sometimes asking him to recommend something but usually just letting him know what appealed to me next. But, yes, the pace is notably more leisurely when one orders piecemeal.

                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                FYI, Keizo does not allow outside alcohol... my champagne was apprehended before I could pop it...

                              2. re: zoomchic

                                Not quite sure who you order from when you go alacarte. We have always done Omakase and the one time we had someone with us that didn't want to do it, we sat at a table. That said, I always get an extra toro roll and order directly from Keizo. Going there tomorrow night with my in-laws who are in town visiting, but we will be at a table for ease of conversation.

                      2. I just had their omakase for lunch. Stand outs include the butterfish with the lemon vinaigrette as well as the monkfish liver and the aji. That blue crab roll at the end was great, too. Both my friend and I were stuffed after about a dozen plates. Hirozen is still more convenient for me but if I'm ever in the Culver City area and I'm stuck with a sushi jones, I'm glad there's a great place nearby.

                          1. re: kevin

                            $106 for 1 (pre-tip). And unfortunately, I do not remember how many pieces I was given. It must have been a lot becaruse I was stuffed. I was there for over an hour and a half, by myself, and Keizo was dishing out the sushi rapidly.
                            I plan to go back for Omakase and pay better attention to my meal.

                            1. re: zoomchic

                              one last ques, for now at least, was the sake you got very expensive too? like about 20 or 25 for a small bottle.

                              1. re: kevin

                                I found it in a 720 ml bottle sold through a sake specialty shop in SFO for $28.


                                1. re: bulavinaka


                                  anyone remember if he serves kirin on tap? i think he deos. and dessert served?

                                  i've been to sushi zo a few times, but not in the past couple months or so. due to some of the downhill alerts at times.


                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    It's $50 for a bottle at Zo and I believe $13-14 for a glass.

                                  2. re: kevin

                                    I had a $13 glass of Hakaissan. I guess that means I had $93 worth of sushi. Yikes! I decided that the $13 sushi I had was the abalone. So that leaves $80 of sushi unaccounted for. If I think hard I started with
                                    1-miso soup
                                    2-baby octopus
                                    3- shima aji
                                    4 abalone
                                    5-toro/blue fin combo
                                    6-uni/ikuora combo
                                    10-red snapper
                                    11-ama ebi
                                    15-blue crab roll
                                    and I know there are some I am missing.

                                  3. re: zoomchic

                                    So dangerous being one-on-one with a great & fast sushi chef. It's like being alone at a blackjack table.

                                    1. re: alexfood

                                      That's so true! But both the house and the "gambler" wins.

                                      1. re: alexfood

                                        if you eat slowly keizo serves slowly.

                                        besides this is half the fun (not the bill, but the croupier aspect)

                                        1. re: alexfood

                                          that's an apt analogy. time to get to vegas, and win some dough to bankroll some heftily pricey sushi meals.

                                    2. Yum. I was back here last night and for the first time in a few visits, there was absolutely no issue ordering a la carte. I assume this is because it wasn't crowded at all. Stand outs for the night were the albacore, the monkfish liver (which I tried for the first time based on recs here!) and the butterfish (which Keizo-san insisted that we try. He was much more talkative than he has been in past visits and that really added to my enjoyment of the mean. I think I ended up with 11 pieces of sushi and two blue crab rolls while my friend ordered about the same number. I've finally decided that the blue crab handrolls are my favorite here -- the smell of the seaweed at Echigo is just a little too funky for my taste, really overpowering the sweet taste of the crab. Bill before tip was $83 and we were both completely full. I looove this place!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: mollyomormon

                                        I usually order a la carte at Zo and have never had problems. The butterfish is sublime and the ankimo is what keeps me going back there again and again. Keizo-san's toro handroll is one of the most wonderful foods I've ever eaten.

                                        1. re: hrhboo

                                          I only say that because the last time we were there ordering a la carte it took over an hour to get our first piece. After that, we waited at least 20 minutes for each subsequent piece, which was totally frustrating. I had a similar experience the time before that. And more recently, we went in on a Friday night that because we didn't have reservations, we couldn't order a la carte. It looks like it's fine when going on less busy nights, though. Yay!

                                          1. re: mollyomormon

                                            is the ankimo the slab that's heated up? or is it served cold at Sushi Zo/

                                            oh,, and for the a la carte eaters at Zo, have you tried the yuzu drink that he usually serves only with the omakase/


                                            1. re: kevin

                                              It was served hot---very warm and melty. And i'm not sure whether you can get the yuzu drink if you aren't doing omakase. Maybe someone else can chime in.

                                      2. I am so excited to try Zo next week! Going to do the omakase. Just one question, could someone help me with the pronunciation, don't want to embarrass myself!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: SUmoldoll


                                          well, thats how i say it. =)

                                          1. re: SUmoldoll

                                            Just remember that when you're ready to cry Uncle, go ahead and order the blue crab hand roll. That's the sign for "I'm done."