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TAMA SUSHI

b
Ben7643 Jun 4, 2007 01:44 PM

So I’ve been perusing chowhound for a while and I figured it was my turn to post a review.

Tama Sushi
11920 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA
91604
(818) 760-4585

I stumbled across this little GEM about a year ago and have gone there 1-3 times a week ever since.

Katsu the head chef has been a sushi chef for over 50 years he is part of the prestigious Tokyo Sushi Kenkyu Sanchokai in Tsukiji Japan. He has been cutting sushi working as a sushi chef for almost 50 years. Unlike Nozawa down the street he is a very pleasant chef who is inviting and warm, and is one if not the most experienced sushi chefs in LA.

On to the FISH :) first you absolutely must get the more expensive of the omakase options which is 50 dollars. He spares no expense with this one. My favorite items, which he serves, are live scallops; he has a lime/lemon marinade that he drips on top with a sprinkle of black sea salt. The taste is phenomenal. Other favorites are his live shrimp, if he has them, which he usually does 4 or more days out of the week. If your heart can't take the sight of him ripping of their heads only to be boiled in water, watching their headless bodies squirm this is NOT I repeat NOT the dish for you. Other exceptional things I’ve had there that I cannot stomach at 99 percent of other sushi places are the sometimes live "sea urchin," and the monkfish liver. I had previously been served monkfish liver at other places and thought I would loose my entire dinner after eating it but at tama it was buttery and smooth I did not even know what it was and when he told me I was shocked. He does use a paste for wasabi but its not bad and if he likes you and you request fresh wasabi and he has it he will gladly grind you some. Don't request this on a busy friday or saturday night though. His special rolls seem to be a toro roll and a dungenous crab roll.

His Toro is top notch and it just melts in your mouth, and his tuna is as one of my friends says INSANE. It is blood red and of the utmost quality. Spanish Mackerel is always great and the Albacore is SOOO good one of my favorites as well "as you can see I have a lot of fav's here." The yellow tail and halibut are OK but they are not my cup of tea i'm not a big white fish fan usually. Sometimes he has sardines and he makes a great dish with these. He also does this fried salmon skin thing with a blow torche that is exquisite. When he can he imports some very rare things from Japan, I once had baby squid and i must say they were amazing. But just an FYI to all of you this is not a cheap date or dinner place, contrary to what is stated online. For two people "sake for each" and 2 of the more expensive 50-dollar omakase choices It usually runs me about 120-180 a trip "before tip." But for those of you that are willing to pay the price for a sushi meal you will not forget don't even think twice about calling. The other 2 sushi chef's are nice. There is a really tall guy that is pretty funny and both of the other chef's are quite skilled as well. But after you get to know Katsu well enough he will be sure to reserve a spot for you at the sushi bar.

So upon wrapping this up Nozawa “OK,” Sushi Gen “Good but not Tama,” Urasawa “blah,” Matsuhisa” OK, Tama “YUM YUM YUM.”

There is ONE major downfall to this place, that is that after you have been here for a few times almost everywhere else you go will taste cheap and the freshness just wont match.

OH P.S. don’t go here for rolls. But I have tried the spicy tuna and it was great. But that is not what this place is about.

Best
Ben

I don't have time to write a bunch more reviews but here are some other places i really liked.

Yatai "great date spot good-OK food outstanding service, great ambiance."
Bistro Verdu "great food and the menu seems to change a little each time I go"
Thaitalian "if you can get past the sign you'll have a nice time"
Saladang "Good food, Nice atmosphere"
Handy Market "Go there on a saturday before 12 noon and get a tri-tip from the grill."

  1. ttriche Jun 4, 2007 02:14 PM

    All the lies are true!

    Katsu Michite really is amazing. He used to run Katsu on Hillhurst, down the street from where my parents live in Los Feliz, and that is where I learned to appreciate the subtleties of fish, texture, freshness, garniture, and service. When it closed, I was horrified.

    House-sitting in NoHo, my wife and I found out that he had opened up a new place (actually, he'd opened up one in the interim, using his surname, but it burned down, so he named Tama after his wife. Or so he says). My wife had finally boarded the sushi bandwagon after a couple of wonderful dinners at Hamagawa in Little Tokyo.

    Omakase is mandatory. I don't see the point of going to Tama otherwise (but I am a snob when it comes to sushi -- you're going to pay a lot no matter what, so go for the good stuff). As much as I like Hamagawa, it's even better when a familiar master is behind the bar, and Katsu did not disappoint on any of the occasions we've attended.

    Sit at the bar and watch a master do his thing. It's worth the expense. Eat rice and beans for a week if you have to, but don't cut corners when you come to Tama or you won't get it.

    1. v
      vinosnob Jun 4, 2007 04:35 PM

      100% agree with your comments about Tama. Although my wife and I live on the westside, we frequently make the journey over the hill to visit our favorite sushi spot, Tama.

      In fact, we met their after work this past Friday night and as usual, had a phenomenal experience. I asked to sit with Katsu and when I arrived, my wife was already chatting with the master at the bar.

      We started by splitting the $40 omakase; that included albacore, amber jack, the divine scallop, otoro, uni, blue crab and a tama roll (toro). Ordered a large bottle of Hakkaisan sake.

      Then, we ordered sweet shrimp (fresh from SB!), striped jack, japanese snapper, anago and a blue crag hand roll.

      So true, it's hard to eat sushi anywhere else.

      On the westside, our go-to spot is Sushi Zo; we grew tired of Eschigo's risotto-like rice and overuse of ponzu and other sauces.

      3 Replies
      1. re: vinosnob
        b
        Ben7643 Jun 4, 2007 09:50 PM

        Hakkaisan "love" that sake :). There is another one on the sake menu however that blows it out of the water...... Wish I could remember the name. Tonight I went to sushi gen since it was closer to where my friend worked and there is no way it even came close to the finesse, flavors, or freshness of Tama “the 3 F’s.” We must have each said a few times its good but doesn’t come close to “this or that” from tama.

        Ben

        1. re: Ben7643
          z
          zack Jun 4, 2007 10:22 PM

          sake you're thinking of is kubota manjyu?

          1. re: zack
            b
            Ben7643 Jun 5, 2007 09:20 AM

            Perhaps the bottle looks right. I googled it.

      2. d
        Diana Jun 5, 2007 07:47 AM

        Food was OK, I had a lousy service experience with Katsu himslef. I refuse to give him any more of my money. For REAL Omakase and fabulous service, I save for Asanebo.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Diana
          v
          vinosnob Jun 5, 2007 09:08 AM

          Odd, Katsu is one of the friendliest sushi chefs in town. Asanebo is OK and considering the steep price, it doesn't deliver in my book

          1. re: Diana
            b
            Ben7643 Jun 5, 2007 09:18 AM

            Weird he is sooo friendly and i've never seen him give bad service to anyone. I even saw him bring terriyaki chicken to someone who requested it at the sushi bar. I assumed he would bite their head off but he kindly took care of the order.

            1. re: Ben7643
              d
              Diana Jun 5, 2007 09:28 AM

              Which is one reason I was so dissapointed. he was cold and uninterested in my OMakase. I had reserved in front of him, and he moved my spot down for some "regulars/friends" who ended up getting a table, leaving the spot I would have had open! When I called and sadly but politely said how I felt (upset), he told me it was because I was "new" and not a "regular" and would be treated less coldly when he "came to know me."

              Uh huh. Sorry, I understand regualrs getting perks, but being so obviouslt cold to a newcomer and treating them so poorly is not good service, no matter what. The excuse just made it worse.

              For me, when I can afford it, Asanebo delivers every time. I try my best to follow tradition and not be runde to the itame, eating what he gives me the way he asks and thanking him in my best japanese.

              Heck, my service at MIDORI has put Katsu's treatment of me in the dust.

              1. re: Diana
                b
                Ben7643 Jun 7, 2007 11:56 AM

                I hear you the first few times i got sat a little off to the side. He even has one or two regulars he will place in front of him before me. That is just the pecking order. But he still did your Omakase right he didn't pass it off to another sushi chef. He can't give everyone the seat right in front of him it only makes sense he saves it for his regulars. I would have asked if I could slide down if they took a table. I'd give it another try some day, i'm sure he will remember you and give you extra attention.

                Ben

                1. re: Diana
                  Alimentary My Dear Watson Jun 7, 2007 04:15 PM

                  Why are you thinking you can reserve a seat in front of him? Did you really expect him to shunt a group of regulars to the side because you had "dibs?"

                  I've been many times and have never seen anything but warmth from Katsu. Nor did Katsu ever shunt me off to the side (though as a solo diner I would fully expect to be asked to fill a hole between other groups, whether regulars or otherwise.) But Katsu was smiling at me & making small talk from the first visit, and does to this day.

                  Asanebo does deliver, but sashimi, and at top dollar. (Sushi is also top dollar, but not top drawer.)

                  1. re: Alimentary My Dear Watson
                    b
                    Ben7643 Jun 7, 2007 04:27 PM

                    Yep and i would think if the main chef at Asanebo had his regulars or a newbie in, and needed to decide where to place them he would put the new person off to the side. My post was agreeing that regulars should get the best seats not disagreeing.

                    Katsu's great :)

                    1. re: Alimentary My Dear Watson
                      d
                      Diana Jun 8, 2007 08:43 AM

                      You CAN reserve a seat for Omakase. Most places wil do that. In fact many places prefer it.

                      The Omakase katsu served me was nothing mind blowing. Asanebo was, and we got stellar service.

                      I prefer Sashimi.

                      The problem was, I saw my "reserved" sign WITH MY NAME NAME ON IT) in front of Katsu. Then, it was suddlenly, "removed

                      when the "regulars" came in, he smiled and greeted them big time and waved to the space in front of him, which I had been told was reserved for someone "important". I had been sat waay at the other end (they were a larger party). They thanked him, and then took a table.

                      For a good portion of the evening, the space in front of Katsu was EMPTY (it was early yet.) he treated me coldly and responded with grunts and nods ond monosyllabic speech to my attempts to engge in regualr bar small talk., no matter how friendly I tried to be, he would not retrn the favor.

                      the omakase was not much to speak of, and then other people came and took what had orgianlly been my spot. I called the next day to express my disappointment in the service, and was told by Katsu himself it was because I was new and not a regular. He told me if I came back regualarly, eventually (and he even said "eventually") I would get better service.

                      Screw that. he's getting no more of my custom or money. I'd rather go to McDonald's than be dragged back to Tama.

                      In my mind, the best way to make a customer into a regualr is to not treat them like crap the first time.

                      The entire staff of Asanebo, and many other places, understand this.

                      Heck, in fact, besides Nozawa, I have had better service from every other place in town 've dined!

                      1. re: Diana
                        b
                        Ben7643 Jun 9, 2007 01:28 PM

                        Aw sorry you had a bad experience. Everyone has off days maybe that was Katsu's. But I think you will find if you run searches he is one of the most liked sushi chef's around here. I think that was a fluke to bad it happened to you. I've only been to Asanebo once and it didn't seem to have the refinement of Tama but i'm going to go back since you've been raving about it. Do you always do omakase there as well? What does a typical omakase there entail?

                        Ben

                        1. re: Ben7643
                          d
                          Diana Jun 9, 2007 04:31 PM

                          Asanebo's Omakase is a combination of Sashimi and cooked pub style dishes done right. He, of course, will cater to your likes and dislikes. I reccomend trying the house made fresh sesame tofu. Like a cool sesame creme!

                          His fish is super fresh and often not to be found elsewhere, and his preparation, execution and presentation are bar none the best I have seen.

                          I've had it twice there (have to save for a while, normally, I just order what he says or what looks fresh.) each time, he took me on a tour of utter gustatory delight.

                        2. re: Diana
                          Cecilbee Jun 9, 2007 03:27 PM

                          I can't agree more with you. The point is to make everyone feel like a "regular" so that they will become so. At my favorite sushi bar, a huge part of the reason I began to go back was because of that initial treatment, not to mention the fabulous food.
                          While I've never tried Tama, I have been to Asanebo, Katsu-ya and Nozawa, and Asanebo is the one I return to. After the second time I went there, the sushi chef remembered what I loved the first time, and prepared it again for me, then gave me tastes of other things he thought I'd like. That's how you make a newbie a regular!

                  2. re: Diana
                    suzeetuna Jun 13, 2007 06:27 AM

                    I've been twice and was somehow seated at the bar right in front of chef Katsu. My dining date and I found him charming, funny and attentive the first time. And on our second visit, a month later, he remembered us and was, once again, friendly and attentive. I love Asanebo, too. But I have never gotten anything but efficient service there. I'm not complaining, great food delivered promptly is fine, but my experience at Tama has seemed warmer.

                  3. scurvy Jun 7, 2007 12:04 PM

                    Does anyone know if Tama does a lunchtime omakase and what it costs? I work nearby and am craving some good fish...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: scurvy
                      f
                      Faulkner99 Jun 7, 2007 12:35 PM

                      I've been to Tama at lunchtime and I've had their lunch special (which on that day happened to be a seared ahi salad, a roll, and a little bit of something else, like a bento box of food) and it was very good, but I don't know if they do omakase.

                      1. re: scurvy
                        j
                        jkao1817 Jun 12, 2007 03:29 PM

                        He does do a lunch omakase. Not sure of the prices though.

                        1. re: jkao1817
                          r
                          revets2 Jun 14, 2007 03:26 AM

                          approximately:
                          10 pieces = $30
                          12 pieces = $35

                          it will vary depending on the market price and the type of fish he serves that day.

                          our family ate there last week for lunch and dinner, table (with kids) and bar.

                          i've been eating with katsu since i was a wee tot. his sushi is top notch. he really helped pave the way for the sushi revolution in l.a.

                          1. re: revets2
                            r
                            rameniac Jun 14, 2007 05:21 AM

                            hmm i've been debating trying out tama for a quick lunch as i currently work nearby. 10-12 pieces for around $35ish is certainly doable, but is it just my imagination, or is nozawa around the same price (sans drinks or extras)? i do think nozawa is a bit more supreme in the quality department, but i never keep count of how many pieces he puts out. i can't QUITE get full off of nozawa with the standalone omakase however, so i wonder if i would at tama.

                            1. re: rameniac
                              r
                              revets2 Jun 14, 2007 01:29 PM

                              you would probaby not be full off the 10 piece. it is literally 10 pieces. 12-piece was much more satisfying. quality of fish, excellent.

                              1. re: rameniac
                                HPLsauce Jun 16, 2007 11:50 AM

                                I don't think the check at Nozawa has ever been less than fifty-something dollars, before tip (but I only sit at the bar; you might get out for less if you get a table and order from the menu).

                        2. j
                          jaydee Jun 14, 2007 10:56 AM

                          i recently took some co-workers to lunch but did not opt for omakase. i've been there numerous times before - and have had great meals there (even when NOT ordering the omakase). i believe i caught the place on a bad day - cannot remember the day in the week, but it was early in the week. it won't stop me from going back, but i was pretty bummed.

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