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Sep 18, 2009 09:19 AM

sushi-lover from out of town, visiting in November, planning 2 dinners, Urasawa & ?

Hello LA CHers,

so I am planning a visit to LA ca. this Thanksgiving and I am planning two dinners. one for just me and SO, the other for three (we will be treating our guest)

the dinner for two will be hopefully Urasawa, but I cannot afford a second dinner there and that with a guest. so I am debating among Zo and Mori. which one would you recommend ? we will be ordering only Nigiri and Sashimi, which kind of points at Zo, but I am reading some worrying comments on Zo on this board. so I am a bit confused and would appreciate some help.

also, which order of sequence would you suggest? Urasawa first or last?


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  1. dining at urasawa is a dream of mine... i would do that last or else nothing else will compare is what i hear. I've been to Zo twice and love it, my last time recently being just a few months ago. also, i had omakase at Hirozen a month ago and it was divine. they do lemon and salt some items, so that is the only thing i didn't love, but i had the tastiest pieces of fish there i'd ever had there, especially the white salmon. my SO liked it better than Zo, but i only agreed that a few pieces of fish surpassed Zo, but not the experience entirely. sushi gen downtown is somewhere to put on your list to try if you have time and want something more casual, but they do rush you there and there is always a wait. i've not yet been to Mori, it's on my list. I've had good experiences at K-Zo and Kiriko as well which i aren't as costly as Zo. Hope this helps.

    1. You really can't go wrong at either Zo or Mori as far as the food is concerned. Will you be sitting at the sushi bar? Mori is the friendlier of the two chefs, which might make your experience with your friend better. I would do Urasawa last (save the best for last).

      2 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        thanks Clyde and Servorg. I think leaving Urasawa last for avoiding comparative disappointment is a good idea. We will definitely aim to sit at the bar anywhere we end up.

        1. re: shekamoo

          Definately Urasawa last. No matter which other place you choose you'll be completely blown away by Urasawa and you'll see how high the bar can be set, not to be matched elsewhere.

      2. I'd say mori, my SO and other friends would say zo

        1. My 2 cents':

          FIRST, do your dinner for 3 (if possible) at Mori.

          THEN... do your dinner for 2 at Urasawa.

          The other way around, you'll probably "peak" first, and then it's a bit of a decrescendo. If to do Mori first (which is a GREAT meal in and of itself), then you'll realize why Urasawa reigns supreme in L.A.

          Why not Zo? I feel that Zo is getting a bit ornery these days, and you don't want an awkward guest situation where he "blows his top" at you or your guest. Also, Zo does ONLY omakase. He doesn't take additional orders until you've finished his omakase courses. You get a bit more freedom with Mori.

          Oh, BTW, when at Mori with your party of 3, sit at the bar. Do NOT sit at the table. The quality will be better.

          8 Replies
          1. re: J.L.

            I've been to Zo a bunch of times and I have never seen him come close to "blowing his top" at anyone. He has a certain rigidity of style that the diner needs to accede to for the diner's own benefit. People are way too controlling and hypersensitive. A sushi chef is not your therapist, hairdresser or bartender. Get over it. This is not directed at you, JL, just the general run of individuals who mistake the sushi chef for their personal assistant.

            Having said that, if you have absolutely no interest in cooked dishes, go to Zo. If you think you may want a more varied omakase, I would suggest Kiriko or Mori. Either of those will be a great experience that will be topped only by Urasawa.

            1. re: NAspy

              Just speaking for myself... I am a longtime student in a Japanese art. My sensei is an "old school" Japanese man. Believe me when I say this: I am no stranger to Japanese sternness or rigidity of style, as you put it. When I walk into a sushi establishment, I respect the itamae, his craft, and his venue. The itamae is the artist, and I am simply his patron. I neither expect to be coddled nor pampered. By the very act of agreeing to the omakase, one inherently agrees to abide by the "rules of the house", and I'm totally fine with that.

              That having been said, I have been to Zo 6 times or so. Only once have I seen Zo yell (I believe it was on my 5th visit) at a customer who was sitting a few seats away from us. He had let his sushi sit a bit before putting it in his mouth, contrary to Zo's instructions to eat it right away. As far as I recall, this customer was not a jerk or anything; he was merely distracted with his date's conversation at the bar. The awkwardness that ensued kind of ruined the ambiance of my meal as well.

              I went back to Zo one more time, just to try cleanse myself of the "negative vibes" (for lack of a better term) from visit 5. Visit 6 was uneventful, but not a enjoyable as before. Rigidity or not, that one event got in the way of me enjoying another meal there. I've not been there since.

              Again, this is speaking just for myself. There are entire threads devoted to the "Moods of Zo". The above is only my personal history with him. I harbor no doubt about his mastery of the his craft, nor the quality his offerings.

              1. re: J.L.

                This is just what I am worried about. My guest is not a big sushi connoisseur, to put it mildly, and will probably be looking for, horror of horrors, California rolls or what not. we are just dragging the guest along because we want to fit two sushi dinners and this treat in our schedule. I am therefore thinking that Mori should be a safer bet, literally, although I will probably have to give our guest a preparatory speech even for sitting at the bar at Mori.
                having said this, is it possible to have a no-cooked-dish omakase at Mori? the website didnt help me there.
                and thank you all for the comments.

                1. re: shekamoo

                  FYI: Mori detests making California rolls as well. Be warned.

                  1. re: J.L.

                    oh I am sure that is true, I will not let that happen. if we can get an omakase sans cooked food at Mori, we will go for it

                    1. re: shekamoo

                      Mori should be accommodating on the "no cooked food" request.

                2. re: J.L.

                  Maybe we have just been lucky -- I have frequently gone with friends who do not adhere that strictly to the "put it in your mouth within 30 seconds" rule and they never get chastised. Perhaps he knows we are all philistines and has given up. Or perhaps we help out with the bottom line through our non stop purchases of sake.

                  1. re: NAspy

                    It is increasingly strange at Zo. Last time, i went he was almost nice and affable if I could use those words. We even had a second round of blue crab handrolls. And my friend requested that he could not eat a bunch of stuff. At one point, he asked me if I'd like ankimo and i did not request that I did not eat ankimo at all, but I'm not a fan of ankimo, so I just said no to hat and then I had another dish. We also had seconds on the toro. Everything was pretty darn good, one of the best Sushi Zo experiences, except the yuzu drink was a little more bitter, and not as crisply sweet as it usually is (perhaps an off-batch) or i just built the juice in my mind from previous visits perhaps.

                    By the way, a group walked in, the waitress extensive told them the deal about the place the whole omakase spiel, and the group was still down. But one of the guys walked up and pressed his finger at the refrigerator display, which may be constured as rude in zo's eyes, but the chef sushi chef remained quite unflappable.

            2. I recommend you go for something other than sushi on the first night, and Urasawa the next. There are probably a dozen REALLY GOOD sushi spots in L.A., but everyone EVERYONE concurs that none of them are in the same league as Urasawa. So, do something else you can only do in L.A. - Melisse, Providence, Spago, Cut, Mozza (either one), and then look forward to one A+ sushi outing at Urasawa.

              26 Replies
              1. re: techbod

                oh yeah, looking for a thrill at the Urasawa level that would be unique to LA is another concern of mine. all of the names you mention except for Cut are on my shortlist . right now I'm inclining towards providence, although it will probably pale in comparison to Urasawa, and then again the comparison is one of apples and oranges. as for pure wowness memorability, maybe nothing comes close to Urasawa?

                1. re: shekamoo

                  There are many types of "Wow" unique to L.A. For a true gastronome, Urasawa is currently unbeatable. Actually that "Wow" can also be had at Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo, so it's not unique to L.A.

                  BUT if you want "Wow, I sat next to Cameron Diaz at dinner!", try lunching at The Ivy or dinner on a weekday night at Koi or Nobu LA - No guarantees of star sightings, and the food is nothing to write home about, but "Wow" nonetheless... Also, having a hot dog or pizza at Muscle Beach in Venice is another uniquely L.A. thing.

                  Ortolan should be on your list. Chef Eme has always served a great meal for us, and his wife Jeri Ryan is the hostess.

                    1. re: J.L.

                      Thanks J.L., but I must clarify that I meant only being wowed by the food. in star sightings I have no interest. also, by unique to LA I was thinking within the confines of North America. so I am looking for a not-to-miss food experience where the Chef's artistic talent and the quality of ingredients make up the wow factor. we have a limited time in LA and I want to make the right choices to sample the city at its culinary best. Ortolan was on my radar just because of the one star, now I will take a closer look, but I am still thinking Providence...and I say all this w/o any pretense of being a true gastronome; I just like food.

                      1. re: shekamoo

                        i'd say melisse. you're there for a gastronomic evening, and not a "special occasion" and it's perfect for that. - it's all about the food.
                        i'd consider reserving at Shibucho (shige's, on beverly) and calling for omakase. I prefer it to mori - mostly because I'm not crazy about mori's saucing so much sushi.
                        Shibucho on beverly blvd -

                        1. re: Jerome

                          I agree with much of the above advice but not Melisse. Sorry.

                          1. re: epop

                            so, epop, what would you recommend in the same status-vicinity of Melisse?

                              1. re: Servorg

                                hmm, I had seen this thread, and it seemed to suggest in my rather cursory inspection that epop found Providence on par with Melisse, and wasn't blown away by either, so I was wondering if there would be a different suggestion.
                                I am looking for a place with a focus just on food and not on decor or sighting potential, and was intrigued by the suggestion(not by epop) that Melisse would fit the bill, and the implication that providence would not...

                                1. re: shekamoo

                                  Have you considered Bazaar?

                                  The Bazaar by José Andrés
                                  465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    Or possibly Gjelina...


                                    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      thanks for the recommendations, the bazaar is definitely a board favorite, it seems. I like it more as I read it about it here

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        I like Gjelina a lot, for what it is. But don't think it is a destination restaurant for someone who has limited time in LA.

                                    2. re: shekamoo

                                      I don't know the high end of food in Ontario, where you seem to be from. Melisse might work for you, considering that. I think it is quite good but not incredible. Given the choice I would probably take the creativity at Providence 14 course taster's over Melisse, as it offers at times a more unusual experience. Bazaar is something to see. The food is clever but unsatisfying, imho.

                                      Based on some of your posts I highly recommend exploring SGV, the epicenter of Asian food.

                                      1. re: epop

                                        thanks epop. without a doubt, the fine dining scene here is not in the class of the aforementioned restaurants, so I am pretty sure I will have a great comparative experience anyway I go. I am increasingly intrigued by the concept of Bazaar, so maybe I will give it a try, and leave providence and Melisse to a later visit.

                                        1. re: shekamoo

                                          Yr welcome. The food at Bazaar is second to the experience, which is unique. The food is unusual (air olives, for ex.) but ultimately a real olive is better than a reconstituted one, in my opinion.

                                          Service at Bazaar was hit or miss. Great until dessert. Then disastrous.

                              2. re: Jerome

                                yeah, i went a few weeks back to shibucho and it seems like he's softened up a bit

                                had a nice sushi meal, not cheap, but did have a few pieces of toro (i would say zo is better but after 10pm it's the best choice in town).

                                supposedly he doles out an awesome Eggplant Parmgiana which i have not tried yet, but it sounds awesome. but i don't know if he still serves the foie gras terrine sauteed in french butter.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  as far as bazaar goes - it's an adria style place. If you haven't had molecular gastronomy, might be worth it. If you have, it's more of the same.

                                  1. re: Jerome

                                    "If you haven't had molecular gastronomy, might be worth it. If you have, it's more of the same."

                                    Of course, all the other places in LA are not molecular gastronomy so, if you've been to any of them, it's more of the same.. ;-D>

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Funny, but I agree with Jerome.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        many of the dishes presented at these places are the same as those first invented by Adria. It's a type of theater as much as traditional gastronomy.
                                        Have you seen a huge variation - air olives, etc.
                                        The last big trend before this was only found at one place in LA - Noe at the Omni - a style of cooking big in France around 1998-2000.
                                        And of course, I'm an idiot it seems - but it's no less ridiculous than telling someone from vancouver that he's got plenty of good chinese in vancouver, try something else here.
                                        So Servorg says you should definitely go for the molecular gastronomy wherever it is. or not. i probably misunderstand.

                                        go to kashtan for the uzbek dishes.
                                        or not - for reason, see above.

                                        1. re: Jerome

                                          Just as long as you never lose that keen sense of humor...

                                2. re: shekamoo

                                  You really wont' go wrong at Providence. As some others have mentioned, if you want two special dinners in LA, I would do Urasawa and a non-sushi dinner. Providence has been my favorite special occasion restaurant in LA for the past 2 years and will definitely give you a truly memorable dining experience.

                                  1. re: TailbackU

                                    It didn't me, except for the bill.

                                    Urasawa is far better.