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Matsuhisa or R23?

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pauliface Feb 9, 2010 08:47 AM

Hello All,

So, I get to LA from time to time and every trip I go to Matsuhisa because I love it so.
This time, I've only got one night to eat a nice Japanese meal in L.A.

I'm considering trying R23 instead.

Should I go new, or stick with what I love?

Alternate suggestions welcome, though to understand my taste, keep in mind I do not like Sushi Nozawa, for example. I was there about 4-5 years ago, and I thought the place was depressing looking, the fish was too warm, there was no sake selection, and the pace was so quick that I was in and out of there in about an hour.

Thanks!

pauli.

  1. p
    pauliface Feb 15, 2010 11:33 AM

    Okay folks, since you were all so helpful, a brief trip report:

    First off, Matsuhisa is still packed to the gills, with lots of hustle and bustle.
    We did not order omakase (but were told we could do so at table or sushi bar).
    I saw some dishes going by repeatedly that I'm pretty sure were omakase. There was a shrimp tempura thing that looked superb, but another dish has a pile of what I'm sure was abalone, which I really really don't like. So I'm glad I stuck with my own ordering, plus there were some amazing things there.

    Second note: keep your eyes open. The menu is big, plus also, they are constantly whizzing things by that I don't think are on the menu. You can point and ask your waiter to bring it if you want.. (This is how we ended up with tasty shaved ice). Plus, if you don't see something, just ask (this is how we got assorted pickeles).

    Third note: Do *not* order everything at the beginning or it will come too fast. Order a few things at a time to control the pacing. We broke things down into 3 groups but should have broken it further. The first things all came way too fast.

    Okay, summary in brief:

    Sake -- we got the onigoroshi, their driest one, and it was just lovely, just what I like, and went through 2 large bottles (2 of us) served in bamboo at i think $29 each. I know there were a lot of recommendations for the infused, but I really prefer mine unadorned.

    Pickles -- we ordered a plate of assorted pickles. These were superb, as good as it gets in the USA. The cucumber bite alone was worth the price of admission.

    Little Crab Tacos -- these were just great. 2-bite crunchy tacos with crab and a nice salsa on the side.

    Tiradito -- awesome, what can I say? I've had it before and it was spot on.

    Oyster/Salmon roll -- so tasty. THe salmon is smoked, and they stuff alittle shiso in there. I loved it.

    Lobster Ceviche in lettuce leaves -- our server recommended we go for this instead of the lobster sashimi with caviar, saying it was more flavorful, and I'm glad we listened. THis was just lovely.

    Tuna Tataki with Cilantro -- this was nice, very good even. Matsuhisa was the first place I ever had seared tuna, and they still do it best -- only the thinnest thinnest bit is seared, leaving the rest raw. But it's just not my favorite dish anymore, so I can't rave.

    Mushroom yaki -- cooked assorted mushrooms. These come in a hot covered ceramic dish, a variety of mushrooms sizzling in a tasty sauce. Pretty sure the sauce had some butter, some sake, some mirin, There were shiitakes, enokti, and a couple others I don't know well. Very good. But I do need to add, I've had this before and it was not quite the same. Maybe they should've cooked it for just 30-60 seconds more? I can't put my finger on it...

    Eel Sushi -- we tried both sea and ocean. This was just fair. I think, though, that if we'd had it at the sushi bar and eaten it the second it was coooked, it woul dhave been much better.

    Salmon Skin Hand Rolls -- YUM!!! SOOOO good.

    Shaved Ice -- mango flavor. My favorite dessert is ices (granita, shaved ice, italian ice). This was really good. fluffy and snow-like. The server poured the syrup tableside to avoide any pre-melting. With some surprise mango ice cream in the bottom. Perfect way to end the meal for me.

    All told, the bill was $250 including sake and tax (but not including tip).
    I *may* have left something out but I don't think so.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pauliface
      J.L. Feb 15, 2010 12:23 PM

      Looks like you did well. Thanks for reporting back.

      Try the abalone (awabi) next time - tell the chef to have it sauteed - It's the best way I like abalone.

      Also next time, do try the pineapple sake. Their infused sakes are to be found nowhere else.

      Order off the "specials" menu for best experience.

      1. re: pauliface
        OCAnn Feb 15, 2010 03:39 PM

        Yes, thank you for reporting back. I'm now salivating! My turn for a return visit. =)

      2. peppermonkey Feb 11, 2010 11:45 AM

        Had a great meal last Friday in the omakase room. I tended to enjoy the cooked dishes more. Flavors were really great throughout the night., unique and a nice change from the "classic" nobu dishes that are all over LA. The overall experience was great, enhanced by great service, a drunk and somewhat belligerent Tommy Lee Jones, and nobu himself have a small meal at the other end of the bar while talking on his cell phone.

        1. wienermobile Feb 10, 2010 06:01 PM

          I really like the DINNER OMAKASE—CHEF’S CHOICE at Matsushia.
          You can expect the best and most exotic of Nobu Matsuhisa's signature dishes
          Special Course and there are three levels to chose from:
          $90.00 (per person)
          $120.00 (per person)
          $150.00 and Up (per person)

          11 Replies
          1. re: wienermobile
            k
            kevin Feb 10, 2010 06:15 PM

            hwat about if one goes and just orders the tiradito, the toro tartare w caviar, maybe a nother dish and the chocolate dessert in a bentox box instead?

            1. re: kevin
              p
              pauliface Feb 11, 2010 08:28 AM

              Hmm I've never done Omakase at Matsuhisa.
              It's a great idea, but I fear missing out on my favorites (tiger eye roll, tiradito, oyster shooter, and ocha zuke). That's part of why I was fishing for specific well-loved dishes.
              But I may try it, good idea.
              Am I correct or incorrect in saying that I should only do Omakase if sitting at the sushi bar?

              As for that dessert, now mentioned twice, I'm really not big on chocolate desserts, or desserts in general -- I'd rather fill up on the good stuff!

              1. re: pauliface
                wienermobile Feb 11, 2010 08:47 AM

                They do it at the table and for larger parties and it's great but it is not as personal as sitting at the sushi bar.

                1. re: pauliface
                  J.L. Feb 11, 2010 09:33 AM

                  Solution: Reserve a spot in the private sushi bar at Matsuhisa. You can tell your chef all your favorites ahead of time and Voila! - you'll get them (and more) in a customized meal.

                  In fact, in a city bustling at the seams with endlessly new and innovative eateries, the private sushi bar at Matsuhisa is still one of my favorite meals in L.A. Yes, it is pricier than the omakase in the main sushi bar, but I consider Matsuhisa a splurge restaurant anyways. A good chance to try it is to suggest it as a venue for a business dinner, and let the expense account take care of the bill.

                  But to answer your question above: No, you don't have to go omakase at Matsuhisa's main sushi bar. You can order "a la carte" at the sushi bar... This includes ordering cooked items from the kitchen, as well as dessert.

                  1. re: J.L.
                    p
                    pauliface Feb 11, 2010 09:58 AM

                    I never knew until this posting that the little side room was available for anything other than a private party.
                    Alas, my reservation is for tomorrow night; I called and the private room is booked up. I'll have to wait til next trip to try that.

                    So, yes, I wil try to get a sushi bar, and I will order a la carte.
                    I will order my favorites and add in some new things you've all shared with me.

                    That salmon kelp roll will be new to me, as will the infused sakes.

                    And to continue in that spirit:

                    What's your favorite matsuhisa:
                    -- uni dish?
                    -- ell dish?
                    -- fried dish?
                    -- steamed dish?
                    -- soup?
                    -- grilled dish?

                    1. re: pauliface
                      J.L. Feb 11, 2010 10:36 AM

                      As with most Japanese-influenced cuisines, a lot of stuff at Matsuhisa is seasonal - This is where you just have to trust your chef to create something good for you.

                      2 Fried dishes come to mind: Corn tempura (not on the menu, available in the private bar, but may not be available in the main dining area) - ask your chef. Also, the fried crab claws are excellent.

                      Steamed: Chawan mushi

                      Grilled (hot stone): Japanese beef and enoki mushrooms on a hot stone.

                      Infused sake: I've tried each flavor, and I like the pineapple flavor the most. By far.

                      I'm not a big chocaholic by any means, but I absolutely crave that molten chocolate bento cake - It is a sublime creation - The best of its genre in L.A.

                    2. re: J.L.
                      k
                      kevin Feb 11, 2010 12:16 PM

                      can your order the off the menu dishes at the private sushi bar, it used to be known as the tempura bar right?

                      1. re: kevin
                        J.L. Feb 11, 2010 06:16 PM

                        The private bar is the only place where I've been able to order the off-menu items.

                        1. re: J.L.
                          k
                          kevin Feb 11, 2010 06:55 PM

                          So does that mean omakase only? Sorry if I misunderstood.

                          1. re: kevin
                            J.L. Feb 11, 2010 07:08 PM

                            Omakase only in the private room, I believe. BUT you can order whatever you like on top also. Very flexible.

                            1. re: J.L.
                              k
                              kevin Feb 11, 2010 07:32 PM

                              Cool sounds good. Thanks.

              2. Maxmillion Feb 10, 2010 03:41 PM

                Okay, I've never been to Matsuhisa, so I can't compare.

                I think you should at least try R23 once -- it perhaps may not measure up to Matsuhisa (judging by everyone's vote for it in this thread) but I loved my visit to R23 shortly after they expanded (a while back... Dec 2007)

                Here's an excerpt of what I wrote back then --

                A substantial heap of their signature Dungeness crab salad is drenched with a perfectly balanced rice vinegar and olive oil dressing that has the clarity of a consommé and the mild heat of a hint of ginger.

                You truly haven’t lived until you’ve sampled their luscious Lobster tempura, featuring lightly deep-fried claws and tails, which also arrives as a generous portion fit for sharing.

                Both these items were on their specials list -- no prices! From memory the Lobster Tempura was approx $55........! But it was truly incredible and I am not even a Lobster fan - but I was that night!

                Everything we ate was good there.

                I've actually been fondly thinking of returning, so R23 has def been on my mind.

                You won't know until you give it a go!

                -----
                R23
                923 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                5 Replies
                1. re: Maxmillion
                  p
                  pauliface Feb 10, 2010 04:20 PM

                  I will have to go to R23 another trip, the other posters have been too convincing. I did go to R23 once long ago and loved it as well. But Matsuhisa has too big a place in my heart.

                  P.S. I don't feel the same about the various Nobu restaurants, the first one in NYC was sublime, but these joints over the years have gotten too full of themselves. Last time I went to NYC I thought I'd give Nobu another shot, but they told me when I was making the reservation I'd have a 2 hour limit at the table. I told them to forget it.

                  1. re: pauliface
                    Maxmillion Feb 10, 2010 04:59 PM

                    Oh, I was under the impression you'd never been to R23.

                    Please do post if and when you get back there! I'd love to hear a recent comparison.

                    Now I'm thinking *I* should try Matsuhisa one day soon... Can I expect to drop around $100pp for a good meal & cold sake?

                    1. re: Maxmillion
                      p
                      pauliface Feb 10, 2010 05:05 PM

                      R23 was a long time ago, and only once. I remember it being very good, but I'm not 100% sure that's the place I have in mind. That's why I wrote here, to see if it was worth bailing on my old favorite.

                      My fear is that perhaps the world has caught up with Matsuhisa after all this time.
                      I will write back after my trip to share my conclusions :-)

                      And, yes, you should cetainly expect to spend that much. Depends how you order. If that's your budget, you can certainly do it, but if you pay no attention to price and order what you like, there's a good chance of going over.
                      If I recall, there's a perfectly serviceable cold house sake that is not too pricey. But of course with all the recommendations for passion fruit and pineapple infused sake, I fear I shall stray on that front...

                      1. re: pauliface
                        m
                        mc michael Feb 11, 2010 08:34 AM

                        If you go to R23, try the seared salmon sushi. It's a speciality (unless you do not like salmon).

                    2. re: pauliface
                      OCAnn Feb 10, 2010 05:42 PM

                      I too don't feel the love as much @ Nobus and understand that the Nobus are jointly held by DeNiro & group whereas the Matsuhisas are family owned....

                  2. Midlife Feb 10, 2010 03:26 PM

                    I've never been to R23 either, but had the second most memorable domestic US meal of my life at Matsuhisa a number of years ago. #1 was at The French Laundry, so that may put it in perspective. Though I have to say that I really love finding any new restaurant experience that comes close to the top of my list.

                    I'm usually somewhat disappointed in the rather low regard for Matsuhisa on this board (this thread is definitely not standard in my opinion), so I'm pretty certain you'll get some other options before long.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Midlife
                      wienermobile Feb 10, 2010 04:02 PM

                      I second everything you've said. The meals I've had at Matsuhisa are some of the best I've ever had anywhere.

                      1. re: wienermobile
                        p
                        pauliface Feb 10, 2010 04:18 PM

                        Matsuhisa is a longtime favorite -- I think the first time I went was as far back as 1988, is that possible?
                        The first place I ever had tiradito, tiger's eye roll (salmon around oyster), ocha zuke, cold sake, I've had a lot of firsts there.

                        Just hearing you all talk has sealed my decision.
                        :-)

                    2. OCAnn Feb 9, 2010 02:01 PM

                      I've never been to R23, but have fantastic memories of Matsuhisa. After striking up a great rapport with the itamae, they brought out some shiokara (pickled squid) from the back--these were not for sale, but something they concocted for themselves, playing with flavour.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: OCAnn
                        p
                        pauliface Feb 9, 2010 02:16 PM

                        Fun fact:

                        I studied a little japanese but was not familiar with the word itamae, although I knew that 'mae' means before, or in front of (either temporaly or spatially).
                        Turns out 'ita' means 'board or plank'.
                        So your itamae is the one in front of the plank (sushi bar).
                        :-)

                      2. s
                        schrutefarms Feb 9, 2010 01:44 PM

                        Yellowtail sashimi in citrus oil. And the passionfruit sake :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: schrutefarms
                          s
                          schrutefarms Feb 9, 2010 01:45 PM

                          Oops, I meant halibut.

                        2. s
                          schrutefarms Feb 9, 2010 10:17 AM

                          Matsuhisa Matsuhisa Matsuhisa!!!! For the passion fruit sake if nothing else!!

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: schrutefarms
                            p
                            pauliface Feb 9, 2010 10:41 AM

                            Ah! Good next subject.

                            What are your favorite dishes at Matsuhisa?

                            1. re: pauliface
                              dougnutz Feb 9, 2010 12:04 PM

                              the yellowtail sashimi thing with the yuzu and jalapenos, hmmmm

                              1. re: pauliface
                                J.L. Feb 9, 2010 09:18 PM

                                New Style sashimi
                                Pineapple-infused house sake
                                Tiradito
                                Toro tartare
                                Corn tempura
                                Chocolate bento box dessert cake

                                1. re: J.L.
                                  ipsedixit Feb 10, 2010 05:01 AM

                                  I like the oyster shooters and the toro with caviar

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    k
                                    kevin Feb 10, 2010 06:13 PM

                                    what's the difference between the toro with caviar and the toro tartare with caviar? any clue what they use for the caviar? annd how much is that dish alone like 40 to 50 bucks?

                                    and tiradito is the sashimi with the peruvian chili sauce right, usually it's fluke or hamachi or red snapper?

                                    1. re: kevin
                                      p
                                      pauliface Feb 11, 2010 08:43 AM

                                      Yup, pretty sure that's the tiradito!

                                2. re: pauliface
                                  l
                                  LAGirl Feb 10, 2010 06:48 PM

                                  My all time top four favorites are:

                                  Salmon Kelp Roll
                                  Tuna Tataki sashimi salad
                                  Ankimo (monkfish liver pate)
                                  chocolate bento box

                                  Enjoy!

                                  1. re: LAGirl
                                    p
                                    pauliface Feb 11, 2010 08:41 AM

                                    Whoa.

                                    How did salmon koll escape my notice all this time.

                                    Thank you, this is definitely a new one I'm gonna try!

                              2. ipsedixit Feb 9, 2010 08:56 AM

                                I used to be a big r23 fan, but my most recent visit (over the Xmas holidays) was disappointing. Ever since their expansion, I think something has been off with the place.

                                Haven't been to Matsuhisa in years, so can't give you any recent feedback, but I've always enjoyed it for what it is -- a good Japanese restaurant that is best enjoyed on an expense account. Sit at the bar.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  J.L. Feb 9, 2010 09:19 AM

                                  Matsuhisa.

                                  1. re: J.L.
                                    p
                                    pauliface Feb 9, 2010 09:29 AM

                                    Thanks to both of you.

                                    And, yes, I love to sit at the sushi bar in LA in general, and at Matsuhisa in particular.

                                    L.A. has a sushi bar culture that is different than most other cities. Very social, I always have fun with my neighbors there. :-)

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