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Jan 19, 2008 11:53 PM

Mori Sushi - Review & Comparison

While Urasawa was next on my list of "must-try" Sushi restaurants in LA, it was delayed due to a planned trip to the Land of the Rising Sun in the near future. But I had a Sushi craving tonight, and called up my fellow Sushi Hounds to try out the other much-ballyhooed Sushi restaurant here on CH: Mori Sushi.

Having only recently experienced the amazing tastes at Sushi Zo, and with my other favorite, Sasabune, still fresh in mind, we wanted to try out Mori and get a comparison between the three. We were lucky enough to get seats in front of the sensei himself, Mori-san on this Saturday night. The first two things that struck us about Mori Sushi is the Ambiance (it's nicer and more "modern / updated" vs. Zo and Sasabune), and Mori-san is extremely amicable and warm (compared to the senseis at Zo and Sasabune), chatting it up with us when we first sat down and continuing throughout the night. :) We had the Omakase and here's the rundown:

* Ankimo (Monkfish Liver) (sauced): Wonderfully thick slices of fresh Ankimo over a bed of his homemade crimson seaweed and some cucumber pickles. Fresh and tasty, with no hint of any "fishiness," but I prefer Sasabune's by just a touch (the crimson seaweed was definitely amazing, though).

* "Appetizer" plate of 4 showpieces: Marinated Gobo Root; raw Kumamoto Oyster; Roasted Ginnan (Ginko Nut) with Chinese Broccoli and Herring Roe; and cooked Tai (Red Snapper) Roe. The Gobo was nicely marinated and very tasty. The Kumamoto Oyster was ~Ok. Nothing special. The Roasted Ginnan was awesome! So tasty and earthy aromas, and the pickled/marinated Chinese Broccoli was wonderfully done. The Herring Roe had a nice texture (crunchy), but taste-wise, it didn't blow us away. The Tai Roe was also good and unique, but nothing mind-blowing.

* Toro Tartare topped with Seared Toro & Quail Egg: Wow. Definitely fusion & unique, but SO tasty! This was just AMAZING. The Toro Tartare combined with the texture of the Seared Toro & the barely cooked Quail Egg was sublime! Unexpected.

* Hotategai (Scallop) with Uni on a Shiso Leaf: This was another amazing dish. Unexpected on how SWEET and succulent the combination of the fresh Scallop and fresh Uni were, combined with the Shiso Leaf flavor. The Uni was perfect as well. My favorite of the night. J's 2nd favorite.

* Fresh Seafood Broth: The name escapes me, but they prepared a freshly stewed Japanese Soup with Baby Clams, Shrimp and Red Snapper, along with some fresh Ginger and a hint of what I thought was Ginseng (or something like it). Wonderfully refreshing and tasty.

* Maguro (Big-Eye Tuna): The standard mainstay. It was very fresh, and wonderfully cut (as expected). You can taste how fresh it is, but nothing mind-blowing. We all felt Sasabune and Nozawa's Maguro was tastier.

* Chutoro: Tasty, but nothing amazing.

* Ohtoro: Wonderfully buttery and melt-in-your-mouth! But we all felt Zo and Sasabune were better (especially Zo!).

* Sunazuri (Buri Belly): RIDICULOUS. I remember reading Porthos' recent review and urging to try out the Buri Belly while it was still in season. Having never tried it before, my Sushi Hounds and I were BLOWN AWAY! The cut tonight was just AWESOME. Wonderful, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Much better than the Ohtoro here. Tied for my Favorite of the night!

* Kohada: A naturally oily fish, similar to Mackerel. It was very well done, the best Kohada I've ever had! But I'm usually not a big fan of the oily fishes, but this was tops here.

* Aji: Amazing. Very well done, and wonderfully prepared. I really like the cut given to us for the Aji. No complaints.

* Sayori (Needlefish): Very nicely done! I've never had this at either Zo, Sasabune or Nozawa, so there's no comparison. But the taste was wonderful.

* Uni: We already had a taste of this earlier w/ the Hotategai, but here it was by itself, pure and sweet. I'd say it was near perfection (99.7% :). It edges out Zo by just a touch, but I still think the best I had (and it depends on the day and your luck I suppose) was at Nozawa. There was just a tiny, tiny hint of fishiness, but I'm being nitpicky. Most Sushi places' Uni (outside of Zo, Sasabune and Nozawa) would rate in the ~50-60% range (super fishy and gross).

* Botan Ebi (Sweet Shrimp): Mori-sensei explained to us that it is "Amaebi," but that's just the general term. His particular one he served tonight was "Botan Ebi." Absolutely fabulous. Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! I thought the Botan Ebi was the best Sweet Shrimp I've ever had.

* Mirugai (Geoduck): An amazing cut and preparation. Wonderful texture, slightly crunchy and meaty, and never chewy. Edges out Zo and Sasabune.

* Anago (Sea Eel): Solid, tasty, but nothing special we thought.

* Tamago (Cooked Egg): Very nicely done, and one of our favorite ways to test out some of the skills at a Sushi restaurant. Nice layering, lightly sweet (just barely), and airy.

By this time, we had finished up the recommendations and were asked if there was anything we wanted to try. We asked if there was anything else we didn't try yet, and also asked for some encores:

* Buri (Yellowtail): Very nice cut of Buri. Fresh, tasty, and no complaints (but nothing mind-blowing).

* Kani Handroll (Crab): J has a weakness for all things Crab, so we obliged the craving and ordered some Kani Handrolls. :) The seaweed wrap was nice and crisp (freshly wrapped and made to order, of course). The actual taste was so-so. Sasabune and Nozawa are much better.

We also asked for seconds for the Toro Tartare w/ Seared Ohtoro & Quail Egg, as well as the Hotategai topped with Uni.

Special mention to the Rice that Mori-sensei uses. It's definitely unique and different from Zo, Sasabune and any other place (the menu states that he gets his own special blend of sushi rice made exclusively for him!).

Mori gave us a complimentary dessert: Genmai Cha (Japanese Green Tea with Roasted Brown Rice), Japanese Red Bean "Gel" (very tasty, perfectly prepared) with fresh Oroblanco Grapefruit slices. No complaints here! :)

We also shared a bottle of Kokuryu Sake (wonderful recommendation by the staff at Mori), crisp and dry; excellent!

But here's the sticking point in this review and comparison: The total came out to $263.00 per person (including Tax/Tip)! It's just a *touch* on the expensive side. (>_>) As a point of comparison, Sushi Zo for us (and we had more pieces than here) came out to $145 per person (including Tax/Tip), and Sasabune is consistently about ~$125-$140 per person for us (including Tax/Tip) (we always order Sake at all the places).

Considering we hear that Urasawa is about $275 per person (+Tax/Tip) (and we have to add drinks, sure), it's a little disappointing that Mori is getting in that price range, and there were only a few highlights for us (Sunazuri, Hotategai topped with Uni & Shiso). Just about all the dishes were definitely Super-Fresh and Great Quality, but not "Mind-Blowing." Our Sushi Hound group has been searching and devoted to great Sushi for years now, and even today, Zo, Sasabune and Nozawa have more "WOW!" moments than we had at Mori today.

Mori-sensei is a true master of his craft (we could tell by his knifework and the cuts throughout the night), but for personal preference on Taste and Wow Factor, Sushi Zo and Sasabune remain my favorites (and J's and S' favorites). If I wanted to change things up, I'd definitely visit Mori Sushi again, BUT, for the price we paid tonight ($263 per person) compared to Zo and Sasabune, it's just not worth it in my opinion.

Mori Sushi
11500 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California, 90064
(310) 479-3939

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 842-3977

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd. #150
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 820-3596

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  1. Thanks for the review. For your comparison, our last visit to Urasawa came out to $475 per person (including drinks, tax & tips) but well worth it.

    1. Great review. My damage at Mori was much less for nigiri only (20 pieces) and no drinks ($85 pp before tax/tip). I agree, a $245 bill would really put me off. But as fdb pointed out, it's still much less than Urasawa when you take drinks/tax/tip into account.

      I also wanted to reiterate what you said about the rice and nori being a cut or two above everyone else's. The rice gets big points in my book and is very close to another rice specialist and my personal all-time favorite: Yasuda. Did you get the fresh wasabi grated in front of you? His attention to detail is delightful to watch.

      You did happen to mention that the mirugai, uni, botan ebi, kohada, and sayori either edged out Zo or was a first for you. I would add the tai no konbu jime (japanese snapper marinated in konbu kelp) and ikura no shoyu zuke (salmon roe marinated in shoyu and sake) to the list of things that edge Zo. Since I have a particular weakness for kohada, sayori, and now that buri belly, I ended up feeling that Mori edged Zo! Go figure. Obviously, it all depends on what you look for and place emphasis on in sushi. For an expansive array, Keizo is still the man.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        Hi Porthos,

        Just wanted to thank you for your review of Mori! :) Without it, I would've never tried it, and I don't regret going; definitely worth experiencing at least once.

        Yes, I definitely got to see Mori-san fresh grate Wasabi root right in front of us! It was awesome (and definitely a plus as well for Mori Sushi (that they use Fresh Wasabi)).

        Yah, looking back at my review (and thinking with a good night's sleep), definitely my favorites here were the Sunazuri (Buri Belly), Hotategai w/ Uni creation, and the Mirugai, Uni, Botan Ebi, Kohada and Sayori were tops here! :) It's just that the more oily fishes (Kohada, Sayori, Aji, etc.) aren't my favorite types of fish, so while they were the best I've had, I don't seek them out as much as I do, say, Ohtoro, Shiro Maguro, etc.

        I definitely appreciated Mori's quality, the cuts and rice, and the 7 sublime dishes above (Sunazuri! :), but the shocking $263 per person price tag was a little off-putting for all of us (not that we can't afford it, but for the value that we got, again, compared to a similar (but different experience) with $145 per person at Zo, for example, and it's just a little disappointing).

        Thinking about it, I think we'll be back to visit Mori and just order our favorites ala carte, and then go off and snack on something else later (to reign in the costs a bit). :) Thanks again Porthos~

        1. re: exilekiss

          One trick that I use is to finish the meal with a bowl of soup (miso, clam, fish bone, etc). I find that this probably expands some of the rice a little and gives me a pleasant, satisfied sensation and I don't leave hungry. But yes, before I learned to reign in my appetite, my sushi bill used to be outrageous also. It's not fair really.

      2. Yes, I agree with the others, great review. I've had great experiences at Mori Sushi. Excellent service, top quality food, and I absolutely love their hand made pottery! Any great dining experience is well worth the price. I eat sushi regularly and for the price of leasing a top of the line Lexus/Mercedes or sushi, I'd choose the weekly dining experience....crazy--right? I guess its fine since I already own a car, but I thought the analogy would put the cost into better perspective.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Foodie 1

          Have you also had the omakase at Sushi Zo? Excellent in every respect and less costly (by half) than Mori based on this very fine report by exilekiss.

        2. I definitely have to go to Mori again, because the first two times I went, I was really underwhelmed. Even the buri belly (admittedly, only chutoro) was fine but nothing life altering, and it just wasn't any fun. The fresh wasabi was great, and the selection was decent, but I just didn't enjoy myself.

          I guess it's nice that the city has lots of choices. I still put Ike and Zo as my favorites (and a trip to Urasawa is in my near future, too).