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Sushi-zo omakase review

I just came from Sushi-zo where I had a nice lunch omakase. This place is on National in Culver City just north of the 10 underpass, next to TAco Plus.

I hadn't heard of or read about his place, but it is in my hood and judging by the sign above the counter that read "omkase- no california roll/cut roll", it seemed like my kind of place.

The omakase started with a dissapointing dish of Kanpachi sashimi (3 pieces) with yuzu kosho (yuzu pepper). I'm not a huge yuzu kosho on sushi fan, as I generally find it overpowers the fish. Sadly, this was the case. The Kanpachi itself was also not so flavorful or fresh tasting...perhaps that's why they used the yuzu koshoo.
This poor start worried me, but the first piece of sushi, chuu toro, assuaged my fears. The chuutoro was quite nice, fresh and flavorful. The shari (sushi rice) is warm(which is fine by me), and they use only a small amount of shari(which I like). The toro was followed by a terrific hamachi (hamachi no harami/belly). Really the best hamachi I've had of late. Other hits included aji, shima-aji, iwashi, kindmedai and scallop). shime saba, and hirame were okay.
There were a few nigiri that I'd never had or seen before. ONe was ono, called Sagoshi in Japanese, apparently. This was lightly grilled (aburi), and was absoulutely delcious. I've never seen this here or in Japan....although I have seen ono sashimi in Hawaii.
There was also a grilled aburi tara (Black cod in English?) which was also very tasty. However, it came with a teaspoon sized dab of vinegar/miso sauce which I found overpowering (chotto gehin na kanji). This could easily be remedied by scraping off most of the sauce.
I had the same problem with the mirugai, which was served with a shiso leaf underneath. I just don't understand this combination, as mirugai is so sweet and subtle. I don't see how it could not be overpowered by the powerful shiso flavor.

The quality of the fish here is great, and the simple, traditional stuff was all very good. The ankimo was fantastic and is blanched on the spot...as oppossed to many places that use a pre-cooked (processed?) tube of ankimo. It's only $2.40 too.
It is clear that the itamae is putting a lot of care and effort into his work. However, I did find the overpowering flavor combinations in the tara and mirugai to be disturbing. I'm not sure if this is just a way of trying to appeal to American customers. I have never had this problem in Japan before. I know some people call this "creative" but to me it just does not compute. .Admittedly, I am a snobby sushi traditionalist, but I'm happy to eat fusion pieces as long as the sauce and flavor combinations don't overpower the FISH.
All in all, this was very good stuff, and the best omakase I've had in the past few months (recent trips include Jinpachi(pretty good), 4 on 6 in Encino(pretty good) and Nozawa( inexplicably poor, traditional but bad...kaitenzushi quality fish).
This was a 70$ omakase lunch after tip. Okay, pricey...but...you can order pieces individually and I think if you were to take care, you could eat for about $40. I'll definitely go back, but probably not for omakase....

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  1. Their ankimo is great stuff, and $70 for an omakase lunch there sounds about right.

    I'm definitely interested in the geoduck (mirugai) preparation, ever since I saw that thing on Top Chef. It'd be hard for me to say that he's trying to appeal to an American palate, because if that were the case, he probably wouldn't be serving "gooey-duck" at all.

    Zo gets mentioned on the message board on almost a daily basis in one sushi thread or another.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      I love geoduck. The best I had recently was from the Mitsuwa in Torrance. You can buy a sushi grade piece and just slice and eat. It was perfect, so sweet....
      I highly recommend that if you are ever in Torrance.

    2. "I hadn't heard or read about this place."

      How?

      2 Replies
      1. re: PlatypusJ

        I don't really read these boards for sushi much. I guess I should. I usually go where Japanese friends/co-workers take me. Maybe this place is not known much to the LA japanese community.

        1. re: vittus

          I think alot of it has to do with its location... not exactly in the epicenter of the Japanese communities or restos... Sushi Zo is definitely an anomaly in this neighborhood...

      2. I went to Zo last week because of this board. And while I'm no expert in sushi, I do try many sushi places. I was blown away!! I don't think I've ever had real sushi like this before. each piece was better than the next. the fish was so fresh and a perfect consistency. the rice phenomenal. and the topper was the small bit of sauce they would put on the top that would complement the fish instead of covering it up (the waitress' prompt of "little soy sauce" or "no soy sauce" helped).
        We live in Scottsdale and will be back in LA in oct for our anniversary. I was looking at the best restaurants in la regardless of price, but my wife want to go back to Sushi Zo.

        1. If this is so-so what is your favorite edomae style sushi joint?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Schweinhaxen

            Actually, Schwinhaxen. I didn't mean to say this place was "so-so". I guess my writing is a bit harsh. The quality of the fish here (except for the kanpachi) was some of the best I've had in town recently...I just didn't like a couple of the sauces and flavor combinations.
            My favorite edomae sushi place is....Daiwa zushi inside the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. There I had an akagai (red clam?) that was still moving in my mouth...mmm.
            My favorite in LA of all time was, the now defunct, Sushi Tenn on Sawtelle. But it was really only good during its first few months. They had great stuff, a lot of it flown in from Hokkaido, with homemade gari and excellent tea...everything was done right. But, after a few months they stopped carrying all the good, special stuff...guess it wasn't cost effective. The quality went way down and now it's gone. I've been searching for a replacement.

            Sushi-ken in Torrance is another good, dependable one and the itamae is very nice. It's quite affordable too. This guy's dad runs a sushi shop in Toyama, Japan which I hope to try next month. They sometimes have a special shrimp flown in from Toyama...I forgot what it's called.
            There are a lot of other good places in Torrance.

            1. re: vittus

              had dinner at sushi ken for the first time tonight.
              was a REALLY GOOD find.
              (their chirashi was a steal at $17.50 (one piece each of octopus, makerel, shrimp, salmon, tamago, alabacore, clam, a dollop of uni, and a dollop of ikura).
              the quality/quantity/price relationships were extremely good.