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Urasawa - reservation is set for Wed 9/19

  • r

I called this past week to make my reservation. I asked if they had anything available on Thursday or Friday but the guy on the phone said they only have availability on Wed 9/19 so that's when I'm going.

I went there once last year and my post is at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/332517

Since then I have become an amateur photographer so you should expect much better pictures this time around....maybe even to rival perceptor8?

One thing that was a little bit odd though. They used to not have a corkage fee (at least that's what people in here used to say). I did not bring a bottle last year and I didn't ask at the time. This time I asked on the phone something along the lines of "oh, and do you have a corkage fee? if so, how much is it?" and the guy rather rudely said "oh course we have a corkage fee. $30".

So if anyone didn't know, it looks like there is a corkage fee.

Everything else was the usual...had to give him my credit card, he told me that it's $100/person charge if I don't cancel within 24 hours, etc.

I actually have another reservation there next month on 10/5. For that reservation, we brought up a few dates but he said they only had table space on those dates. for the sushi bar, he told us that 10/5 was the only date around that time so we got that day.

I've never heard of anyone sitting at those tables but oh well.

I hope Hiro won't mind me snapping away with my camera. For any photography nuts, I'll be using my Canon 40D (upgraded from my old 30D) + 24-70 f/2.8L. I just might bring a macro lens (EF 100mm) for some of the food shots but I don't know if I really need to get in *that* close.

RVD.

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  1. I experience Urasawa vicariously through everyone's pics. Look forward to your "upgraded" pics.

    1. 30- corkage fee has only been since Jan 07'. Still the best overall Japanese experience in the USA. Enjoy, we'll be there in Nov.

      1. When we were last there, Janet Jackson +1 were sitting at the table and receiving (not surprisingly) excellent service. Hiro commented that she goes there often.

        I think sitting at the table would be a different experience, but still good.

        1. Hiro-san is used to people snapping away with their cameras during their meals. Heck, I know I go nuts when I eat there... Be sure to take a photo of the fresh seafood for the night before you start your meal...

          Macro lens are preferred for food shots. You'll find that uni looks much better on macro.

          1. due to some work events, i have had to push this reservation a week to next Thursday 9/27. the waiting is killing me...

            1. I went there today. Wow, this was a marathon meal. We got there at 6:30 and left at 11:00pm. I literally took 350 pictures. I am working on post processing and getting them ready. I should have them ready in the next day or two. With the danger of jinxing myself...you are going to want to see these pictures. I took the 24-70 and the 100mm macro. Prepare to be amazed...

              3 Replies
              1. re: rvd72

                We just missed you.. we had Urasawa Wednesday night (9/26) and also took many pictures of our 4 1/2 hr meal. Processing them now..

                1. re: rvd72

                  Ooooh lovely! I can't wait to see all of the pictures. So, would you say that it was worth the price of admission?

                  1. re: rvd72

                    Glad you enjoyed it. I took over 470 raw photos on my last stop at Urasawa. Almost had to buy a new hard drive!

                  2. Here's the review and url for the pictures. I am not a professional anything...just a guy who likes to eat and a guy who likes to take pictures. Enjoy...

                    Urasawa - Review by Dan Paik

                    218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
                    310-247-8939
                    Hours: Daily, by reservation only, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5:30-9:30 p.m.
                    Parking: Downstairs lot. $5 with validation.

                    Urasawa. Wow. This was my second trip to Urasawa. I went there for my birthday last year and my review back then started with the same two words "Urasawa. Wow." Although I had only been there one time, I spent so much time reading review and reviewing my old pictures over the past year that I totally felt like a regular. My past review is at http://www.tylerpaik.com/urasawa.

                    I had never been to Ginza Sushiko so I really don't have any basis to say what I am about to say but anyone who may still think that Urasawa is living in Masa's shadow is simply wrong. Urasawa told me today that he had a rough first year but business has been good and this past year was his best year ever. Hiro Urasawa is a master chef in his own right and deserves to be mentioned among the top chefs in the world. He did talk about Masa a lot through the evening and when he said "Masa is famous"...I told him "you're famous", etc.

                    Urasawa is probably one of the only restaurants in the world where you leave after paying $400 per person and you feel like you just got a great deal. Heck, I always feel sorry for Hiro at the end of the night for all the work he goes through to feed us. After all, he only has one seating per day and his cost of materials is obviously much higher than your standard Japanese restaurant. Of course $400 is a lot of money to spend but for a splurge or a special occasion it's great. Another way to afford a trip out there is to simply not go out for Japanese food for a couple of months and I'm sure most people will end up saving enough for a trip out there. Yes, it is that good and yes, it is worth it. I have had the omakase at Matsuhisa and

                    Our reservation was at 6:30pm. Reservation times don't really matter in some ways because Urasawa only has one seating per night. There are 9 seats at the sushi bar and there is one table off to the side. I have never seen nor have I ever heard of anyone sitting at that table. However, he does have a separate table off to the side in a separate room and there was a party sitting there today. Hiro also told me that sometimes he has famous people coming in that want to sit off in that private room. If we came late today, we probably would have been stuck sitting in the side room.

                    Our party of 4 arrived prompty at 6:30. There was another couple already there eating on the far side. I was happy to see my favorite seat available...the corner seat. I like that seat because you're pretty much right in front of Hiro most of the time and you get a good view of all of his preparations. When we arrived, there were 2 seats empty next to me on my right, the table was empty, and the private room was empty.

                    There are only 4 people working...Hiro, Sung (sous-chef), 1 waitress, and 1 busboy. Tonight would eventually become a busy night and the place did seem a bit short staffed.

                    During the course of the evening, another couple came in and sat next to me on the right. A little later, a group of 4 came in and since there was no space on the bar, they sat in the private room. Personally, the Urasawa experience is all about sitting at the bar and interacting with Hiro so I would strongly recommend that you sit at the bar. This is one reason to come early...get a good seat at the bar.

                    Although Hiro's English is not very good, he does manage to communicate his sense of humor and his knowledge of food. He also concentrates a lot when he is preparing food so I don't like to bother him too much but he does have gaps where he stops a bit for random chats.

                    The couple next to us was a very wealthy older couple. How do I know they are wealthy? Well, they knew Hiro very well and if you're a regular at Urasawa...you're probably rich. But also, they talked about their 3 homes (in Beverly Hills, Aspen, and NY (in Trump Towers)). The wife also had a ring with 2 of the biggest diamonds I have ever seen in my life. It almost looked like they were just a bunch of smaller diamonds but it was two big rocks. They brought their own wine (corkage fee is $30). I snuck a peak and it was a nice 2002 Grand Cru. The wife did make a remark that the husband didn't bring one of their nice ones (but they flew in from Aspen and he didn't want to bring one of his best). The wife was a bit chatty but overall friendly. And oh yeah, the guy paid with an American Express BLACK card.

                    The decor is very minimalistic. The maple wood counters are simple but comforting. I had a yearning to run my hands across the smooth wood for the last year. Hiro is very strict. He loses wait staff very frequently because he is so strict. There is a certain way he likes things done and he gets very peeved if his instructions are not followed. If a customer goes to the bathroom, the wait staff must straighten out the napkin and refold it, walk the customer out the door and point out to the bathroom, and when the customer returns, have a hot towel waiting. All dishes placed on the top of the bar must be lowered and presented to the customer by the wait staff. After each dish that has any spillage, the maple wood must be wiped clean with broad full strokes. When water or tea are presented, there is a certain direction and placement that must be followed....you get what I mean.

                    Hiro always dresses in his traditional Japanese robe and wears the traditional wood sandals. His sous-chef Sung has been with him for 1.5 years. Sung is very quiet and obedient but he's also a nice guy (I had some small talk with him as well). He speaks the most English out of anyone that works there. Sung has some mad skills of his own...he made us some of the sushi and it was top notch (he made us the cooked mackerel).

                    Dinner ended at 11:00pm. Yes, it was a 4.5 hour dinner. I arrived hungry and left stuffed. Usually, it's more like 3 hours but it did get crowded and Hiro did get busy so things slowed down a bit. Also, the older couple next to us arrived about 30 minutes after we did but they were in a bit of a rush so with my OK, Hiro hastened their pace and they overtook us.

                    My pictures are up at http://www.danpaik.com/gallery/355371... - I used my Canon 40D with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lenses. I will do a bit more post processing shortly but here are a bunch of pictures for now. There are almost 150 pictures in this album!

                    Anyway...on to the food.

                    Course #1: Cold Soup
                    Hiro explained that we should drink this in one shot. It's a citrus soup.
                    It did taste a bit tart but it was nice and refreshing and a good start to whet your appetite.

                    Course #2: Taka Maki
                    Sea eel wrapped in cucumber with mygo vegetable. The sauce did have a slight citrus tart to it as well. The sea eel was cooked and the cucumber gave the roll a nice clean taste. The Mygo vegetable is the pinkish vegetable used as garnish on the top. This vegetable was sweet and accompanied the maki very well.

                    Course #3: Edamabe Tofu with Sea Urchin, Salmon Eggs, Shrimp, Vegetable and 24K Gold Flakes This is one of the dishes that Hiro is known for. The gold flakes don't taste like anything but certainly make the dish look nice. The salmon eggs are fresh and slightly salty. Most salmon eggs are way too salty for my taste but these are just right. Once you eat through the gold flakes, scallion garnish, and salmon eggs you find the edamabe tofu. Once you eat through the edamabe tofu, you are rewarded with a piece of sea urchin (uni) in the middle!

                    Course #4: Sashimi on Carved Ice
                    Hiro carves his own ice blocks every afternoon to prepare for the evening meal. Today's sashimi included toro, red snapper, and yellowtail. Hiro mentioned that the toro is from Boston and the yellowtail is from Japan (caught in the Sea of Japan). The sashimi is excellent. The toro melts in your mouth, the red snapper has a slight citrus flavor, and the yellowtail has the right combination of fat and flavor.

                    Course #5: Adobi Mushi. Soup with shrimp, red snapper, ginko nuts, special mushroom This is a hot soup but it comes in a small kettle. You pour the kettle into a small tea cup to drink the juice and you use your chopsticks to eat the shrimp, red snaller, ginko nuts, and mushroom inside the kettle. The soup was excellent. The pouring does get a little messy (even the wait staff kept spilling a bit here and there).

                    Course #6: Sea Urchin and Abalone
                    This is another of Hiro's famous dishes. This is a cooked dish with sea urchin and chunks of abalone. Personally, I like sea urchin raw but it's pretty good cooked as well. The abalone is nice and chewy. I don't know what the sauce is but it's think and gooey.

                    Course #7: Seared Toro
                    This is another of Hiro's famous dishes. There is a hot stone placed in front of you and the wait staff will sear toro for you. The seared toro is top quality and the searing adds a nice bbq flavor.

                    Course #8: Slow Cooked Beef
                    The chunks of beef are marinated in a sake marinade for over 24 hours and then slowly cooked in another sauce (soy sauce based?). The result is a dish with slow cooked tender chunks of beef. This is a lot like a Korean dish called "kal bi jjim" (steamed short ribs).

                    Course #9: Shabu Shabu
                    Shabu Shabu consists of hama fish, foie gras, and kobe beef. The kobe beef is flown in from southern Japan. The foie gras is melt in your mouth soft and tender. The hama fish is a summer fish that Hiro gets flow in from Japan (he said this was his last shipment so no more until next summer).

                    Course #10: Sushi
                    Wow, Hiro really fills you up on the sushi. He gave us toro, tuna, red snapper, yellowtail, seared toro, shrimp, squid (ika), clam, spanish mackerel, giant clam, japanese herring, needle fish (sayori), abalone, scallop, cooked mackerel, sea eel, and finally the tamago. As a bonus, he made us a toro roll.

                    Course #11: Dessert #1: Pear Jello with Plum Sauce The pear jello was excellent. The plum sauce was a little sweet. I thought the pear jello would have worked better without the plum sauce because I found myself trying to eat the pear jello and wiping off the plum sauce with my spoon.

                    Course #12: Dessert #2: Red Bean Ice Cream Hiro even makes his own ice cream. He buys red beans, soaks them in water for a long time, and makes ice cream. He topped the ice cream with gold flakes.

                    Course #13: Green Tea
                    The green tea is unlike any green tea that you will likely ever have. It is actually pretty bitter but it's good for your health and it's the real deal.

                    Various items of discussion with Hiro:

                    1) I have an iPhone. Hiro was interested in the iPhone so I told him a bit about it. He was so interested that he played with it for awhile.
                    2) Hiro asked what I am going to do with all the pictures. I told him that I post them on the internet and my website and places like that. He asked "do you go to Chowhound?" I replied that I do and these pictures will go there as well. He is not computer savvy and said that other customers have mentioned chowhound before but he doesn't really know how to use computers or email or go on the internet, etc.
                    3) Hiro will be going on vacation at the end of the year to Hawaii for a week to celebrate his good year.
                    4) I wore my Detroit Tigers jersey again (#23 GIBSON). He said he likes baseball and of course he likes Hideki Matsui and the Yankees.
                    5) Hiro's advice on food is that you should eat what's good for your body.
                    All of his fish are wild fish and everything he uses is organic. He pays 3-5X more for most of his stuff but it's worth it because all the money in the world can't buy you health. He said he doesn't eat sushi anywhere else because they all use farm raised fish with chemicals. He has even seen sick and deformed fish get sold, etc.
                    6) He gets a shipment of fish from Japan 3 times a week. He goes through all of his fish in 2 days but all the fish from Japan is good for 4 days.
                    7) Hiro is participating in the LA marathon. This will be his 10th year in the row that he finishes. He said he actually walks most of it and doesn't care about the time ("just finish is important thing"). His time is usually around 7 hours or so.

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: rvd72

                      finally, someone else who thinks a dinner at Urasawa is a good deal. I'd rather go here once than 3x anywhere else in L.A.

                      Wow, he's finally taking a vacation.

                      Thanks for the great write-up and pics!

                        1. re: rvd72

                          i've heard that he gets his fish in LA at the fish market but he has first pick of any of the fish that comes in. So they reserve the very best for him.

                          BTw, AWESOME pictures. Just spectacular =) best pictures so far!

                          1. re: rvd72

                            Terrific photos, rvd72!
                            Thanks for sharing all of them with us.

                            1. re: rvd72

                              glad you all enjoyed the review and pics. I meant to write in the review that I've had the omakase at Matsuhisa but although the one at Matsuhisa is good, it's simply not in the same league as Urasawa.

                              And yes, I think it's completely worth it. Our bill was $275 per person + tax + bottled water and it came out to around $310 per person. We left a $50 tip per person so our total was $360 pp. I'd rather eat one Urasawa than 2 or 3 Matsuhisas. I know I sound ridiculous when I say this but it's a good deal.

                              RVD.

                               
                               
                               
                               
                              1. re: rvd72

                                RVD. Wow.
                                Amazing pictures (far better than the ones I'm processing from our 9/26 meal)
                                Seems like we had almost exactly the same meal as yours.

                                I too felt it was a good deal. Our 30 course, 4 1/2 hour meal came out to roughly $9 per dish (excluding drinks). I would have gladly paid more.

                                1. re: rvd72

                                  Wow. thank you!

                                  You took time away from your awesome meal to share the experience with all of us. This is what blogging is all about.

                                  Bravo!

                                  1. re: rvd72

                                    OMG!! those pictures are awesome!! argh! now i really gotta go! *drool*
                                    I'm gonna eat instant ramen for the next 2 months so I can go there for my birthday ... yeah that sounds like a plan :D

                                    1. re: rvd72

                                      These are some really beautiful pics, thanks so much for sharing with us (especially those like me who can only dream and visualize and pretend, since our budget monger wives might do a Lorraine Bobbit on us for wanting to go to Urasawa solo ourselves!)

                                      Very interesting that the sushi rice pad for the sanma (pike mackeral) also has what looks to be quite a bit of yuzu zest. I'm really curious how that tastes with the sanma itself.

                                      Does anyone know if Urasawa gets yuzu direct from Japan (probably grey market a la Masa) or he utilizes domestically grown kind (or the variant from Brazil)?

                                      1. re: K K

                                        I'm thinking of going there soon. How does Hiro know when to stop serving? Do we tell him when we're full, or does he just stop when he's done? Also, can we order extra of something we like?

                                        Thanks!

                                        1. re: ming

                                          Usually the customer will tell him "Hiro, I'm full" and he'll confirm "ok full?" and you say "yes". This always happens during the sushi course since I think everyone can handle all of the dishes just fine.

                                          At that point, Hiro will stop serving sushi to you. Once the sushi portion is done, he will continue with the next course though and include you there unless you tell him otherwise. After sushi is usually tea and then dessert so usually there's some room left for that.

                                          About ordering extra things...sort of. If you really like a sushi, you can ask him for another piece, etc...but it's not Todai so I don't know what he would do if you seriously said "I love toro so keep the toro coming until I say otherwise"...

                                          I'm always a little bit nervous when I'm there so I wouldn't dare do anything like that. I have asked for a toro roll before but that's only because he was making them for other people already.

                                          I have heard that sometimes he will make some special stuff for some people and charge for it but the times I've been there, everyone was eating the same thing.

                                          He did do a few special things but it was just to be nice. For example, one lady last time got a bag of tea from him. He told her that his parents brought it from Japan and it's the best tea in Japan and he got it as a gift for her.

                                          My wife told him how she really enjoyed the sesame ice cream last time so he said he'd be sure to have it next time we go, etc.

                                          My next trip is actually this Friday (11/9). My wife and I are celebrating our 5 year anniversary.

                                          I won't be taking so many pictures this time but I'll have my camera and if I see a new dish, I'll take a picture of it.

                                          RVD.

                                        2. re: K K

                                          yes he gets his yuzu from Japan. He says he tried to source them here but the taste was different, not what he's used to.

                                        3. re: rvd72

                                          Regarding the hama fish for your shabu shabu. It looks like Hamo eel (aka pike eel). It's a summer delicacy which takes a lot of skill to prepare. Did you notice him prepare the eel "hone kuri" style where dozens of fine knife strokes are used to cut/score the eel, taking care not to cut through the skin. It's usually served in soup or boiled. When you boil the eel, the scoring and intact skin causes the eel to curl (skin side in) and the white flesh flares out like flower petals. My first experience with it was with Morimoto when he still worked at Nobu. Delicious.

                                          From my prior notes, I think even in Japan, it's a regional delicacy most often enjoyed in Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto . It would imply a bit of playfullness in Hiro's shabu shabu course. Kobe beef and kobe eel. Surf and turf.

                                          As for Course #5, the dobinmushi, I'm thinking the special mushroom could have been matsutake?

                                          Amazing photos.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            You are right about the hama fish. He did prepare it with all of those fine knife strokes and it did curl when it was cooked. I liked it but maybe it was just me but the fish wasn't all that flavorful. However, it was a nice pure taste so it was good.

                                            I'm glad everyone enjoyed the photos.

                                            1. re: rvd72

                                              Hamo eel is pretty lean and not really strong in flavor (very subtle sweetness if not overcooked). It's a more textural sensation with the knifework and also with the more gelatinous skin in contrast to the lean flesh. Also, given the foie and the kobe beef, the intention might have been a progression of lean to fat or if eaten after the cooking of the foie and kobe beef, meant to soak up some of the flavors from the other two components. Did Hiro specify an order of swishing?

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                Yes he does specify. I have terrible long term memory so I can't remember exactly. I think beef is first then foie? argh

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              Hamo requires "hone kiri" so that the it breaks of the thousands of little bones in the flesh and makes it easily edible; while the results might be pleasing to the eye, it's not necessarily for aesthetic purposes. "Hone kiri" (骨切り) means "bone cutting". This Japanese website contains photo illustrations: http://www.fujimuraya.com/shopping/fi...

                                            3. re: rvd72

                                              WOW!!!! I'm picking up the phone tomorrow........

                                            4. RVD,
                                              I just finished your photo coverage of your Urasawa meal...
                                              It was probably the best photo coverage ive seen for a Urasaway meal..
                                              The lighting was spot on (pretty tough there).
                                              Great photos and thanks for sharing...
                                              actually my wallet hates you because you made me wanna go eat there now.. :-)
                                              - Perceptor

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Perceptor

                                                Just FYI, some off topic discussion of Perceptor's camera has been moved to our Not About Food board at: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/457487

                                                1. re: Perceptor

                                                  thanks. that's a great compliment especially coming from you.

                                                  RVD.

                                                2. I'm so stoked to be going tomorrow night!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: rftc2121

                                                    Were going middle of Dec, can't wait either!
                                                    Hiro is always thinking up something new to add to his menu.

                                                  2. I have to admit that front of the house is not what it used to be. About a year ago, it changed for the worse. However, still my favorite place in L.A.

                                                    1. I just got back home from Urasawa. I cannot stress this enough: once you go you'll never look back. Money comes and goes but memories last a life time. Eating at Urasawa is a forever moment.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: rftc2121

                                                        I really appreciated rvd72 mentioning nervousness. I very much want to go for my birthday in January, but so far have not been able to rope anyone into it. Either my friends don't like sushi, or they don't want to spend the money.

                                                        Would a solo diner feel out of place? It seems if it gets busy, sitting there alone might not be much fun. Anyone here go there alone?

                                                        Finally, does everyone use chopsticks on all the sushi? I usually eat sushi with my fingers, and have had sushi chefs tell me that it's fine, but don't want to look like an idioT

                                                        1. re: annalulu

                                                          Go. I have gone by myself and it was fine.

                                                          By the way....you are suppose to eat sushi with your fingers. He will not frown upon you.....

                                                          1. re: annalulu

                                                            solo dining is fine there. it's a little quiet but Hiro-san will talk to you and the other patrons are usually pretty nice.

                                                            and for the sushi, he actually wants you to eat it with your fingers, not chopsticks. he wants you to eat it within 10 seconds. they give you a wet towel to wipe off your fingers after each piece (since you are expected to eat it with your fingers).

                                                            there is one sushi that is made up of around 20 small pieces of shrimp. that's the only one that he says to eat with chopsticks (because it tends to fall apart rather easily) but i ate that with my fingers before when i forgot and that's fine.

                                                            RVD.

                                                        2. I've seen these pictures like 10 times and I still lust over them.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: ns1

                                                            all i have to say is go...just go. bite the bullet, go, and never look back because your life will never be the same again.

                                                            ok fine...maybe i'm being a bit overdramatic but the message is the same...just go.

                                                            RVD.

                                                          2. I'm sitting in urasawa eating the sushi course right now. More new stuff today so its great. I'll post pics later. Gotta get back and eat.

                                                            1 Reply