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Mori vs Zo sushi question

I am a huge fan of Sushi Zo, so when a couple of friends wanted to try out Mori Sushi I had huge reservations. Last time I went to Mori my girlfriend was still hungry and had to get something to eat afterwards(granted that was years ago). Since it's been so long I thought I give it a shot again. Again it disappointed me. All the different type of fishes they served felt very dry compared to Zo.

This is where I wanted to ask fellow Chowhounds. Am I missing something? Is there some secrete reason that some nigiri are super dry like Mori and some are full of moisture like Zo? Am I missing the train on maybe some special way that Mori Sushi stores their fish? Does it necessarily mean that it's fresher when it's more dry? Anyone feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

Mori Sushi
11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

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  1. Did you sit at the sushi bar ?
    I wont go unless I sit at the bar anymore, I've been a few times and sat at a table and was always disappointed. But I've never been disappointed seated at the bar.

    1. My guess is yes, you're missing something.

      For one, sushi is not always about fresh, but often about being properly aged. I've only been to Zo once, so I'm not sure I remember a dry vs juicy difference.

      I'm a big fan of Mori, so you've lost me on this. But I suspect in the aging process that the meat loses some of it's moisture in trade for more flavor.

      1. Mori tends to use less sauce on the nigiri, so they're less dry.

        1. I thought Zo was much better than Mori. I was thoroughly impressed with Zo during my last visit, and kind of underwhelmed by Mori. I know exactly what you found by the moisture part - it seemed Mori's fish had been sitting out for a little while longer. Also, I thought's Zo's cuts were better and had a better fish:rice ratio.

          6 Replies
          1. re: DarinDines

            It's not that the fish at Mori is dry. Its that you probably prefer the fish that are commonly classified as "meltingly tender". It's what makes Sasabune popular in LA. Fish that are "meltingly tender" are usually fish such as albacore, hamachi, salmon...standard farmed sushi. At Sasabune and at Zo, more sauce is applied so you think it's "juicier" or has more moisture. At Mori, the snapper marinated in konbu will be a little more dry because it's essentially been salt cured. White fish will tend to taste more dry and firm than the softer stuff like albacore and hamachi.

            Having been to both Mori and Zo at least 3 times in the past 6 months, and having been to both since they first opened, I can confidently say that Mori has the superior and more ideal fish to rice ratio and that the fish at Mori is higher in quality and that Mori uses wild fish in season (except for the salmon) and that Zo has to use farmed out of season stuff to maintain the variety that he offers.

            12400 Wilshire Blvd Ste 150, Los Angeles, CA 90025

              1. re: Porthos

                An erudite explanation. Agree.

                1. re: Porthos

                  Well put.
                  Porthos (or anyone), would you care to comment on the rice?
                  My dissappointment with both places is that the rice is a joke in comaprison to what I tasted in Japan. Each pearl of rice in Japan seemed "ricier" -- tastier and both cremeier and starchier. Why can't that be duplicated by such dedicated sushi masters in LA? Or is it me? Was I so enchanted and intoxicated by vacation (and/or sake) that everything seemed better?

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    Growing rice in Japan has been elevated to an art.

                    And, the Japanese government tightly controls what rice they grow, what rice is allowed to leave Japan (very very little) and what rice is allowed to be imported into Japan (very very little).

                    1. re: J.L.

                      Thanks, that explains it. It is so sad that we cannot import the best of Europe and Asia's bounties. The pidly amount of Italian salami, culatello, and other pork products that reach my mouth in the US makes me furious.

              2. although it's been a couple of years since both of those restaurants were on my regular rotation, i shared your preference for the food at zo over the food at mori.
                dunno if i'd call it 'dryness' at mori, but, to me, zo's fish had a consistent edge in terms of it's flavorfulness and it's texture.

                1. Thanks for all the answers. Interesting point about Sasabune... Although I've just had them recently and was underwhelmed... I do see your point about sauces, Echigo feels like that also for me and I do like it better. I think I'll do some taste tests on the same type of fish and Mori and Zo and see how I feel about them after. Thanks again!

                  12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                  12400 Wilshire Blvd Ste 150, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: TravelJack

                    Jack, if you have questions about what you're eating - ask Mori. He's very accomodating with curious diners. He's expert. Try that with Zo and see what happens.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        actually, in the days that i used to frequent both of those restaurants, i was always treated well at zo.
                        certainly, mori was a more 'charming,' talkative person, but i was NEVER ,in any way, treated impolitely at zo.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Zo has become less talkative and gruff as of late. Especially compared to 5 years ago. I' m not one that requires my itame to say much at all. However as mentioned above, simply inquiring about what types of fish you are eating has become so uncomfortable and awkward that it really degrades the experience. If he was the best in town and the most skilled maybe I could understand the attitude. But he's not.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            At Zo he has always told me what fish he is serving me, without ever having to ask.

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                I think you missed the point. It isn't about what kind of fish you're eating, it's about the dialogue that occurs about the fish and it's preparation.

                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                  I wouldn't say always 100%. Greater than 85-90% maybe. 100% I would say NEVER to your ALWAYS. Sometimes he's busy doing something else and just gives you the nigiri without saying anything. I've had to ask at least 5 times on my most recent 3 visits (within a 6 month period).

                                  He usually tells you the name in English but since the Japanese nomencalture is more specific, I usually ask him to repeat the name in Japanese. I don't know what amberjack is, but I know what warasa or kanpachi or shima aji is. On my last visit in November, I stopped asking halfway through the meal because it was becoming unbearable for the both of us.

                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                    To best illustrate the difference between Mori and Zo, I'll just relate my most recent experiences at the two places. My visit to Zo was in November 2010 and my visit to Mori was December 2010.

                                    Keizo- wild japanese fish
                                    Me-What is it?
                                    Keizo- Snapper family
                                    Me-What's the name? kurodai? (noticing the black skin)
                                    Keizo- *smirks* *shakes his head* Mumbles something
                                    Me-I'm sorry, what was the name again?
                                    Keizo- Mumbles something again
                                    Me- *give up* *eat my nigiri*

                                    Me- Mori-san. Do you have buri belly tonight?
                                    Mori- Yes. This year I am using a different buri from southern Japan waters. Last year, I used buri from northern Japan but this year, it is too expensive. The one from the south is different. Not as fatty. It has a different texture.
                                    *takes out fish, filets fish on the spot, harvests belly portion*
                                    Mori-I hope you like it

                                    Those 2 experiences pretty much sums it up for me.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      LOL "wild japanese fish" or WJF. Like a white house press secretary muzzling info.

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        And yet, I come out of each place totally satisfied with my meal and content (although much lighter in the wallet). Go figure.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          The question was Mori vs Zo. I vote Mori over Zo and you find them to be equivalent. I don't see a problem with that.

                                        2. re: Porthos

                                          I am relieved that I'm not the only one Keizo grumbles at.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            completely agree w/Porthos. Keizo-san will tell you, but sometimes it's vague and you have a question regarding it...it's almost uncomfortable to ask him anything. Before he became so famed, perhaps 4 yrs ago, he was much more pleasant, not so much talkative even then, but would smile and converse here and there.

                            1. I have some questions for the Mori regulars.
                              I've been to Zo several times since it's opening, but not recently. While food is excellent, turn off's include stern chef at bar, ridiculous policy of omakase-only even at tables. After reading about Mori as top contender for sushi in LA, I'm interested in trying again. I had lunch at a table last year but didn't think it was anything special. In order to maximize my dinner experience at the bar, I'm curious about the following items:
                              Is it important to reserve specifically and be seated in front of head chef instead of assistant?
                              Should I request sushi-only omakase vs inclusion of cooked items?
                              Do the cooked items reduce # of sushi courses or are they in addition to?
                              Will the full omakase be exorbitantly expensive? I've seen posts with vastly different costs. I'm looking to spend $100 food only.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: zack

                                For the optimal experience, request omakase in front of Mori. If you get sushi only, it drops the cost to around $100pp. Getting the omakase with some cooked starter items puts you more around $120-$150pp. Get the sushi only omakase if you like your sushi pure, unadulterated, and without a blue crab handroll at the end of the meal. If you like cooked items (which Mori does extremely well), just mention "omakase with some cooked dishes at the beginning" to Mori. This will increase your tab by $20-$50pp though.

                                This is very different from the fixed price omakase on the menu/tables.


                                1. re: zack

                                  I had 2 suboptimal dining experiences with Mori back 3+ years ago (both of which while sitting at a table), but I chose to try Mori again in 2009, except this time I chose to sit at the sushi bar...

                                  Night and day difference. Definitely sit at the bar. My love for this place reignited during that meal.

                                  I disagree with other Hounds who say you MUST sit in front of Mori-san. His sushi shokunin is quite adept, and frankly, Mori-san himself is working only 5 feet away. I've felt no difference in the quality of the meal whether I sit in front of Mori-san or his assistant.

                                  The price points given are accurate. $100 will probably not buy you any Hokkaido hairy crab, but it'll likely be a darned fine sushi meal regardless.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    I've been at the bar and the table. I don't notice any difference. I like sitting at a table with a date, at the bar with a friend. But Mori knows me and maybe - I don't know - maybe I get the "full Mori" at the table.

                                    Was just there recently - 150 per. (without wine) No, not cheap, but it was great. (had the hairy crab too) BTW - they had a very nice pinot noir on the menu for 18.5 buck (half bottle). My date was over the moon with the food.