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Wakasan in West LA: $35 omakase review w/pics

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Wakasan
1929 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 446-5241

Sunday we were in the mood for an excursion. We planned to pack up the hounds and head out, bound west, for a constitution and a new dining experience. We continue to tighten our belts, and the westside places I know of are all pretty high profile. So, I enlisted the help of a blogger acquaintance of mine, Tangbro, who writes the delicious Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul. This guy has great taste in food, and he really gets around. He steered me in the direction of Wakasan. Thanks, Tangbro. It was delicious.

Wakasan is a busy little Japanese restaurant. Tiny, and by the time we left, crowded.

It is rather beautiful, in a Japanese minimalist way. I mentioned somewhere else recently that it is the one restaurant I have been to in the states that really reminds me of Tokyo. Not the Tokyo of Lost in Translation. But the Tokyo I know from strapping on walking shoes and walking from neighborhood to neighborhood from dawn til dusk several days in a row. The little streets in between the high streets, that twist and turn through residential areas with strolling schoolgirls, postmen, and mothers with carriages or groceries. In these streets are tiny unpretentious restaurants that remind me very much of Wakasan.

They offer you only one menu. The drinks menu. The omakase is $35, and they didn't offer me any other options. There is a sign in the ladies' room that seems to suggest three levels of omakase, $35, $55, and $75. But I am not sure because I don't read Japanese.

They started us out with three beautiful dishes. Even before the sake arrived. One was sardine with sesame seeds over a daikon salad. Lovely and light flavored. A second was spinach and bonito flakes. The bonito flakes add a definite fishiness to the dish, but are so light they aren't overpowering. The third dish was my favorite but I could not get a good picture of it. It was 2 seaweeds mixed together with lots of tiny mushrooms. One of the seaweeds seemed to be darker, dried and slightly chewy, while the other was fresh and juicy.

This was actually our second sake of the night. We started with a hot sake that tasted like honeydew melon. It was amazing. This one was lighter and a little more dry, and very cold. My mouth is watering.

The next dish was a trio of sashimi. Yellowtail, tuna and something else...I have no idea what this was. I ate it and didn't ask.The sashimi was definitely Japanese style, small bite-sized pieces.

Out walked the crab next. This was a beautiful portion. Simplistic perfection. Generous portion.

This was delicious but not my favorite dish. Fried oysters with BBQ sauce. The oysters were delicious, but the breading was really very heavy, drizzled with a dark BBQ sauce. I ate the oyster from inside its fried shell.

The next dish was deliciousness personified. Or foodified? A beef soup dish. Beef with green onions and a huge chunk of what I thought was ginger in a miso broth. Hot and lovely. The small amount of noodles was tied in this little knot. How cute is that?

Next came miso broiled salmon. The flavor was nice but I thought the salmon was overcooked. It was overcooked for my preference, anyway. Underneath the bed of greens was a surprise. Lots of mushrooms in a gelatinous sauce. It reminded me of Chinese food. I love the mushrooms, hated the sauce. I don't like Chinese food as a rule. Just so you understand my perspective. You might find this delicious. D delighted in it.

Next came a Japanese egg custard. So light, so hot, with surprises at the bottom. A treat! At the bottom of this one was shrimp, mushroom and one lotus seed. So good. It feels like you are eating something good for you.

I found the order of food to be curious. After the egg custard came and egg drop soup. I don't care for egg drop soup. And I found it to be strange following egg custard. It was extremely simple. Ka Ga Yai serves you a bowl of noodle soup at the end of a meal as well, so perhaps this is customary. I would like to know.

Hands-down my favorite food of the evening was a bowl of uni with salmon roe over rice. I wish it had come at the beginning when I was still starving. I understand that its strong flavors were meant to be the piece de resistance of the meal...but I was almost too full to finish it.

And fresh fruit to end the meal and cleanse our palate. What a wonderful meal. Thank you, Wakasan. And thank you, Tangbro! I ate what feeds my soul.

Review with pics here: http://foodshethought.blogspot.com/20...

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  1. lotta_cox
    They were open on Sunday? Thats great! When I find myself looking for Japanese food on Sundays the options seems to be limited for me as many are closed.. Thank you for your write up it was very nice to read.. Sounds like you had a good time and I am going to try it out in the next few weeks or so. Are there other spots that you like fish over rice? I like that dish very much. One of my favorites is the Suprise Bowl served at lunch time in a place named Tsujike on Redondo Beach Blvd and Western in Gardena..

    -----
    Tsukiji
    1745 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247

    1 Reply
    1. re: Foodandwine

      anyplace named Tsukiji better be worth it's shoyu! i also like sushi gen and Sushi Go-55, both in Little Tokyo.

    2. Hey don't be blabbin' bout my favorite little gem! Now it'll be impossible to get a table!

      2 Replies
      1. re: J.L.

        in this economy, every amazing gem offering great value deserves to be busy!

        :-)

        1. re: lotta_cox

          Everytime I've gone to Wakasan, the joint has been jumpin' (even in this economy)! They don't look like they're in any fiscal peril to me...

      2. Wow this looks really good i must check it out :).

        1. 1. I love this place.
          2. This place demonstrates, again Japanese (and some Koreans) eerie facility with potato salad and macaroni salad-type places.
          3. This is probably the single best date place in Los Angeles, by my definition of date places. Unless you're subscribing to my "first date as test of will" theory, in which place you go, say, to Thai Elvis, sit in the front row, and order things that involve whole fish heads and game.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Thi N.

            I do not understand teh potato and macaroni salad reference.

            1. re: lotta_cox

              Half the time I've been at Wakasan, they've served either a potato salad or a macaroni salad in the menu. It's always been eerily, eerily good.

              Same has happened at some places in K-town - especially the ones that are not at all oriented towards a non-Korean audience - sometimes, a macaroni or potato salad shows up in the banchan spread.

              Quality is uniformly high for these things.

              It's an enigma.

              1. re: Thi N.

                ok, I have now had the Japanese potato salad experience. This weekend at a new place in Monterey Park, called The Open Door. And it was delicious.

                1. re: lotta_cox

                  I really like the Korean potato salad that shows up in banchan sometimes with the chunks of crisp apple in it.

          2. w/o going into detail, I gotta say this was a GREAT find. I've walked by many times on my way to sushi masu but never looked inside this restaurant.

            Brilliant business model, great food.

            1. Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree...and with some authority...

              My last meal at Wakasan was one to truly forget...Here is my previously posted review:

              I went to Wakasan over a year ago when they first opened...The meal was $25 per person at the time which made it more than reasonable...However, with Beer and Sake the price came to about $50 per person...Not bad at the time.

              Sadly, when I paid Wakasan another visit just a few weeks ago, I had a AWFUL dining experience...The service was just fine as per usual with most Japanese places...The price went up to $35 I believe which is to be expected...My problem was, the food was AWFUL. Minus the cold starters all the other courses just seemed way, waaaay off...

              The sashimi plate was barely edible. The snapper was chewy and flavorless...The yellow tail had no fat...Tuna was totally bland...In fact, I started to feel a really gross after taste after each bite. Even the kaki fry (fried oysters) were bad. I mean, how can u screw that up?

              Keep this in mind: I've been to Japan 12 times over the last 8 years. I love japanese food, especially seafood. If I were on death row, my last meal request would be the Omakase at Kyubei in Tokyo. I've eaten at probably 25 different Izakayas in Tokyo alone...So hold your, "you just don't know authentic Japanese food" bullshit, cause you'd be WAAY off...

              I got 1 large draft beer and my check with tip came to $95 somehow...Needless to say, I haven't felt so ripped off and unsatisfied for a very long time. Poor value in the end and even worse food...

              Don't believe the hype...

              4 Replies
              1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                Sorry, there is no way I can take any credibility in your post since $35 + 5.50 for beer + tax = 43.85

                There is no way this can "somehow" happen.

                1. re: ns1

                  ummm....I was with my GF who ordered the set course and one umeshu....sorry i didn't mention that

                  1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                    Fair enough ;)

                    Our total was 97 bucks + tip.

                2. re: ronnie_gaucho

                  my review was not based on "hype". It was based on a real life experience. Although I am sorry you had a bad experience, my own experience was just short of stellar. We are still talking about it to friends. I base my experience on Japanese food by both being partially raised by a Japanese woman and spending time in Tokyo myself. I loved Wakasan and cannot wait to go again.

                3. Great write up!

                  Wakasan is definitely a must try... but has anyone else found the quality of dishes inconsistent from one day to another?? I know the menu changes constantly but one day its fantastic and another its just inedible.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: eggmonster

                    Your point is very valid and was my biggest beef with Wakasan...The first time I went I had a really good meal (not amazing)...But like I've expressed, it seemed like night and day on my second visit...The menu had remained fairly similar, but the produce and technique was just so awful...

                    Glad I'm not the only one

                    1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                      Well, not everyone loves everything nor can everyone have a great experience every time. I personally deeply disliked Comme Ca and will probably never go back.

                      1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                        I wonder who the chef was on the good day and who it was on the bad day. Same, or no?

                        1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                          Mr. Gaucho: I respect that opinion, given all the visits to Japan. Have you an izakaya to recommend in L.A.?

                      2. Nice review, as usual. I always enjoy reading your posts.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rednyellow

                          Thank you so much for reading!

                        2. I recently had the $55 omakase, and I'm not sure it's better than the $35, despite using more luxurious ingredients and complex preparations.

                          See: http://www.kevineats.com/2009/03/waka...

                          You mentioned that there's "a sign in the ladies' room that seems to suggest three levels of omakase, $35, $55, and $75." Interestingly, on the mens' room door there exists mention of a $95 option, which I do want to try next time.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kevin h

                            Your review is beautiful. Thank you for blogging. Read it this morning.