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My Urasawa Report

I'll make this as short as possible since many other, more eloquent CHers have already written plenty about Urasawa. It was my first time there and it was as awesome as I had hoped. If anyone is on the fence about going anytime soon, GO, while he's got Hokkaido hairy crab on the menu(if you're lucky, he'll still do the crab shell dish below. Best thing I've eaten in recent memory, definitely this calendar year). I'll try to list all the dishes, but I'm sure I've got a bunch of things wrong and I started forgetting to write down stuff as time went on…I was in a blissful eating fog:

Amuse - Hokkaido crab, chrysanthemum flowers
Seared Toro wrapped around monkfish liver, caviar
Sesame Tofu, uni stuffed inside
Plate of Assorted Pickled Veg, cured roes
Sashimi - Toro, red snapper, uni
Toro Tartare and Caviar, pickled red bell pepper (Amazing)
Shark Fin Chawanmushi, assorted seafood things under
Hokkaido crab, uni, crab brain sauce in shell - served over Bincho coals. FAVORITE dish of the evening easy. Makes me want to go back as soon as possible to eat it again!
Shabu Shabu - Foie, Lobster, Scallop
Broth from above

Sushi(here's where I started slacking! I'm positive I missed a few pieces.)
Toro
Seared Toro
Kanpachi
Spanish Mackerel
Red Snapper
Blue fin Tuna
Squid
Uni
Chutoro
Mirugai
Saba(?)
Skipjack
Shitake Mushroom
Razor Clam
Tiny Shrimp
Needlefish(?)
Lobster
Toro roll
Abalone
Amaebi
Chopped snapper(combined with green onion, etc.)
Anago
Tamago

Pre Dessert - grapefruit gelee, apricot wrapped in shiso leaf, mountain peach(?), ume
Dessert - Mochi in red bean sauce, baked chestnut and green tea on the side

I cannot wait to go back again, I'm so torn between wanting to go again soon for that crab dish or wait until the seasons/menu change!

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

Kanpachi
1425 W Artesia Blvd Ste 27, Gardena, CA 90248

Shabu Shabu Bar
1945 E 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705

 
 
 
 
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  1. I would wait. The wait only heightens the experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      i agree with waiting. i went within 6mo's of each other and the luster had not worn off on my previous visit, thus i found the 2nd experience to be good, not great.

    2. That crab is stellar and was/is one of the best dishes I've ever had anywhere. I would try to capitalize on it while he still has it...but that's just me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        So we have two opposing thoughts on my dilemma....hrmmms. Maybe I can try to split the difference, if he keeps it on his menu for a bit longer! I don't know how long the season goes for. And I really should be dieting until my trip to France in May. Gah.

        1. re: baloney

          My friend who went after me and missed out on the hairy crab was a bit disappointed in Urasawa. I would have felt the same if I didn't have the hairy crab...

          Will be in Paris in May also...you don't see me dieting! ;-)

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

          1. re: Porthos

            But I am under constant pressure to remain an unhideous weight, being a young woman in LA!

            Perhaps we'll unknowingly pass each other somewhere in Paris!

            1. re: baloney

              Be glad you're not in Miami!

              We may very well pass each other...especially if your plans include Pierre Gagnaire, Frenchie, Chez L'Ami Jean, and/or Spring...

      2. The crab you speak of is the Kani Miso Korayaki, easily the best crab dish that I've ever tasted, and also one of the best dishes overall that I've eaten.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kevin h

          The best version ever of kani miso korayaki for me was at Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo. Hiro-san's version chimes in at a close second.

          Basically, if you feel this rapid repeat of the hairy crab at Urasawa is worth another $400+ for the price of admission, then by all means, go back soon. BUT keep in mind that Urasawa features this dish almost every winter. I'd wait to see what other gastronomic marvels await in the Spring.

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

          1. re: J.L.

            damn, wish i could go but it's a little cost prohibitve at the moment at the very least.

        2. Well somebody has to play devil's advocate. I just can't discuss Urasawa without getting over the cost hurdle. I've been once and I thought it was good, but not even close to Alinea, French Laundry, or a tasting of Scott Conant's pastas. All three were cheaper than Urasawa. For the price, I prefer the sushi at Zo or Nozawa (I'm a sucker for the hot rice) and the kaiseki/dessert dishes were extremely underwhelming.

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

          11 Replies
          1. re: albatruffles

            First of all, I don't even think Conant would think that he's on the same level as Alinea, French Laundry, or Urasawa.

            Second, French Laundry may have been unique and top of the class 10 years ago but it's been passed up many times in recent years for lack of innovation. Aside from the truffled egg, the oysters and pearls (the second time around, too warm on the first), and the butter poached lobster there are several restaurants across the country that I believe have surpassed TFL in terms of food. You can definitely get more exciting, more tasty, and more cerebral (if that's your kind of thing) at a select handful of other restaurants across the country for less. Service and execution is hard to beat but the service at Daniel can be just as perfect if not more. The setting and location is number one. But then again, that has nothing to do with the food.

            Having said that, I completely agree with you regarding price. I totally disagree with arguments that its a bargain if you figure in plane tickets to Tokyo. I'm definitely not the biggest Urasawa fan out there. In fact, I don't even give him the top sushi crown in town (Mori). But you can't argue with the quality and that crab brain dish grilled over hot coals that everyone keeps talking about blows away any dish I've had at TFL or Per Se.

            ...thanks for playing the DA btw :)

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

            1. re: Porthos

              I would actually argue that Conant is a better chef than Urasawa. I didn't have the hairy crab, but I have had the Pumpkin Cappellacci. And that was better than every dish at Urasawa. I'm of the school of thought that sushi has its limitations. I can go to Zo and get comprable sushi. And the kaiseika portion of the meal was pathetic.

              I wouldn't compare one pasta or 3 dishes to 28 courses at Urasawa. That's unfair. I'm comparing the 20 courses I had at Scarpetta to 28 at Urasawa. I think people are swayed and influenced by Ursawa's price. I think alot of other sushi chefs could easily do what Urasawa does if they had a $350 price point.

              You guys are making me hungry for that $500 crab, though.

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

              Scarpetta
              225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

              1. re: albatruffles

                I agree the desserts were disappointing but it's not something I expect to be blown away by at a Japanese place. I wasn't disappointed with the rest of the kaiseki dishes, honestly, when I factor in various factors, the meal doesn't seem obscenely expensive for what it is.

                I've not had a tasting menu at Scarpetta but I've been to the NY and BH locations and was not particularly impressed either times with anything I tasted.

                Also, I do agree with both of you, Porthos and albatruffles, that Mori generally does the sushi portion better than Urasawa(Mori's uni is so so good. Urasawa's was actually kind of disappointing, except that it showed up in many many dishes). Except the squid, I preferred Urasawa's verision to Mori's.

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

                Scarpetta
                225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                1. re: baloney

                  I will not concede, I will defend Conant to the death. Looking back at pics, I remember another issue I had with the U. He seemed to try to win over my $350 cover with a lot of gold flakes and luxorious ingredients, rather than unprecedented talent.

                  To answer your question, I would wait for the seasonal change. The waygu sashima was the standout for me. Enjoy your Paris trip, where $350 tabs are everflowing.

                  1. re: albatruffles

                    I agree the gold flakes were completely unnecessary. But still, what with the copious amounts of caviar, toro, etc. I didn't find it to be over the top, robbing you-type expensive. One of these days I'll have to give Scarpetta BH another try, tasting menu style.

                    I am now leaning towards waiting for the next menu change. I'll be dipping into the piggy bank for sure to pay for my Paris eats...damn dollar.

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                    Scarpetta
                    225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                2. re: albatruffles

                  I think alot of other sushi chefs could easily do what Urasawa does if they had a $350 price point.
                  =======================================
                  Easily, no. Especially not the Nozawa/Sasabune school of sushi chefs.

                  However, I would be very interested in seeing what Mori could do at $350pp. I'm guessing he could do some pretty spectacular things. Maybe I could round up enough hounds to approach him with said proposition...

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

                    1. re: Porthos

                      I enjoyed our duel, but I'll pass on another $500 dinner. Need to save for an upcoming Chicago food trip. You guys enjoy...

                      1. re: Porthos

                        That is a brilliant idea. I'd come.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Sorry to intrude on a local conversation, but I would seriously consider flying down from Toronto for this.

                        2. re: albatruffles

                          Gosh, I certainly hope that isn't the case. I mean, I like Scarpetta fine, actually quite a lot (I'm talking about their NYC location) but if Urasawa can't compete with Scarpetta after all that money, I'd be very, very disappointed (saving up for a meal there soon.)

                    2. I’ve never really expected that after a few US visits, my best restaurant will actually be Japanese. It’s located in the heart of 90210 shopping complex and it’s none other than Urasawa. Besides per se, Urasawa is the only ‘serious’ restaurant that I’ve visited more than once in the States. While the kitchen team in per se may often change and Thomas Keller doesn’t always be there, Urasawa is a lot ‘safer’ since the chef-owner will always be around – hence the quality and consistency is more guaranteed. And indeed, they never disappoint after my 3 visits in ’09-11

                      Food (and wine) - 96/100

                      Some of the memorable ‘kaiseki’ course I ate there are
                      - The seared toro with ankimo, turnip, caviar and yuzu dressing. Along with the shabu2, it’s probably the most popular dishes at Urasawa. The dish is balanced in which fatty tuna mixed well with creamy liver and caviar's brininess, the sauce is light enough not to dominate the dish

                      I will not claim I’m very knowledgeable in Japanese food, but I think I know enough. Yet, I’ve never eaten any sesame ‘tofu’ and houba yaki dishes except here.
                      - The goma dofu, a traditional Kyoto dish, integrates the light sesame flavor and uni’s creaminess. The dashi and wasabi will add more depth to this interesting dish
                      - Houba yaki is none other than dishes prepared on magnolia leaf that are served with Tama miso (grilled sesame paste with sake & sugar) sauce. Mine consists of Santa Barbara shrimp, Hokkaido scallop and Kobe beef The rich and delectable beef goes perfectly with the miso's flavor, the prawn is juicy and crisp, the scallop is delicate. The sauce is pleasantly sweet, but not cloying

                      - Matsuzaka Beef Tartar served with Russian Caviar, Pickled radish and Red bell pepper. It produces one of the best single bite in my life. The beef is sweet and decadent supported by generous portion of caviar's saltiness, the pepper is enjoyably tangy.
                      - The chawan mushi is also creatively prepared by Hiro-san. This time the egg custard is erved with Ikura (Salmon roes), shrimp, mushroom, Ginko, squash, gold leaf and Italian summer truffles. This dish is not only beautifully presented, but also very tasty - the texture is smooth and silky, complex with some tang and briny elements while the truffle is not too bad
                      - Dessert is not usually the strong aspect at Urasawa, but somehow I quite enjoyed the sesame ice cream served with Summer truffle and gold flake. The ice cream is rich and creamy, worked well with the earthy truffles

                      I will not go into much detail about the nigiri sushi I had (please take a look at the pictures on the link below). You will get about 20 pieces here and the order of serving may not always be the same. However, I notice some pattern is that Urasawa-san will serve the fish having the “softest” texture first with ‘warmest’ rice (usually 170-180 grains). As guest enjoy the meal, the fish’s texture will become firmer and firmer, then come the seafood-part. The sushi-omakase part at Urasawa is also the best sushi I’ve ever tasted in the US overall (even better than Yasuda, Gari, Azabo and Oya). After 3 wonderful meals at Urasawa, I’m thinking perhaps it’s the right time to try dining at Urasawa’s mentor – Masa at Time Warner in the future. It’s not yet reaching the high of Gagnaire or Passard in my note, but I’m gladly give 96 pts (high 2 ¾*) to Urasawa. If by US Michelin standard, mediocre restaurants such as le bernardin and eleven Madison park can get the highest accolade, without doubt Urasawa got to be a 3-star establishment as well.

                      Service (and ambiance) - 94/100

                      As far as the service is concerned, actually Hiro Urasawa himself is the ultimate host. He's always friendly, gracious and accommodating to all guests, whether you are a regular or first timer. I considered myself blessed that I've always been seated in front of Urasawa-san including the last visit with my wife even though we're about an hour late (we reached there almost 8 PM). When I ate alone, he would happily initiate a conversation. Additionally, he would not let any guest go to the restroom or leave the restaurant without having someone open the door for him/her. It may seem like a small gesture, but this kind of thoughtfulness (besides the delicious food) is the very thing that creates a memorable dining experience. The rest of the staffs are alright, but do not expect to engage/having many conversations with them.

                      The overall experience is very pleasant and satisfying (95.5/100 – 2 ¾* by Michelin standard). You will spend at least 3 hours in this temple of Japanese haute cuisine and leave happy & satiating =)

                      For more detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
                      For the dishes’ pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

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

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Bu Pun Su

                        I think that Urasawa would get 3 Michelin stars in Tokyo.

                        1. re: AlkieGourmand

                          It has become our tradition to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Urasawa. We make our reservation a year in advance and have plans to spend Dec 31, 2012 in our favorite seats in front of Hiro. I have said this before but it is worth repeating – this is the perfect place to celebrate any occasion. There are only ten seats and your seat is yours for the evening. The quality of the ingredients is exceptional and Hiro is the most gracious and accommodating chef/host. You will again notice the similarity of ingredients from last year to this year as Hiro prides himself on seasonality and uses only those ingredients that highlight each season. (This just gives me an excuse to at least visit Urasawa 4 times a year!)

                          I have tried to be accurate in my descriptions, but my Japanese vocabulary is not extensive, particularly with regard to ingredients.

                          Hairy Crab from Hokkaido, Mizuna, Chrysanthemum flower, yuzu zest, white soy and vinegar – a perfect combination of taste and texture.

                          Shiro toro, Monkfish liver, Myoga, Scallion, Shiso – the toro was wrapped around the monkfish and the combination was luscious and luxuriant.

                          Marinated Salmon eggs and Mitzuba on top of edame tofu mixed with tiny shrimp and the whole topped with gold leaf – any resemblance between the salmon eggs you get at a regular sushi bar or the salmon eggs in jars is not even close – these were sensational.

                          Sashimi – black ink squid from western Japan and Uni from Hokkaido with red radish, 3 different types of seaweed, fresh wasabi served in a hand-carved ice bowl. The dipping sauce is a blend of soy sauce and fish broth.

                          Hokkaido scallop mixed with white truffle from Italy, shitake mushroom, and Russian caviar with red turnip on the side – this was heaven in one bite with the red turnip functioning as a “chaser.”

                          The next dish was very labor intensive. The beef served as the outer wrapping and was stuffed with Shitake mushroom and lobster. It was placed in a bowl filled with hot stones. Sake was added and the steaming process cooks the dish producing an incredibly moist plus intricate dish.

                          On a small brazier, Hairy Crab from Hokkaido sits in the crab shell that is also filled with Santa Barbara uni and scallions. The sauce is made from the brains of the crab.

                          Shabu, Shabu – Foie Gras, Red Snapper, Spiny Lobster, Winter Cod Milt – Unlike when this was Ginza Sushi-Ko, we don’t have to cook the ingredients. After you eat each of the ingredients, the broth is perfect for slurping.

                          Now sushi. Hiro is presently using 170 grains of rice per each sushi slice.

                          Toro
                          Hama Toro
                          Spanish Mackerel
                          Red Snapper
                          Blue Fin Tuna
                          Skip jack
                          Squid
                          Shitake Mushroom
                          Caviar in a spoon
                          Uni
                          Medium Toro
                          Spanish Mackerel
                          Tiny Shrimp
                          Giant Clam
                          Spiny Lobster
                          Abalone
                          Abalone Innards
                          Kohada
                          Toro tataki
                          Eel
                          Tamago
                          Persimmon

                          There is no way to do justice to this meal either in words or photos – it was perfect in every way and I can’t wait to go back to Urasawa.

                          Pics here:
                          http://lizziee.wordpress.com/2012/01/...

                          1. re: lizziee

                            How much was just the meal for one, before tax and tip? And how much are the drinks?

                            Also, what is the signficiance of 170 grains of rice? (Sorry, I may be missing something here).

                            Sadly, i haven't gone yet. But it's just too expensive at this point in time, unless I close a major deal or make a huge, extravagant business win. (But I guess if I were to skip a place like Zo for three visits or ratyher maybe 3.5 visits that would equal one visit to Urasawa perhaps).

                            1. re: kevin

                              Kevin, I will have to get back to you on the price - my husband pays and I eat. As for the 170 grains of rice, it is very important. Most sushi restaurants don't understand the ratio of rice to fish. It is crucial that the rice not overwhelm the fish and believe me when I say Hiro knows exactly how many grains in each sushi portion.

                              1. re: lizziee

                                Wow.

                                Btw. "my husband pays and I eat" ---- Love it. :)

                                1. re: lizziee

                                  As for the 170 grains of rice, it is very important
                                  ================================
                                  I'm calling BS and I'm willing to bet dinner for 2 without drinks at Urasawa on it.

                                  Tallying 3 pieces of nigiri.

                                  160-180 I can understand and sounds reasonable, even in the most experienced hands. 170 exactly is near impossible given what I've seen from his sushi.

                                  E-mail me to arrange if interested lizziee

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    Porthos - I asked Hiro how many grains of rice he used and he said 170. When he was second in command at Ginza with Masa, they would form the rice for the sushi and then count how many grains of rice - grain by grain. Ask Hiro if you doubt me.

                                     
                                    1. re: lizziee

                                      I don't doubt what he TELLS you, I'm doubting his ability to do 170 each time, no more, no less. I don't go as often as you, but the one time I did his grains of rice were not individual pearls of perfectly cooked rice like you would find at Yasuda or Mori. Some of the grains were overcooked (ie. split open) so I'm doubting he can actually hit 170 every single time with that quality of rice...even if his rice was as perfectly cooked as Yasuda and Mori.

                                      The reason being: as you mentioned, proportion and ratio is key. So 170 grains of rice offers a certain rice/fish ratio for one type of fish/cut but a different ratio for another cut of fish. In fact, one could argue that the number of grains and the size of the rice should vary slightly depending on the cut of the fish or type of fish if we were to keep ratio of rice/fish constant. If you argue that certain cuts of fish need a little more rice, then that piece of sushi wouldn't have 170 grains.

                                      Looking over your wonderful photos and the photos provided by Kevineats, you can see that the cut of saba is different in size and shape from abalone which is different in size and shape from sayori which is different from sweet shrimp. 170 grains of rice every time would mean the ratio is actually different each time which would mean that 170 grains of rice every time may not be ideal much less real.

                                      This of course is all an academic discussion because I agree with you that his sushi is indeed very good and that Hairy Crab is one of the best things I have ever eaten.

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        "...170 grains of rice every time would mean the ratio is actually different each time which would mean that 170 grains of rice every time may not be ideal much less real."

                                        Perhaps it's more a function of the flavor profile of the fish, rather than the size of the cut piece, that makes the ideal "rice to fish" ratio right?

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Perhaps it's more a function of the flavor profile of the fish, rather than the size of the cut piece, that makes the ideal "rice to fish" ratio right?
                                          ===========================
                                          Yes, but unless the flavor profile of each fish is the same, the amount of rice would still have to change to keep the "rice to fish" ratio the same or "correct".

                                          Since we know that each fish has a different taste and flavor profile it makes all the more sense that the amount of rice would have to vary to keep the "rice to fish" ratio the same.

                                          Unless we say each type of fish has a different "rice to fish" ratio in which case you would have to vary the amount of rice and fish to obtain said theoretical perfect ratio. I guess you could also keep the rice constant and vary the fish size and cut...

                                          Whichever the case may be, you can just peruse the photos provided by kevineats through all 6 or so visits and see if there isn't some variability in the size of the rice (for example, see visit 4, picture 16 vs picture 19, or visit 5 picture 35 vs picture 34)

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            I phrased my reply to you poorly. What I was trying to say is that Hiro is changing the ratio of fish rather than the ratio of rice. You can come at this from either end, or both, and get the same effect.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Agree in theory but practically nearly impossible to replicate...we are human afterall, even Hiro.

                                              My final critique against this magical 170 grains of rice theory is that some very skilled sushi chefs have been known to custom the size of sushi to fit comfortably in 1 bite for each individual patron's mouth. If the rice had to be locked at 170, then the size of the piece of nigiri could never change and thus a comfortable bite for me might be too large for another. Again, why 170 grains of rice may not always be ideal or necessary.

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              Wow, this is getting a little academic and nit picky. My apologies if I started this divergence in the thread. But at the very least it is interesting. Even though I would have no basis in saying this I would say that the number of rice grains would have to be in the proper proportion to the piece of seafood so that sweet shrimp may have more or less grains than a piece of maguro would need in the proper proportion.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Yeah, it's obviously BS, but in Urasawa's defense, I think he just says this to customers, with the understanding that they not take him *so* literally. Basically, *I* took this to mean that he likes a consistently-sized rice pad, with pretty close to 170 grains in each pad. His nigiri are pretty consistently sized, but I didn't take the time to count the grains, because I was too busy enjoying myself...

                                2. re: lizziee

                                  That's a great idea for a New Years Eve. Was there an upcharge? (I assume there was. And as I am sitting down - actually laying down - I'm ready for it!).

                                  I wonder if you can do a buy out? They like to stagger guests, so that might not be possible. But potentially a nice (and pricey) intimate little party.

                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                    It was $400 per person - maybe a slight up charge. I don't think a buy out is possible for New Years as Hiro does like to stagger guests. Also I have already have reservations for next New Years!

                              2. re: Bu Pun Su

                                I dined at OYa this Spring - one of my best experiences ever. I will be in LA this Fall. I hope to dine at Urasawa!