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Nov 21, 2007 01:54 PM

Sushi Sasabune Review

Took a bunch of pictures for this omakase meal, and they're right here:

As soon as I sat down at the sushi bar at Sasabune, I saw their sign saying sushi bar patrons must get the omakase, and one of those "Trust Me" signs. What that means to me: 1) it'll most likely be very good food and 2)my wallet will suffer ..

Sasabune used to be located in a small house on Sawtelle, with no sign outside except one neon sign that just said "Sushi". I've always wanted to try it then, and I'm glad I finally get to go to their new location (former Todai).

Five of us took a corner of the sushi bar and left our fates in the sushi chef's hands. They serve fresh wasabi, so I had faith that they know what they're doing. They started us with assorted sashimi dishes including abalone and scallops. The others managed to get to them before I can take a picture, so here's a picture of a half-eaten scallop sashimi.

Next is some blue fin tuna and yummy yummy melt-in-your-mouth toro.
Salmon and hamachi. The sesame seeds on top of the salmon really gives it a nice flavor. The hamachi was good and fatty although it can't beat the hamachi belly Asakuma gives me.

Then they served us delicious mushroom soup, very soothing and nutritious.

At some point I've lost track of what we ate ... all I know is we had 15 pieces of sushi, plus the sashimi and soup, and a hand roll. We had some japanese snapper, and Ono (which was delicious).

Not to forget the ikura and uni :) Although knowing I could have gotten toro instead of uni ... tough choice but I think I like toro better.
Then at some point there were some fresh oysters and a deliciously fresh scallop sushi.

Towards the end we got these ice toro and anago sushi. A very nice hot and cold plate :) First time having ice toro, it was interesting because of the iciness but I think it was chopped up, making it melt in your mouth even more.Ending with a kani roll. The crab inside was just outstanding!

The damage? $98pp including tax and tips. We were all happy and full and had a just-ate-great-food high, so it didn't matter (that's why you have credit cards ...)

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  1. Lovely review, thanks. I like Sasabune a lot but for me, the abundance of saucy condiments detracts from the clean flavor of the fish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hrhboo

      Also notice how the rice is always sitting in a puddle of sauce. This also upsets the balance between rice and fish...not to mention it just creates a mess. There's a reason why when you do dip nigiri in shoyu and wasabi, it should be fish side down.

      1. re: Porthos

        sounds like you had the japanese omakase, which is about 90 bucks instead of the other omakase.

    2. The ice toro is definitely my favorite at Sasabune. It might not be the darling of all sushi fans here on the LA board, but I still think it's pretty good, and is also a great way to lead someone down the garden path to higher-end sushi.

      28 Replies
      1. re: SauceSupreme

        I like Sasabune, but I much prefer Mori Sushi on Pico at Gateway. Not only do you get the freshest fish, but it's usually not adulterated by sauces. Plus, fresh wasabi, home-brewed soy sauce, home-grown rice, and home-made ceramic serving pieces. If you haven't tried sushi at Mori, you're really missing out. It's not cheap, but it's no more expensive than the other prominent sushi places around town. And, at least I think, much much better. If you want to try it out, beware that it is very small and therefore you need to make a reservation. Also, groups over 5 must have the omakase (it's so small and the only buy fresh, so large groups risk running out of items). And like the old Sasabune (the atmosphere of which I much preferred) there's no sign indicating the place. Just a green (I think) sign with an outline of a fish.

        1. re: soccerandlost

          My sentiments exactly about Mori. That level of quality and attention to detail is tough to find. Mori and Sushi Zo are tied for my LA Favorites right now and would highly recommend either as the next step. The best part is, it's about the same price as Sasabune, sometimes less. Higher quality, same price...real easy choice...

          1. re: Porthos

            Is it me or does that piece of hamachi look like a farmed one?

            1. re: K K

              KK. I don't think I could tell the difference between farmed and wild hamachi by picture alone. Maybe if you gave it to me side by side...maybe. You never know.

              You know how I feel about the place. Why would a place that precuts fish, sauces heavily, and doesn't properly cool and season rice use wild hamachi? To tell you the truth, I'm a bit surprised that they're using fresh wasabi.

              1. re: K K

                I can tell you, it's definitely farmed. any good "hamachi" is, by definition, farmed, which is why it's so fatty. if you want wild, it's called "buri," and is much leaner and chewier (kind of like a tougher kampachi with hamachi flavor), and rarely served at sushi bars here in the US. i've both caught my own wild yellowtail as well as had it in restaurants. it's good in it's own way, but it ain't even close to the delicious melt-in-your mouth goodness of the farmed stuff.

                fyi, if you're looking at the color to judge, it's really a question of what cut of hamachi you're getting (e.g., center cut, loin cut, belly cut, etc). if it's silky white, then it's almost assuredly farmed, fatty and delicious.

                1. re: Bert

                  The difference between hamachi and buri has been discussed. Bascially, hamachi and buri refer to different stages in growth/size with buri being the largest most mature. It's like fukko/suzuki.

                  Buri-ed in this monster thread:


              2. re: Porthos

                porthos, i trust your opinion on this.
                i love zo.
                i've never tried mori.
                now i've GOT to try mori.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  WSgal. Omakase at Mori will get you some cooked dishes too like grilled octopus, anikmo, "shrimp matzoh ball" soup, etc...kinda like kaiseki or Urasawa-lite. If you want a pure nigiri omakase, you'll have to ask for it. The presentation of cooked dishes is very artful though. Hope you like it. I'm planning a back to back Mori and Sushi Zo visit myself in a month.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    sounds good to me.
                    thanks so much for the tip.

              3. re: soccerandlost

                sounds good :) I will try it next!
                thanks guys!

                1. re: burumun

                  Sushi at Sasabune is disguisting. It is SO not worth $98pp. Sushi served on plastic plates? Oh please. Everything is so cheap there. He may be the first one at the fish market at 3AM, but he sure isn't getting any quality fish. Mori is my one and only place in all of LA.

                  1. re: gomagoma

                    I've been hearing mixed reviews about Mori, but it seems like a lot of people here like it .... so I'll give it a try next time :P

                    1. re: burumun

                      I'd be very curious to hear what negative reports there are about Mori. I've been there several times, and for the life of me I can't come up with any...

                      1. re: soccerandlost

                        The main negative reports I've heard were about the service, and how small the fish pieces were. They said the people were really slow at getting drink orders and they just sat there for 15 mins, and someone getting yelled at by the sushi chef for joking around with their neighbors...

                        1. re: burumun

                          Regarding the "small fish pieces". The pieces at Mori and Zo are smaller than your Sasabune sushi or typical neighborhood joint. The point of that being that nigiri is as much about the rice and the balance between the rice and the fish as it is about the fish itself. The piece should fit comfortably in 1 bite without you having to unhinge your jaw or contort your face and certainly, you shouldn't be taking bites out of it.

                          A true top notch sushi place pays exquisite attention to the rice. Chef's are particular about the exact blend of rice as it affects texture and consistency, the proper amount of vinegar seasoning so it is flavorful but does not encroach on the flavor of the fish, and of course the proper temperature so it is slightly warm but never hot.

                          It is completely unlike Sasabune sushi where the rice comes right out of the electronic cooker (are you kidding me?) and is so hot that it just falls apart in a disgusting pile in your plate (aided by the puddle of sauce).

                          Sushi is also not just about "meltingly tender" fish. Each fish has its own distinct flavor and texture and certain parts of the same fish yields completely different qualities. There is seasonality in fish and certain fish are better during certain seasons. A true sushi restaurant will exploit those qualities and offer you fish in a certain order or pairing so it allows you to appreciate those subtle qualities. If you go back to your Sasabune photos, most pieces are topped with sauce and scallions. It not only masks the inferior quality of fish but makes it impossible to detect subtle tastes and sweetness. Not to mention that there is no seasonality at Sasaune.

                          Finally, liking Sasabune is an individual choice. I personally do not care for the style but other’s do and that’s fine. You should however, try places like Sushi Zo and Mori to see the differences that we’re talking about because we here care about you and would hate for you to think that Sasabune is the best LA has to offer for sushi…because it’s not. Not by a long shot.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            i think sasabune is very good, and much better than all of my experiences at Zo, but then again i'm in the minority on this one (it seems like zo just can't get enough praise).

                            1. re: kevin

                              Hey Kevin,

                              Nah, I agree with you as well. :) Everyone has their favorites, and some people are just more vocal about their hatred of a place than others.

                              I think Sasabune is fantastic, with great flavors and great fish. I've enjoyed it far more over places like Nozawa, Matsuhisa, Sushi Gen, Nobu, Shibucho, etc.

                            2. re: Porthos

                              Well put. I don't like Sasabune's style either: i find the very warm rice kind of disgusting.

                              Haven't been to Sasabune in a long time, but the last few times i have gone (i.e. when someone else wanted to meet there), i've ordered an all-sashimi omakase.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Porthos, we go to Zo , Mori , Sasabune all the time. They all have their qualities but if your really serious about the best Sushi in LA then your talking Urasawa, we'll be there again in a couple of weeks.
                                Nothing but the finest!!!!

                                1. re: russkar

                                  I put Urasawa and Masa in another class. Not just pricewise (literally, 4x-6x more). They're both not pure sushi, but more of a kaiseki meal. I will get an exquisite meal with kobe beef and foie gras but I won't get 30 types of fish at Urasawa (not sure about Masa since there are fewer reports out of there). But yes, in due time, I will do both Urasawa and Masa and put them into my sushi rankings.

                                  But comparing nigiri to nigiri, Zo, Mori, and Urasawa have the same philosophy with sushi while Sasabune with the precut fish, hot rice, ubiquitous sauce and scallions, is totally different from the other 3.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    Well just when one thinks he has the best omakase (Sassabune) someone turns me on to an even better place...thanks CHOW buddies for the heads up. I can't wait to try Moro and Zo.

                                    1. re: Sarsa

                                      yeah same here :)
                                      I'm going to Urasawa for the 1st time the end of the year. Is there anything I need to know ? (in terms of special etiquettes, etc? Don't want to be on Hiro-san's bad side ....)
                                      Someone said to offer Hiro some wine, but I don't drink, do I need to bring wine anyway?

                                      1. re: burumun

                                        Hiro is very easy going and only drinks small amounts of wine if your having some also and decide to offer it. He's very focused on preparing perfect food which may even lead to a Third Michelin Star someday? Well be back middle of Dec.

                                    2. re: Porthos

                                      Actually Masa and Urasawa are completely different. Masa is very focused on Sushi and Urasawa is Kaiseki, which we like better.
                                      Having been to Sasabune several times I've had pre-cut and non- pre-cut fish depending on what Nobi feels like serving and really don't notice a difference, in fact the pre-cut has better texture in many cases.

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        sasabune, nozawa, echigo, wasabe, all seem to adhere to a certain specific style. which might include pre-cut fish, and every dish is already sauced. and usually melt in your mouth sushi (which i do like, i'm not too big of fan of the clam family of sushi nor octopus nor squid).

                                        but here's the thing we can discuss it to no end. a whole bunch of hounds here go head over heals gaga for Sushi Zo, I completely do not. and i do think nozawa and the rest of his school/acolytes serve much better sushi than zo, that's my opinion, and still sticking to it.

                                        there's nothing necessarily wrong with precut fish if you're in the mood for it. mori, i know for a fact, is a very very very different style from nozawa, and vice versa.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          Eactly my point. One is more traditional edomae and the other is more LA-style sushi. Of course you have two camps/preferences which is why sushi discussions always polarize into the two sides.

                                          It's like Italian food in Italy and red-sauce American-Italian. If you're looking for authentic Italian food and you get red-sauce American-Italian, you're going to be really upset. Conversely, if you're in the mood for red-sauce American-Italian, you don't care if it's not they way it's done in Italy.

                                          I propose we qualify future recommendations into traditional vs LA-style sushi or make out of towners aware of the two styles of sushi out here so they won't be shocked by "best sushi in LA" being Sasabune sushi (as I was).

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            fair enough.

                                            although LA style sushi could also mean the awful roll factory wares, etc. which also have nothing to do with the Nozawa style.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              Hey Porthos,

                                              Agreed on that point. Also wanted to add on to Kevin's post (above). We'll need better qualification on restaurant recommendations than just "traditional" vs. "LA-style" because the first thing that I think of as "American" or "LA" is the horrendous fusion sushi with Cream Cheese and Super-cali-fragilistic Rolls of Doom. That's American Sushi.

                    2. I went to mori Sushi today and it was excellent! I must say it was way more expensive than Sassabune. Last time at Sassabune two of us ate nigiri omakase and it was about $200 tax and tip included. today at Mori I ordered the mixed omakase that comes with 5 apps + nigiri and it cost $182 just for me alone-ouch!

                      The steamed monk fish liver was sublime, and the temura batered whole sliced baby abalone was increadible along with the clear fish soup and mixed fish carpacio I was on a epicurian high.
                      While the sake and kelp blended shoyu was great, it was lightly brushed on every piece of nigiri including the spanish makeral minus the giant clam-and no sauce puddles here. I did miss the Sassabune's variety of some pieces getting the ponzu sauce instead.

                      I love Mori's originality, for example the grated dikon mixed with finely chopped shiso and carrots was nice.The homemade tofu was like custard.

                      I'll stop rambling now...