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Bar Hayama

SauceSupreme Jan 4, 2008 10:46 PM

A few 'Hounds and I braved the rain for Japanese tapas (called kozara, in reference to the small plates). I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting anything and I was really there more to meet up with people. But WOW that was good, and such a good value also.

Don't go in expecting the low-brow approach of izakaya plating. Bar Hayama is clearly trying to compete with Orris, not in terms of its menu but in terms of its approach.

Onto the food. In no particular order:
* Seared Ankimo - fans of Zo's ankimo gunkan-maki will find familiarity here, but it was actually given more of a foie treatment as it was served with a sweet sauce
* Tuna on Crispy Rice - guilty pleasure
* Breaded Shrimp Stuffed With Crab - a large piece of cooked shrimp tempura was butterflied with crab meat placed in between. Sounds great, though not as good as I'd like because the shrimp was overdone
* Salmon Sashimi - 'Mediterranean' style with olive oil
* Bluefin Tuna with Blue Cheese - A combo that seemed destined to fail but was addictively good. There was a generous amount of tuna served here.
* Yellowtail Sashimi with Wasabi Butter - honestly I think I forgot to try this one. Darnit.

And now the remaining dishes. I felt these were the top, so I saved them for last. (Well, the wasabi butter yellowtail could have, but you know...)

#3 Yellowtail Collar - grilled collar is still one of my favorites, contrasting the crunch of skin with the tender meat
#2 Grilled Squid - The squid was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was very delicious.
#1 Beef Tartare with Quail Egg - A great beef tartare. Everything was balanced, the texture was great with the toast point

The small plates concept is fun, and perfect for a second date, or even for a first date with someone you think is a bit adventurous. But everything still retains of patina of refinement. Most every item was $10, with each dish giving 2 people plenty to taste. For us, splitting each dish five ways was fine for almost every item. In the case of the ankimo and the bluefin tuna, the serving size was ridiculously good considering the cost, as the $10 dish seemed to offer about $20+ in total product. Five people, 10 items, 3 glasses of wine and 2 sake flights ended up with a bill of about $150 pre-tip.

We could have gotten away with ordering less, but honestly we were just so excited by the menu when we kinda got carried away. I definitely would want to go back to Bar Hayama. It's located in the old Sasabune space, and while there's valet parking, because it's far from the main portion of Sawtelle, there's lots of street parking.

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Bar Hayama
11300 Nebraska Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

  1. goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2008 12:25 AM

    good god. $30pp?? can't remember the last time i ran across such a bargain for quality food WITH drinks. i know where my next meal out is going to be...

    1. J.L. Jan 5, 2008 12:27 AM

      No! My secret go-to destination is out! Oh well, it was bound to happen.

      Seriously, this place is great. The lobster bisque is out of this world.

      1 Reply
      1. re: J.L.
        mollyomormon Jan 5, 2008 12:53 PM

        I was the one who suggested Bar Hayama last night based partly on your rec for the lobster bisque and so we could enjoy the fire pit! Sadly, the bisque wasn't on last night's menu and obviously the weather prevented us from enjoying the fire pit. I definitely have to go back when it's I can do both. The value for the amount of food and drink was awesome.

      2. r
        rameniac Jan 5, 2008 01:43 AM

        sauce! sounds like you had fun. i've only been to hayama once, but and thought it was pretty cool. too bad it was raining though; my favorite feature of the place is the big outdoor stone pit bonfire that you can dine in front of. it's as though everyone sits at a bar, where the dancing flames of the underworld are the bartender. what am i babbling about? it's late. but glad you liked hayama!

        1 Reply
        1. re: rameniac
          SauceSupreme Jan 5, 2008 10:45 AM

          They did have the fire pit going last night, which was enough to illuminate the patio and show us that, in fact, somebody's deal with the devil brought rain down from the Pacific Northwest down to Los Angeles.

        2. hrhboo Jan 5, 2008 12:26 PM

          Great company and fab meal, I enjoyed every bite! I too went in with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

          Also, I must give a special shout out to our waiter, who was quite possibly the most unintentionally amusing server I've ever had. Sorry I missed dessert!

          1 Reply
          1. re: hrhboo
            SauceSupreme Jan 5, 2008 04:48 PM

            Orris was closed. We went to Al Gelato for some ice cream and pie. They dimmed the lights and then played Happy Birthday on the speakers for the birthday girl and put a candle in her sundae.

          2. j
            jlrobe Jan 7, 2008 06:00 PM

            You are luckier than I. I tried to brave the rain and went to Bar Hayama on Sunday evening to find it was closed. I was pissed off. I will be back on a Saturday.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jlrobe
              SauceSupreme Jan 7, 2008 06:12 PM

              A lot of Japanese places that prominently feature fish on the menu will be closed on Sundays. I've had to learn to get my J-fix by going to a noodle shop or a yakitori on those days.

              1. re: SauceSupreme
                j
                jlrobe Jan 8, 2008 10:00 AM

                SauceSupreme

                The sushi restaurants close on Sundays, but I thought bay hayama was an izakaya?

                1. re: jlrobe
                  SauceSupreme Jan 8, 2008 11:12 AM

                  A lot of izakayas close on Sundays, too. Bar Hayama really is sort of a hybrid between a sushi bar, an izakaya, and whatever you call Orris.

              2. re: jlrobe
                J.L. Jan 7, 2008 10:33 PM

                Go on a weeknight - even better. The seafood is fresher Tuesday through Friday (as with all seafood establishments with no live tanks).

                The telephone can be great. Call before you go to make sure it's open.

                1. re: J.L.
                  j
                  jlrobe Jan 8, 2008 10:03 AM

                  "The telephone can be great. Call before you go to make sure it's open."

                  You are right. In LA, before I leave the house I usually write down 8-10 phone numbers to call museums, stores, nightspots, and restaurants. I live near PV, and it takes awhile to get to the fun part of LA. I have learned to almost always call ahead. Especially on Sundays, since almost everything in town (except the malls) closes down.

                  I got a new internet service for my cell phone, so now I can look up numbers while im out, but the web service is a bit spotty. I need an I-phone!

                  Anyhow, now I know that bay hayama is a sushi restaurant. I didnt know that before.

              3. f
                fdb Jan 7, 2008 06:51 PM

                We were there on Saturday night sitting by the fire pit. Wanting to sample the kozara on the menu, we ordered, among the 6 of us, Ankimo Pate, Scallop Dynamite, Fried Calamari, Grilled Squid, Albacore Salad, Mashed Potato Cigar, Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice, Miso Soup with Tofu, Lobster Bisque for appetizers. The portion of the kozara was quite generous--we each got a bite or two.

                Then we had 3 platters of sushi moriawase which included 9 pieces of various nigiris, 3 pcs of Spicy Tuna Roll and California Roll each. In fact, we really didn't need to order so much sushi. I don't drink sake myself, but for sake lovers, they have an extensive sake selectons.

                It started to drizzle lightly toward the end of our dinner. A few other people decided to move inside but we stayed on for dessert. We shared a Chocolate Souffle (more like a lava cake), Mochi Ice Cream (the kind you can buy at the market), a Strawberry Crepe, and a Banana Crepe (the crept part was a little dry).

                Overall, it was an enjoyable experience dining by the dancing fire under the star (uh, cloud). The food was pretty tasty but I wouldn't say really amazing. I would go back for the kozara and maybe some more cooked items again, but would save my sushi appetite for better places around town that no need to mention again here.

                2 Replies
                1. re: fdb
                  SauceSupreme Jan 8, 2008 02:03 AM

                  I was certainly curious about the sushi but the kozara sounded so enticing. How was the ankimo pate served?

                  Two of us in the dinner group had sake flights. Because the New Years celebration caused a dent in their supply, they actually gave me an unlisted wine flight. Frankly I thought it was a good experience as I learned that I don't know the first thing about drinking sake. I'm just not familiar with the different flavor profiles. I guess this just means I have to drink more.

                  1. re: SauceSupreme
                    f
                    fdb Jan 8, 2008 08:54 PM

                    The ankimo pate comes in 3 rectangular slices (like the way foie pate is usually served) with a dark sauce (vinegar??) drizzled around it, and crunchy toasted French bread slices on the side. The taste of ankimo is very subtle so it kind of lost it flavor if eaten with the toast. Next time I would try the ankimo sashimi or nigiri.

                2. o
                  Ogawak Jan 8, 2008 07:53 AM

                  Glad that people are discovering Bar Hayama. Toshi is one of the pioneers of the LA Sushi tradition, having started Hama Sushi in the early 80's. They also run a sushi academy, with classes for chef's and laypeople alike.

                  Although there are more great sushi places around, and LA sushi tastes have certainly grown in sophistication (and in mass market appeal), it's really nice to have old school Bar Hayama in the neighborhood.

                  1. p
                    PayOrPlay Jan 8, 2008 10:26 AM

                    I was taken to lunch at Bar Hayama by someone who only wanted to eat sushi. And the sushi was -- just sort of OK, nothing that made me enthusiastic about returning. Thanks for the review on the cooked stuff, we will give it another shot.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PayOrPlay
                      i
                      igj Jan 9, 2008 10:12 AM

                      Since it is in my neighborhood, I guess I treat the place more as a good bar with some decent bar food, if you see what I mean. I don't usually do a whole meal of the small plates or the sushi (which as PayOrPlay said, seems just sort of OK). But, as a bar in the Sawtelle area, Bar Hayama is tops in atmosphere - nothing else like that fire pit around these parts. Winter, alas, is not really the best time to appreciate that particular charm.

                    2. ElJeffe Apr 11, 2008 11:41 PM

                      I love Hama Sushi but Hayama doesn't hold a candle to it. Hayama is all about the atmosphere...the patio fire pit is great for an intimate evening. The sushi & small plates are average, and that may be a kind review.

                      The white fish carpaccio with citrus was the only dish I could remotely recommend.

                      1. carln Apr 21, 2008 11:00 AM

                        Let me start by saying that i really wanted to like this place. I was a student of Toshi's at the California Sushi Academy and had been looking forward to visiting Bar Hayama. Unfortunately the evening was a disaster. I will say that some of the dishes were excellent (some were just ok) but the service was atrocious. Literally every dish that came out of the kitchen stopped at our table and we were asked if it was ours. There was absolutely no concept of who had ordered what. Half of our dishes showed up at the table and we still had not been given plates or chopticks. We asked for water refills and it took over 20 minutes. We received the check before all the items that we ordered had shown up. After paying the bill, 2 additional orders showed up. Incidentally, from the time we gave our waiter the bill and credit card, it took over 20 minutes to get it processed.

                        Because i have a lot of respect for Toshi, i asked for him adn informed him of the disastrous service and he appologised profusely. I would like to give it another shot, but if they cant get the basics of service down by now, why should i think that they will improve the next time.

                        Has anyone else experienced horrendous service here??

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: carln
                          p
                          pkittie Apr 21, 2008 02:22 PM

                          I love Bar Hayama! We always sit at the sushi bar, usually near Toshi, so the service is impeccable.

                          1. re: carln
                            i
                            igj Apr 24, 2008 05:18 PM

                            I was there Tuesday, sat at the firepit with a group of four and the service was just fine. Always someone there when needed, water and utensils all in place, dishes all came out, and recommendations and information about the monster sake list were forthcoming. So, no problems this time.

                          2. f
                            Faulkner99 Apr 24, 2008 09:09 PM

                            Their lunch menu is very reasonable, and the portions were generous. I had lunch with a girlfriend and had the seabass bento box, which was very nicely prepared and only $15 for a decent amount of food.

                            I'm looking forward to going for dinner.

                            1. e
                              emile Apr 25, 2008 04:26 PM

                              This place was complete garbage the night I went there. Nothing was done correctly. The food was bland, dry, and poorly seasoned. If not for the sashimi and sushi, I would have walked out. As for the service (if you can call it that), we were lucky to get utensils let alone the correct order of food. College waitresses have no business in a real restaurant. This was a bad night...not going back.

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