Matsuhisa

9/15/11

Thursday night was Coach Mom’s birthday, and she chose Matsuhisa for dinner that night. She is quite familiar with the restaurant from the days when she was a career woman dating back to almost two decades ago. And her boyfriend is even more familiar with the restaurant, having visited the restaurant since its inception in 1987, and is still well-versed in everything Matsuhisa-related. I had always wanted to visit the restaurant, because this is where it all began in terms of the new wave of sushi and Japanese fusion dishes (Chef Nobu Matsuhisa was greatly influenced by his time spent in Peru). But it was out of my price range obviously. So this was a great opportunity to finally try the main restaurant of Nobu’s empire (which includes numerous sexy Nobu restaurants around the world), and to honor Coach Mom’s birthday the right way with a luxurious dinner at the sushi bar.

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We arrived at the restaurant at 6pm, right on time for our reservation, and sat at the corner section of the sushi bar to ourselves, being sat in front of one of their veteran sushi chefs. Shortly after, James Woods came in with his girlfriend and sat at a table near us. There were probably a few more celebrities of lesser fame scattered throughout the restaurant as well (Matsuhisa is somewhat of a hot spot for celeb watching). Coach Mom and her boyfriend had an idea of what to order, and what to try from the daily specials menu, so we essentially created a customized omakase dinner. It’s pretty great to come with pros, let alone two people I enjoy being with. We ordered some hot green tea and hot sake for the three of us, and then the magic began…

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Sashimi Salad w/ Tuna Tataki

We each started of with a simple salad with your prototypical dressing that goes with salads in Japanese restaurants (each of the dishes for this dinner are individual unless I specifically note it). But the tuna tataki was great – four big, fresh slices.

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Yellowtail Jalapeno

The first of many Nobu classic I was able to finally try that night. This was very simple actually. Just slices of yellowtail in a yuzu soy sauce, then topped with slices of Jalapeno and some cilantro. But this combination worked really well.

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New Style Sashimi w/ Halibut

Another classic. I believe this was halibut, in a yuzu soy as well. But the slices of sashimi are “seared” with a hot oil mixture consisting of olive oil and sesame oil. Then the slices are topped with some scallions, sesame seeds and a roasted cherry tomato. Again, very simple but executed wonderfully. Apparently, this dish was created due to a customer wanting cooked sashimi, and pouring hot oil over the fish was Nobu’s answer to the customer.

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Chilean Seabass w/ Foie Gras

The three of us split a big plate of this dish. I’m usually not a fan of Chilean sea bass, but the fatty fish soaked up the sweet and savory sauce very well. And the piece of foie was seared beautifully. I thought the shiitake mushrooms were a great complement, but I didn’t get the mountain peach.

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Scallop w/ Jalapeno Onion Salsa

Not sure if this was actually the name of the dish. This used to be a lot better, according to my mom’s boyfriend. The piece of scallop was seared well, but I thought that the salsa was a bit one-note, and the brussels sprouts were plain (although he said that they used to roast the sprouts, which I would’ve preferred as well).

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Sweet Shrimp w/ Spicy Lemon Garlic

Also not completely sure if the name matches the dish here (since we ordered without the menu for much of the meal, and I tried my best to match based on regular menu and daily specials menu). The sauce wasn’t really evident in this dish, but the sweet shrimp (cut like a spot prawn preparation) really stood out. And are brussels sprouts a staple in Japanese-Peruvian cuisine?

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King Crab Tempura with Amazu Jalapeno

I usually hate tempura dishes since they’re so plain and trashy (by Japanese food standards), but this was pretty amazing. The crab wasn’t overly battered, so you were able to taste the meatiness of the crab. The amazu, kind of like a sweet and sour sauce, was a great choice in comparison to the usual tempura sauce.

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Fr. Octopus Tiradito

Another Nobu classic, tiradito is basically a Peruvian ceviche (influenced by the Japanese in that country). The fresh slices of octopus were marinated in lime juice, and were topped with some cilantro and quite a bit of deceiving heat in the form of rocoto chili paste. They were on some sliced cucumbers, which wasn’t really necessarily in the dish. I liked this, but the yellowtail jalapeno and new style sashimi were better.

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Ankimo

Just a basic preparation of monkfish liver, but of very good quality. The ankimo was soft and creamy. I’m sorry Lawrence, the one at Sushi Gen we had the week before has nothing on this.

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Hawaiian Ginger

In additional to the standard ginger we got with the sushi, my mom’s boyfriend requested these from our sushi chef, which he pulled out secretly. He seemed impressed we knew of this ginger, but I was with veterans. They were sweet, but the spice crept up slowly. Very interesting.

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Uni

Standard, but the uni was very fresh. I should’ve known not to question the quality of seafood at Matsuhisa, but they were top-notch indeed.

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Sea Bream

This looked like tai (Japanese red snapper) to me, but I believe our chef said that this was sea bream (one of the three sushi he recommended to us – the other two being the kanpachi and saba). It was very good with some sea salt, lemon juice and shiso.

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Kanpachi

Nothing special here, but again, very fresh.

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Saba

The Spanish mackerel was milder than I expected, but went well with the ponzu.

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Kohada

Kohada, or gizzard shad, is something I haven’t had that much of. The fish is cured with salt, and is very fishy – fine by me!

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Yellowtail Sashimi

Some bigger cuts of the yellowtail we had earlier in the yellowtail jalapeno dish, as straight-up sashimi.

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Black Sesame Panna-Cotta (w/ Honey Ice Cream)

Dessert time! The block of panna cotta was really pretty, and tasted like a black sesame soup dessert, but a little on the light side in terms of flavor. The honey ice cream had more of a sorbet consistency, but was a nice touch.

PhotoBento Box (Hot Chocolate Souffle Cake w/ Vanilla Ice Cream)

The molten chocolate cake has been played out at restaurants, but I thought that this preparation was pretty nice. Vanilla ice cream was good, too.

I have to say, this dinner made me truly realize how Matsuhisa is often imitated, but never duplicated. The quality of the food has made the restaurant stand the test of time for the last two-plus decades, and is more than just a celeb hot spot in Beverly Hills. Of course, I still have some disdain for Asian fusion (and not everything was perfect), but it’s nice to see it done right by the true O.G. Of course, I don’t know if the restaurant has evolved with their dishes, but I’m glad I got to sample the Nobu classics at their birthplace. And of course, the traditional sushi was of a very high quality as well. Keep in mind though, that this great dinner didn’t come cheap – it was around $200 per person with tax and tip. But I would like to come back and try the omakase next time (I’ll make the couple take me here, while I make everyone else take me to Urasawa!).

Chris Hei grade: A-

Matsuhisa
129 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 659-9639

Matsuhisa on Urbanspoon

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