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Urasawa - Update

I love going to Urasawa. It is the equivalent for us of going to Japan – something I desperately want to do. I won’t give a great deal of commentary re each single dish. Enough to say that the ingredient quality was superb, the execution faultless and the smiling and patient Hiro is always a true gentleman.

There were 4 of us for dinner so we did have a lot of wine. My husband pulled out all the stops as we were with some very knowledgeable wine drinkers.

Junsai with wasabi, turnip from Kyushu, Japan and shiso leaf. “According to a pictorial book of wild grasses, junsai, or water shield,Brasenia shreberi J.F. Gmel belongs to junsai genus of the suiren, water lily, family. It grows in clumps in water of one to three meters deep in natural ponds and irrigation reservoirs. It is a perennial water grass with a long leafstalk whose leaves reach the surface of the water. The flower is violet red. The sprout is covered with a transparent, viscous jelly. This jelly contains various kinds minerals and albumin. The taste and feeling of this jelly is characteristic of junsai.” Junsai are very precious and expensive; their short annual harvest used to be reserved for friends of the emperor. This was served in a shot glass and was a one gulp dish.

Goma tofu, Kyoto-style. The tofu is made from sesame seeds, stuffed with uni and topped with freshly grated wasabi and gold leaf, served in a light dashi seasoned with shoyu and mirin. Hiro had infused the tofu with green tea to signify late spring/early summer.

Toro “stuffed” with monkfish liver and turnip from Kyoto, shiso, scallion and topped with caviar, yuzu dressing

Sashimi served in a hand carved ice bowl. The ice bowl is never re-used; Hiro carves a fresh one for each person. The sashimi consisted of Hokkaido Uni, Toro from Malta and Kanpachi from Koyama with Wasabi, Shiso and Soy sauce from Wakayama Japan.

Kobe Beef Tartare with Russian caviar, Red Pickle radish

Red Snapper ‘Bundle” steamed with sake. The red snapper was placed on hot stones and sake was added. The steaming process cooks the dish evenly and produces an incredibly moist and succulent dish. Dipping sauce of ponzu with radish was provided. The dish itself – notice how Hiro has created an incredible package of amazing taste sensations of red snapper, shrimp, shiso, shitake mushroom, Squash, Scallion tied up in a nori strip.

Abalone Tempura

Hoba Yaki – On a giant Hoba Leaf was Santa Barbara shrimp, Hokkaido scallop and Kobe beef, This sat on top of a puree of Kyoto miso sauce that is made by mixing egg yolk with sweet miso. The dish was being lightly roasted in the Hoba leaf for a couple of minutes over the coals on the brazier.

Shabu Shabu – Foie Gras, Scallop and Kobe Beef. Thank goodness we didn’t have to cook it – we had help and the foie takes the longest to cook. After you have consumed each ingredient, you are given a soup spoon to enjoy the broth.

Now sushi is presented.
Toro
Cooked Toro
Kanpachi
Spanish mackerel
Red Snapper
Skipjack
Squid
Mirugai
Uni
Tuna from Kyoto
Kohada
Baby White Shrimp
Shitake Mushroom
Tamago

Dessert – I am not sure what the pudding was but in the past it has been red bean paste with chestnut pudding, garnished with 23 karat gold flakes and a bowl of green tea

What an extraordinary evening! Yes, it is expensive, but for me it is like taking a trip to Japan for the evening.

Pics here:
http://lizziee.wordpress.com/category...

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Urasawa Restaurant
218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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  1. Nice report. Places Mentioned seems to have a mind of its own.

    1. awseome, i had the identical meal last friday and had a fantastic time.

      1. Actually visiting Japan is more expensive. Urasawa is a deal. (waits to duck the rotten vegetables to be thrown my way before explaining what I just said)...

        When you look at Hiro-san's overhead (posh address = ginormous rent), and frequently empty seats, he's not making a huge profit margin on the place.

        15 Replies
        1. re: J.L.

          Not only that, but when you dine there you realize that he does everything himself (aside from pouring sake and the other mysterious tasks performed invisibly by the waitstaff) - he basically told us that he's a workaholic and spends most of his waking hours at the restaurant. I've pretty much had it with the high-end restaurant scene and am just going to save what I could waste at other places and go back to Urusawa at the end of the year.

          1. re: estnyboer

            "Not only that, but when you dine there you realize that he does everything himself "

            Not entirely true. His appretice/helper served the two people on the far right side of the bar the evening that I was there.

            As for Urasawa being a "deal" that's debatable. If you add price of plane ticket yes. If you consider that the best of the best in Tokyo (Jiro, Mizutani, Kyubei) charge $250-$350 USD for omakase, no.

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            Urasawa Restaurant
            218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

            1. re: Porthos

              I AM absolutely figuring in the cost of the plane tickets. And lodgings.

              Yes, Urasawa IS a deal, since I consider a pilgrimage there to be the food equivalent of going to Japan. And my Japanese guests, whom I've brought to Hiro-san in the past, have also agreed.

              My last meal at Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo cost $400pp (food alone).

              1. re: J.L.

                Let's say you had Urasawa in the same city as Toyko's best and Urasawa cost $500pp and Jiro and Mizutani and Kyubei cost $400pp, would you even go to Urasawa at all? Having not been to Tokyo's best, I cannot say for sure that Tokyo's best trumps Urasawa. I'm guessing it does. Personally I have an issue with a lesser kaiseki and lesser sushi costing more than the real thing in Tokyo.

                I have the same beef with French Laundry. I get pretty upset at paying $400-$500pp for French Laundry when I can get so much better for the same price at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.

                I doubt anyone has called French Laundry a "deal" when compared to Paris restaurants but this is not the first time I've heard the "Urasawa is a deal" argument.

                It's a philosophical/principle thing.

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                Urasawa Restaurant
                218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                1. re: Porthos

                  But Urasawa is NOT in Japan, that's my point... It's a little piece of Japan, right "up my street", so to speak. Just like Wakasan (also a fantastic deal).

                  In Tokyo, Mizutani and Kanesaka all offer better fare (though not much more so) than Urasawa. - But again, that's an unfair comparison. Interestingly, I felt that Jiro was not as good as Urasawa.

                  Many of my Japanese friends living here in L.A. say that there are countless little off-the-radar sushi-yas all across Japan which serve incredible, mindblowing fare. Michelin or Chowhound have just not seen their names yet. Some of the these restauranteurs are actually proud to be off the tourist./media radar... For example, Narumiya in Chofu (on the outskirts of Tokyo, on the way to Takao-san) is one of them - I was lucky enough to dine there at the advice of my friend, who, of course, is from Chofu... Sorry 'bout the digression.

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                  Wakasan
                  1929 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                  1. re: J.L.

                    Digression appreciated. Will keep Narumiya in mind when I make it to Tokyo.

                  2. re: Porthos

                    Wow, did your post hit home or what! Haven't been too active of late at Chow....Hmmm, I am wearing my Chow.com t-shirt though, even as I write. Your response was akin to the story of The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes...a little bit stirring/jarring for some to read....but oh so true. You nailed it. That being said, we're dining at Urasawa for hubs "double nickle" birthday in a couple of weeks....we're looking very forward. This is so silly....but one of the exquisite treats for us, when dining at Urasawa, is that for a moment in time (well maybe a few hours), we feel like we are less of a "cog" in the grand scheme of life. We feel special, pampered, and being interested in. Hiro is a man who can rake in the bux for sure, but can also exude a genuine humble and gentle sweet soul. An evening at Urasawa is meditation on various levels.
                    Cheers, and thanx for your post,
                    Jeff

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                    Urasawa Restaurant
                    218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                    1. re: JeffW

                      To clarify, I really enjoyed my experience at Urasawa. I liked the serenity of the location and the dining experience. The Japanese hairy crab cooked in its own mustard was probably one of the best dishes I've had in 2009 (tied with the caviar amuse at Joel Robuchon). I feel Hiro-san does have substance, and is unlike the proverbial emperor.

                      I just wanted to debunk some of the commonly propagated myths about Urasawa.

                      1. "It's the best sushi in town". It's not. The cooked and beautifully presented dishes are the strength at Urasawa. The sushi, is actually the weak link of the meal and is not as good as the sushi at Mori IMO.

                      2. "It's a deal". Arguments made above.

                      3. "He prepares and serves everything himself". See below.

                      I agree with you though. The dining experience is amazing and unrivaled in this town. And despite my nit picking, I will most likely go back again in a few months to see what he is offering in the fall.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        Hi again Porthos...I knew from the get-go that your experience at Urasawa was great, and we expect no less when we dine on June 29th. Our first experience at Urasawa was when hubs turned 50. At that time, I felt it would be a once in our lifetime experience, and we went for it eagerly. So much for best laid plans...we got hooked, and we'll be dining at Urasawa for our 4th. bacchanal. We've done the fall as well, and what can I say?...Just spectacular. Regarding Mori, we went there when they first opened, and I guess we need to think about trying it again, after reading what you said.
                        By the way, at the Chow event held at Malo some years ago, we met you!

                        Cheers
                        J

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                        Urasawa Restaurant
                        218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                        Malo
                        4326 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I didn't know Japan had their own version of "hairy crab." I always consume copious amounts of that crab when I go to Shanghai in the fall.

                          1. re: mstinawu

                            Hokkaido hairy crab, when in season, is one of the world's true delicacies.

                  3. re: Porthos

                    yep.

                    ken, hiro's assistant, prepped and served us everything the night we went........

                    1. re: wilafur

                      Did that upset you in any way? Personally, I would feel a little cheated if I spent $500pp and the assisstant ended up preparing everything for me. One of the main justifications for the hefty price tag at Urasawa is that Hiro-san "does everything himself".

                      But then again, at one point Hiro-san was the apprentice when the place was Ginza Sushiko. Maybe that makes it okay.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        not at all. i had a fantastic time and the food was sublime.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          It's the Japanese sempai-kohai system. Absolutely accepatable in my book, since the master still oversees everything anyways. How else will the next generation learn?

                2. Wow, so glad the recession hasn't affected your dining priorities!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    Haha~ I was waiting for a recession comment..

                  2. Since this is the most recent post I can find about Ursawa, could you please let me know the price per person (without alchohol). I have an "Ursawa fund" going and am wondering if the price has changed at all. Also...looking at your pics., did you bring wine from your own cellar? What's the corkage if you did, and how many bottles did you purchase from them. The wines look fantastic! I am planning on saving just for the meal itself, and whatever alchohol we consume will be paid for just like a night out. Pictures are great...thank you for sharing!

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Rizza

                      I was there in June and the price per person was $350.00. I believe there is a corkage fee of $50 per bottle. Go and enjoy!

                        1. re: Rizza

                          If you mean are tax and tip included the answer is no.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Thank you. That is what I meant.

                      1. re: Rizza

                        There is a corkage fee of $50 per bottle and $350 per person is correct. The wine is from our cellar and we didn't purchase any bottles from them.

                        1. re: lizziee

                          Wow. When did prices go up? I think it was $250 when I went a few years ago.

                          1. re: mstinawu

                            The price seems to increase by $50 every year or two. It was $300 when I went almost exactly two years ago, and went up to $350 about 4 months later, when the economy (and thus the US dollar) went south. I actually thought someone said it was up to $400 already. Glad to hear it isn't.