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Jan 10, 2013 03:53 PM

Sushi Zo has anyone been lately

I prolly asked this question a few months ago.

but it seems like our sushi regulars, i.e. porthos and jl, respecitvely, never seem to sing the praises of this place.

and i have not been in years due to a serious service issue. but i still believe he serves the best sushi in the Sushi Nozawa style, and that yuzu juice shot is pretty un-fucking-believable, if I could get that actual recipe, not similar but the exact recipe at one of the markets in Little Tokyko, Gardena, Torrance, or Little Osaka on Sawtell or rather anywhere in LA for that matter besides dropping close to what is it $200 bones now per person at Zo.

That would be great. But I've never found any of the yuzu juices in those markets to come even close to the depths and subtleties as Zo's creation.

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  1. you think Sushi Zo's style compares to Nozawa?

    1. I was there in November. I think it's easily one of two best sushi bars in L.A. - the other being Mori.

      This is pure sushi - no "appetizers" - which Mori has (and why I'd put Mori over Zo.)

      Zo is great. And if you're in a hurry (this can be a benefit) and want some great sushi - this is your place.

      1. Yes, Kevin, I have been, and lately.
        Everything was excellent, as always. The fish pieces remain small and thin, but the rice seems appropriately sized. To me this means you can eat a greater variety without getting so stuffed - a good thing; to my good friend this means he's ripping us off by charging the same amount for a smaller piece. The prices are indeed very high.

        Here's one big thing: I was surprised that Keizo was there but not working behibnd the counter. He popped out to say hi, but he was not cutting. Now, to me THAT felt like a bit of a rip-off. If I pay his prices, I want him, thought I must say, it was just as tasty without him.

        25 Replies
        1. re: Ciao Bob

          Which means the fish was pre-sliced then?

          Was the rice also pre-molded or did the assistant do that himself?

          You pay premium prices because slicing of the fish and molding of the rice is important in the craft, taste, and texture of each piece.

          But hey, it's your money :)

          1. re: Porthos

            <<Which means the fish was pre-sliced then?
            Was the rice also pre-molded or did the assistant do that himself?>>

            No, the other chef cut fish and made the pieces. I am not defending the whole deal, but I will say this was not simply an "assisstant" [as he used to use employ some non-Japanese dudes to help him], but a very experienced Japanese chef. When I watched "Jiro Dreams" this occurred as well, FWIW.


            1. re: Ciao Bob


              But yeah, after the first couple years, he started to add assistants.

              In fact, in that first year or so, you could actually order what you wanted, the omakase only policy was not in place, but when he ramped up the omakase I think the fish got even better, maybe because he was charing higher prices too.

              anyhow, how many pieces did you have and what was the cost before tax, tip, and drinnks, it's been a while so I'm trying to gauge how much it has increased from a couple years ago, when with tax and tip for 25 pieces, including the one sashimi at the beginning, a C-note and a half.

              also, is he still serving the sweetened yuzu juice or does he deign to serve it ???

              1. re: kevin

                Went a couple of months ago, after a 1.5-year absence. Pieces look like they might've gotten even smaller, but quality of fish is still high. And yeah, it's like an assembly line of chefs, albeit experienced Japanese ones. Keizo-san was mostly in the back working on non-nigiri items like the maguro sashimi, ika/uni, and ankimo. But one improvement - they seem to be...happier. Chatted a little w/ my itamae, and Keizo-san even came over a few times to see how I was.

                1. re: chrishei

                  Maybe because now he has a firm client base, who won't balk at dropping about 200 bones for some sushi and a sashimi plate alone.

                  Rather than a few years back when he might have been hurting for some customers.

                  1. re: chrishei

                    Are they still over-saucing their nigiri? Not sure if I want to go back to Zo anytime soon, given the current reports.

                    Non-farmed seafood prices have gone up almost 30% over the past 5 years worldwide. It's not at all surprising that reputable sushi purveyors are now forced to pass on that cost.

                    1. re: J.L.

                      <<Are they still over-saucing their nigiri? >>

                      With all due respect J.L., I think the way you put that is more a way of picking a fight than a way of asking a genuine question.

                      As a guy who clearly loves it raw, and one who had a wide experience with sushi chefs (shokunin?), you know very well he is not the type of guy who is going to change things one iota. One man's over-sauced nigiri is another man's great pleasure. Can't we all just get along?

                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                        That's why I always compare Zo to the style of a Nozawa because of the oversaucing.

                        But and here's a huge but : Zo is a gourmet, greater variety of fish, fresher fish version of Nozawa where Nozawa who started the over-saucing game along with sasabune, echigo, wasabe, nishi-ya, oshima, are all disciples of the same master, nozawa, but Zo is a case where the pupil one-ups the master.

                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                          No disrespect intended at all. I'm simply stating my personal aversion for Zo's level of "saucity" (OK a neologism, but you get my drift) on his creations.

                          More interestingly, if Zo is "not the type of guy who is going to change things one iota", why (according to these recent reports I'm reading here) has he adopted an "assembly line" method?

                          1. re: J.L.

                            Excellent point. Are you a lawyer, by any chance?
                            I guess I meant his approach to what is on the "plate" and his preparation methods -- like those of many serious Japanese chefs -- seem unwavering.
                            Off to a good start - insulting lawyers, J.L. and the Japanese - all before 9 AM.

                    2. re: kevin

                      kevin, it seems to me that EVERY good sushi bar that has maintained it's quality has substantially raised their prices over this period of time.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        westside, have you been recently ?

                        If i remember correctly, you used to hit it up quite frequently,maybe a few years back.

                        it's a long time since i've been there.

                        1. re: kevin

                          i went there when the market was kinder to me.
                          i still go there when my friends from out of town come and insist on paying.

                          i dream of being a regular there again someday.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Damn, I wish out of town guests would treat me. But they are usually stick me with the bill.

                            1. re: kevin

                              compared with the sushi bars that they frequent in new york, zo is great quality and relatively low priced.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Not true. Yasuda ran me $120-$140 during the same time Zo ran me $120-$140 (before Yasuda retired). Zo is no Yasuda. Not by a long shot.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  While I think you're right I always get the feeling that meals at sushi bars in NYC are expensive than their counterparts in LA, even when I know objectively that's not the case (Masa notwithstanding). I think it's because the alcohol prices might be higher ... Dunno.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Maybe because its a nicer setting so you think it's more expensive. I was shocked my last visit to Yasuda prior to his retirement. His prices hasn't changed in 8 years while LA's prices went from $90pp omakase to $150pp (Zo) in the same time span. At Yasuda you got 5 types of toro, 30-40 types of sushi items, 2-3 types of fresh eel. At Zo, much much less. It's a myth that LA has "better" sushi.

                                    I'm comparing high end to high end. Of course LA has more medlium/cheap sushi but that is an odd definition of "better".

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      I think Kumurazushi might be one of the places westsidegal's clientele visit. It's arguably more pricey than Zo and certainly no better.

                                      I still lament missing out Yasuda.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Kurumazushi is easily pricier than Zo and even more than Urasawa at times. One goes there for the sashimi. The sashimi there is unrivaled and the quality is probably as good as if not better than Urasawa. It's pricy because you're consuming thick cuts of sashimi of the highest quality which goes down pretty quickly without any rice filler. Pristine stuff. I highly recommend it if price is truly no object. With Urasawa, at least you know the damage. With Kurumazushi there is a "OMG what have I done?!" moment of panic just before you see the bill.

                      2. re: kevin

                        it sounds as though you think that zo, alone, could be immune from the world-wide increase in the price of fish.

                  2. re: Ciao Bob

                    I was back last night and it was my first real dissapointment at Sushi Zo. Keizo was not there, they told me he was in Japan.

                    -- I asked for no truffle salt and my first piece had it.
                    -- The servers, and chefs, rushed everything. Every plate was grabbed immediately, often while were still chewing. And then the next plate came in, often while we were still swallowing. It was so annoying. I can understand some pressure to turn over seats on a crowded night with patrons waiting, but the place was not crowded on this Tuesday evening (maybe, 25% full) or when it is close to closing time (we got there at 8:15). But even under those circumstances I do not think anyone would be happy to have the servers hands dispatching dishes so quickly.
                    -- Many of the sushi pieces were “mushy,” the fish had no texture at all. The surf clam was terrific, the uni first rate, the squid was fine, and the ikura excellent. I loved the firefly squid too. Most of the fish and the scallops served with lemon and salt were good; however, the albacore, and any of the sauced pieces were very, very mushy.

                    1. re: Ciao Bob


                      Every other time you have been Keizo was there ?

                      What were the damages ?

                      And who is worthy enough to take over in his place ?

                      1. re: kevin

                        Doesn't bode well for their upcoming 2nd location...

                        1. re: kevin

                          Every other time you have been Keizo was there ?
                          ---yes but if you read my previous post on my last visit he was not front-and-center, he was in the kitchen in back

                          What were the damages ?
                          ----$270 + tip for 2 with 2 beers and 3 hakaaisen sake

                          And who is worthy enough to take over in his place ?
                          -----young guy named Masa

                    2. Great meal there in November with Keizo-san manning the sushi bar. No yuzu juice finisher, though. Haven't had that in a long time there : (.

                      Interested in his DTLA project in the Bank District. Perhaps that's why he's transitioning other chefs.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: revets2

                        Pray do tell, what's the DTLA project going on ?

                          1. re: ipsedixit


                            Now I wonder if this will be a second location, or he's going to close up shop on National.

                      2. My first and last visit to Zo was probably back in 2007. Since I had nothing to compare that visit with, I thought it was stellar at the time. But with more eating experience under my belt as time passed, I do want to address the over-saucing issue which in some cases I did feel so at the time.

                        Even back then it seemed that Keizo-san only had maybe 2 (tops) kinds of nikiri he would use to sauce the various fish. The nikiri as I distinctly recall, was a very heavy thick konbu dashi shoyu, almost molasses like in thickness, which would have been ok for certain fishes, but he applied it to delicate white fleshed naturally sweet fish like hirame or kinmedai which caused an imbalance, as well as other various fish.

                        Having had nigiri at two highly rated places in Hong Kong, I'm curious if using aka-su / red vinegar to season sushi rice is common in LA's top tier places (Yasuda did it but the rice still looked white), and if places are still doing it, where? One place I went to in HK (Sushi Mori, not related to Mori in LA) the sushi rice was dark red...the chef seasoned with 3 years aged red vinegar, and applied it quite liberally.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: K K

                          Wow, dark red sushi rice. That I have never had before. Does anywhere in the states serve it ?

                          1. re: kevin

                            Well I may have made it sound exaggerated. The sushi rice basically is not pearly white, but has a tinge of redness to it. But the vinegar the chef used to season the rice is thick dark red for sure.

                            And for those asking, the pic is kinmedai with the engawa on top...