Kokekokko

Photo credit: Darin Dines

Kokekokko
203 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-0690
yelp.com/biz/kokekokko-los-angeles

Kokekokko, the yakitori-ya in Little Tokyo specializing in chicken skewers, is a oft-misunderstood spot. The restaurant is probably most well-known for the attitude of its head chef/owner, Tomo-san, and his reluctance to serve first-timer or newer patrons off-menu skewers which are “reserved” for the regulars and black plate customers (true VIPs who have customized plates made for them by the restaurant). I completely get it – this is America, after all. I myself was guilty of hating on Kokekokko for its elitist attitude and had been scared off trying the place for the longest time…until Food’s Eye View insisted I go with him (after he had somewhat established himself with a few visits in the weeks before).

In essence, the way Kokekokko is run is akin to the tiny basement restaurants plenty in Tokyo, which are either invitations-only or give priority to regulars (Totoraku is probably the most famous in town for doing this). Due to their size and lack of self-promotion, they want to reward their loyal customers for their continued support or being the early adopters. In fact, this system is probably passively present at some of your favorite Japanese restaurants in LA. Not the most democratic of systems I know, but for those actually considered as such, there is major gratification to be had for essentially racking up points on your rewards club card. It’s like getting a FastPass for everything at Disneyland because you’ve been there a dozen times already. There is also a sense of camaraderie and friendship that comes out of a relationship like this.

But how do noobs approach Kokekokko? Like you would with any restaurant – sit down, be respectful, and eat what’s in front of you. That’s it really. Kindly ask for the off-menu stuff. If you’re nice and they have plenty, then there’s a high probability you’ll receive at least some of it. How do you think people ascend to regular status? You can be an asshole and go to a restaurant multiple times, and Japanese restaurants like this won’t elevate you to VIP status. They’re not in it for the money, but rather to serve patrons who love and respect their craft. If you go again, they’ll likely recognize you (since it’s pretty much the same servers working there on the regular), and try to hook you up. Just don’t act like a Yelp Elite, and odds are you’ll be fine.

Still, there’s an actual reason why people want to go to Kokekokko outside of its relative exclusivity, right? It’s because the chicken is damn delicious. First of all, they only use Jidori chicken, and get it fresh daily (I think they might even be butchering it themselves), which makes a huge difference in the quality of meat. Add the use of binchotan charcoal, which technically produces no flames or smoke but is able to maintain an extremely high temperature consistently, and the deft skills of men whose grilling skills would make most backyard chefs cry, and you got yourself amazingly grilled skewers of basically every edible part of chicken than can be put on a stick. In fact, this is a great place for offal (attn: The Offalo), as some of the best skewers at Kokekokko are of the organ variety, like the three varieties of heart.

But don’t forget about plain ol’ chicken breast, as the version found here is probably the most well-cooked piece of breast I’ve had in recent memory. The reason: it’s cooked rare. You can request it well-done or what not, but you’ll probably see Tomo-san looking really pissed/sad grilling that breast, because he’s basically cooking the shit out of it. The quality of chicken is here good enough to eat raw even, due to how their source the chickens. So please try it rare or medium-rare at least, if you dare. Besides the skewers, Kokekokko might just be serving the best versions of chicken gyoza, soboro-don, and chicken ramen in LA, as well as other great small plates like chicken-stuffed shiitake mushrooms and smoked duck (see a trend here?). I’d go for the chicken ramen alone (seriously).

However, there’s another reason I’m mentioning Kokekokko: the restaurant is closing in late January 2015. This has been rumored for a while, as a certain favorite sushi chef of mine hinted at this over a year ago. It’s not because business wasn’t good (they’re doing well enough to self-justify the preferential treatments), but rather a new landlord is squeezing the current tenants out. After 25 or so years doing this, I doubt Tomo-san is going to open up another Kokekokko. So at least give them a shot in the next 3 months if chicken skewers remotely interest you. If it doesn’t work out, then fine – there’s always Torihei and Shin-Sen-Gumi. But you’d be yourself a disservice by not going to the only yakitori joint in town that could truly belong in Japan.

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Sasami (breast)

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Sunagimo (gizzard)

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Hatsu (heart)

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“Special” hatsu

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Toku-hatsu (special special heart)

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Negima (thigh w/ leek)

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Shin

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Kawa (skin)

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Tebasaki (wing)

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Seseri (neck)

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Chicken-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms

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Roasted Duck Breast

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Soboro-don

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Chicken Ramen

Grade: A-
Cuisine: Japanese (Yakitori-ya, to be specific)
Neighborhood: Little Tokyo
Price: $$ (probably more like $$$ though)

Kokekokko on Urbanspoon

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Sushi Tsujita

sushi tsujita

Photo credit: Sushi Tsujita

Sushi Tsujita
2006 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-1177
tsujita-la.com/sushi-tsujita

A brief first look at the new sushi restaurant from the Tsujita group that opened on Sawtelle last month, less than a block away from their ramen shops: we went a week after they opened, and my first impression was how pleasantly surprised I was by the dinner (disclaimer: we ate gratis , not as media, but as friends of Kenta-san, the Tsujita corporate chef). I say that because this is Tsujita’s first foray into sushi (to my knowledge), and I didn’t know how proficient they’d be at this. I’d say that for now it’s still below the likes of Shunji and Kiriko when talking about sushi in the area (as well as the city), but they compare very favorably to Q. The Tsujita folks certainly aren’t messing around when it comes to pumping money into the restaurant, and it shows in everything from the decor to, most importantly, the sourcing of the ingredients.

The restaurant brought Kato-san over from Japan to head the restaurant, and while he’s on the shy side (as well as speaking no English), he is surrounded by amicable itamae, who are veterans of places like Shunji. But make no mistake – Kato-san is the man in charge here. He’s doing the sourcing, he’s buying the groceries, and he’s doing the prep, right down to the soy. If I have any criticism, I’d say that the sushi rice can be inconsistent on a couple of nigiri. But it was only a week since opening, and there is nowhere to go but up for Sushi Tsujita. I look forward to returning soon, and hopefully will have the time to give a full, truly unbiased view. But thanks again to Kenta-san and the entire crew at Sushi Tsujita, who were excellent at making me feel at home.

FYI – they also started serving lunch, which includes chirashi and sushi set meals, respectively, at more economic prices.

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Steamed awabi (abalone)

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L to R: Aji nanbanzuke; Ayu w/ yuzu; Tamagyaki, hamoko (pike eel roe) & caviar

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Anago shinjo (sea eel cake/paste), yuzu & okra in dashi

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Whole steamed lobster

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Hata (grouper) kobujime sashimi (from Miyazaki)

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Momotaro tomato gazpacho w/ wine-soaked blueberry

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Kurodai (black sea bream)

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Shima aji (striped jack)

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Akami zuke (soy-marinated lean tuna)

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Kuromutsu (black porgy)

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Alaskan king salmon

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Hata, chutoro sashimi

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Amaebi

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Ikura

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Santa Barbara uni

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Saba

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Anago

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Otoro

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Miyazaki wagyu

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Okoze

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Kohada

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Tamago

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Melon compote

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Neighborhood: Sawtelle
Price: $$$$ (omakase price points at $120, $150, and $180)

Disclaimer: Food for this meal was hosted (not for media, but f&f)


Sushi Tsujita on Urbanspoon

Q Sushi

Q Sushi
521 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 225-6285
qsushila.com

Sushi is so hot right now in LA. Not that it wasn’t before, but nowadays diners have evolved from the mere specialty rolls to the elegant tastings known as omakase, where chefs dazzle with an array of appetizers and nigiri that can easily run bills into triple digits. While this movement has been for the better, it has also dumbed-down the definition and experience of the meaning and value of an omakase in general. Restaurants have been trying to “outdo” one another with excess and gluttony with regards to their “omakase,” not taking into consideration the delicacy and skill involved in preparing and progressing the extended experience without losing a step.

With all of that being said, LA as a city is fortunate to have so many quality high-end sushi options. There’s Kiriko, who can dish out nigiri both classic and modern as well as anyone, all while more than happy to appease the diner next to you who has ordered a California roll. There’s Mori, who walks down a more traditional path and has gotten the rice part of the sushi down to an exact science. There’s Shunji, who now has the most impressive array of quality fishes that can finally hang with Shunji-san’s world-class cooking. And if you’re making seven figures and going to Urasawa on a regular basis, more power to you.

Q Sushi opened to much fanfare last November. Probably not to the general public, but sushi connoisseurs had been keeping a very close eye on the restaurant, and the B-list food media (i.e. Tasting Table, Thrillist) and some bloggers were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Q’s selling point was that it brought over a chef from Japan whose specialty was intimate, carefully-prepared sushi, and that they would be strictly focusing on Edomae-style sushi, at least in the sense that everything would be done the old-fashioned way. That means, among various things, more marinated and cured fishes, because that was how they were kept fresh back in the day. Also, the sushi rice doesn’t contain any sugar, and is served at slightly above room temperature.

Not that I don’t appreciate taking it back old-school, but I do think that the scope of sushi has evolved to a point where we don’t have to be restricted by such confines that were mainly established due to the limitations of the time period. If I were to approach any of the quality sushi restaurants I mentioned above to serve me an omakase where it was kept strictly Edomae, I bet it can be done with ease, because that’s basically Sushi 101 for these masters. So it wasn’t as if Q was bringing something new to the table, because Edomae sushi exists everywhere. And for these very reasons, I wasn’t ready to sip the Q Kool-Aid just yet, especially at a starting price that is pretty much the second most-expensive in town (tied with Mori, and behind Urasawa).

I finally pulled the trigger on dining at Q for two reasons: 1) I recently started working at a new job that is within walking distance of the restaurant (albeit at a firm that rivals the restaurant’s namesake – I’ll leave it at just that), and 2) J. Gold wrote a positive review of the place a few weeks ago, and if I ever wanted to try the place I’d have to do it soon. So there I was recently, dining solo amongst an intimate group of ten at the sushi bar, looking up at all the decorations and wood that showed off the $2 million dollars’ worth of construction and interior design, and eating what was repeatedly said to me was LA’s first true Edomae experience.

If you read up to this far, it does appear that I went into the dinner with some preconceptions of the restaurant, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t true. However, I did keep an open mind, and was, for the most part, rewarded in doing so. There was a tranquil aspect of dining at Q, from the meditation-inducing interior design, to the calm appearance of the sushi bar, to the cool and collected sushi chefs, down to the server speaking in a hushed tone. And while I was never truly off-my-seat thrilled at any point during my dinner, I did appreciate the cohesiveness and pacing of it. In the BBC version of LA’s sushi scene, you can say that Q isn’t Doctor Who or Sherlock, but rather, Downton Abbey.

My 20-course omakase comprised of six appetizers and fourteen pieces of nigiri, to which I added a couple of extras. The chefs were quick and detailed in their description of each course, down to where the seafood was from, an encouraging sign. It’s easy to love true wild bluefin tuna (however controversial it may be) and hard to mess up, but the flight of nigiri I had of it was excellent, and even moreso the seared otoro that was served with a unrefined miso/sansho pepper/chili oil concoction that was like crack (picture a Japanese XO sauce of sorts). And yes, there were various fishes served in kobujime form (kelp-cured, one of the main aspects of Edomae sushi), but the three-day cure was just right, as was the wonderfully-pickled kohada (gizzard shad), proving Q was true to its word in executing the Edomae aspect of the meal with perfection.

Among other highlights, the Saikyo miso (from Kyoto) of the marinated Santa Barbara uni (which I added as a supplement) really brought out the sweetness of both components. And the sake-braised octopus was tender and flavorful, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the way it was cut. Overall, the pristine seafood was just that, of excellent quality, but the roster of fishes wasn’t anything a seasoned veteran of sushi would be truly impressed or surprised by (it can be said that the roster was kept fairly close to Edomae availability, but not the restaurant’s true intention in my opinion). So while a piece of engawa nigiri isn’t going to blow my mind, I definitely acknowledged the quality of the halibut fin served. And I’m not saying this from a price perspective; my favorite piece of nigiri is iwashi, which is sardine. Despite it being a rather cheap cut, not many places in town serve it, because it really takes a lot of skill and work in preparation.

With all of that being said, I think there’s a certain aspect of Q that should be highlighted – it’s an excellent place for novices of high-end sushi and omakase dining. For those who are trying to get into the game, a meal at Q can be life-changing and educational even. Like I previously mentioned, the chefs are extremely informative and courteous in pointing out the nuances of your dinner, as was my server. Although attending an opera before a rock concert isn’t a prerequisite, going to Q is a great way of easing into high-end sushi before you’re unwillingly exposed to all the weird stuff I’ve come to love, all while taking a walk down memory lane.

I actually don’t have anything truly negative to say about Q, but I will say that the sushi rice wasn’t really my cup of tea, so to speak. The restaurant keeps to tradition in the sense that only red vinegar was used, and the rice was served slightly above room temperature. By now, most in town have actually had experience to warmer sushi rice (due to the Nozawa family of restaurants and their offspring), so that’s not really a shocking thing anymore. And I myself do like my rice along the temperature Q has it, but I did find it on the…dry side. There was a certain “al dente” toothsome texture to it, which kind of highlighted that slight dryness. But it wasn’t bad – just not my thing.

In the end, my preconceptions of Q turned out to be true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take away the glitz and glamour of the media hype and the price of admission, Q is a great sushi restaurant for beginners of high-end sushi and omakase dining. It’s not the next great sushi bar that will further LA’s claim to the domestic throne of the cuisine, but it’s a good restaurant that doesn’t look out of place in a city full of contenders. I still encourage sushi connoisseurs to take this university course on Edomae sushi, but it’s purely an elective – there are still five or so required sushi courses before Q.

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Seared Hirame

Kampachi w/ Onion Soy

Kumamoto Oyster w/ Bonito Dashi

Seared Otoro w/ Miso-Sansho-Chili Oil Topping

Okoze w/ Ponzu

Miso Soup w/ Grated Carrots, Sansho & Sake Lees

Suzuki Kobujime

Kurodai

Engawa

Sumi Ika

Akami Zuke

Chutoro

Otoro

Kohada

Shima Aji

Sake

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Tako

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Shiro Ebi

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Anago

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Tamago

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Uni Saikyo

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Aoyagi

Grade: B+
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Neighborhood: Downtown
Price: $$$$+ (~20-course omakase is $165, but there’s a $75 10-course lunch on weekdays)

Q Sushi on Urbanspoon

Mori Sushi

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Mori Sushi
11500 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 479-3939

It’s time for some end-of-the-year catching-up for the blog. This time of the year (4th quarter, from mid-October to late-December) is the busiest for us at work, so I haven’t really gotten around to posting anything new, although there is no shortage in my dining out (see: my Flickr).  It’s not that I don’t have any time for it, because that would be an obvious lie (and most people who use that as an excuse are just BS-ing), but the last thing I want to do when I go home after a long day of sitting in front of a computer and typing at work is to do even more of it at home. But I would like have a fresh start for 2014, even though there are a lot of posts in the queue. So until the new year, I’ll be posting some of the more significant meals I’ve had in the last few months that I hadn’t previously gotten around to, with mostly photos and a few words here and there – enjoy.

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I’m not sure if most of you know this, but I’m a huge fan of sushi (okay, that should be OBVIOUS). And not just any run-of-the-mill stuff either – I’ve acquired a taste for the finer raw fishes life has to offer. I’m not ashamed to say that a good portion of my take-home salary goes to the local sushi joints, to the point where I should start looking for ways to write these expenses off. But while most of these visits go to a short, playoff rotation of regular haunts, I do try to mix in a new place here and there, especially when the homie Lawrence is in town. And the last remaining “tier 1” sushi restaurant on our to-dine list in L.A. was Mori.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to trying Mori – I live only a couple of miles from the restaurant, and it had remained very high on my to-dine list over time despite Mori-san’s departure and lack of reports in recent years. Maybe it was their previous no-photo policy, but it’s not as if I’m going into the restaurant with a DSLR and taking hundreds of photos as if I was actually someone important with journalistic dignity. Or maybe it was their price range, which is arguably the 2nd-highest in the city, but it wasn’t as if it was in the Urasawa-range. But there we were two months ago, finally entering the restaurant for the first time.

We were fortunate to sit in front of Maru-san, who was Mori-san’s second-in-command before taking over the place. By all accounts, not much has changed since the restaurant’s supposed heyday, from the pristine and expansive fish selection, the unique rice blend, and even down to the custom handmade plates, except they have been altered to suit Maru-san’s own preferences. There are three tiers of omakase, and we went with the middle choice, which was mostly sushi with three appetizers at $165.

The meal itself was definitely an all-star starter (top 5) from me this year. Each piece of nigiri, sans the sad piece of amaebi, was excellent. No nigiri can truly impress me from a rarity perspective nowadays, but I was indeed wowed by the quality of fish that we had that night, from the famous uni “duo” of Hokkaido and Santa Barbara varieties, to the hiramasa/buri yellowtail contrast. Confirming what I had heard and read, each piece of nigiri was on the smaller side, but not to the point of Sushi Zo’s minuscule portions. That sushi rice though – amazing. I can’t tell you what specific grain was used, or whether it’s a special blend, but the temperature, acidity, pairing with fish, etc. – it just clicked.

If you’re a sushi aficionado, and I’m sure there are plenty of you in L.A., then Mori should be high on your to-dine list. It’s definitely a splurge (again, the quality of food was top-notch, but for sure priced on the higher end of the spectrum), but it really was a great meal. Just save it for a special occasion…
Homemade Tofu

Homemade Tofu

Zensai

Zensai (from left): smoked aori ika & quail egg, red shishito pepper, abalone, baby celery, gobo, 2 kinds of pickled tomato, chestnut

Matsutake Dobinmushi

Matsutake Dobinmushi

Matsutake Dobinmushi – shrimp, hamo, gingko

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Tai no Kobujime

Tai no Kobujime

Sayori

Sayori

Hiramasa

Hiramasa

Buri

Buri

Hotate

Hotate

Aji

Aji

Akami

Akami

Iwashi

Iwashi

Kohada

Kohada

Aori Ika

Aori Ika

Mirugai

Mirugai

Toro

Toro

Kamasu

Kamasu

Amaebi

Amaebi

Uni

Uni

Saba

Saba

Ikura

Ikura

Sanma

Sanma

Kinmedai

Kinmedai

Anago

Anago

Tamago

Tamago

Dessert

Dessert

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Japanese, Sushi West LA $$$$ A

Mori Sushi on Urbanspoon

Shunji Japanese Cuisine [10] (Truffle Gohan Dinner)

Truffle Gohan

Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 826-4737
shunji-ns.com
Facebook

Just another dinner at Shunji – no big deal, right? Well, I usually just post pictorial updates (or not even post anything at all) of my dinners at the restaurant, with minimal commentary, because there are only so many ways to say how amazing something is. I’ve had extended dinners, running the full gamet of all that Shunji-san has to offer, from his signature dishes to sushi to experimental dishes few have the honor of trying. I’ve also had sushi-intensive meals here (again, the sushi here is arguably the most underrated in the city), as well as meals where I didn’t even have to have any sushi at all.

This most recent dinner falls in the last category, because the dinner centered around an almost-mythical specialty of the restaurant – it’s not mentioned on any menus or special board listings, nor does the restaurant advertise it as an available dish (other than a teaser photo or two on their Facebook page). But all the regulars know of it, and we finally had enough diners (myself, The Offalo, and Andy – a dining extraordinaire we’re familiar with from Chowhound, and comes to LA occasionally just to dine) and advanced planning to try the legendary truffle gohan – it was as if we caught Mew!

pf3kl

I didn’t know what to expect from this dinner, surprisingly enough. That’s because I’ve never had a meal at Shunji where I was truly expecting a certain dish. And this being the single biggest dish at the restaurant to date, I wasn’t sure what else we would receive without being gluts. The dinner started simple enough, with the mozuku and suri nagashi amuses we’ve had many times before. But each of these appetizers got knocked up a notch – the former was topped with crab, red snapper, and red okra (which had the texture of a regular okra sans the slime), and the latter incorporated scallop and four types of mushrooms (I think: enoki, crimini, porcini, shiitake). Then followed a zensai plate with some of Shunji-san’s classics, some dungeness crab with its kanimiso, a fresh spiny lobster tartare made with truffles, and a matsutake dobinmushi for each of us. That matsutake dobinmushi – it’s so hot right now.

After we got past those afterthoughts of dishes, a big black pot of cooked rice was brought out, to which Shunji-san liberally shaved black truffles on. That’s right, the truffle gohan is technically a kamameshi – a traditional Japanese rice dish cooked in an iron pot called a kama, hence the name. According to Wikipedia, the dish “came to refer to a type of Japanese pilaf cooked with various types of meat, seafood, and vegetables, and flavored with soy sauce, sake, or mirin. By cooking the rice and various ingredients in an iron pot, the rice gets slightly burned at the bottom which adds a desirable flavor to the rice.” This is a very homey dish that seems somewhat out of place at a high-end sushi restaurant like Shunji – sounds like the guo fan that I used to eat as a child. But of course, instead of Chinese sausage or cured duck leg, there are truffles…

The dish was a practice in simplicity. It’s really just rice cooked with minimal seasonings, with some truffles added near serving time (I believe it was shaved, then covered for a few minutes to let the flavors soak in the rice and the aroma to be trapped, ready to be unleashed at the weak diner ready to be submitted to its mercy, then finally mixed into the rice uniformly). The bowl of gohan served to each of us came with “homey” accompaniments to complete the rice set of sorts: pickles, ikura, bafun uni, one of Shunji-san’s famous marinated egg yolks, and a small serving of simmered beef (in the style of beef you’d find in gyudon or nikujaya, but with a nice touch of sweetness and made with wagyu here *waves arms*).  But the rice was so fragrant, so delicious, not overwhelming in any aspect, but whose flavor profile adjusted with each bite of the rice with each individual accompaniment. And we got to wash it all down with a bowl of spiny lobster miso soup – no big deal.

After finishing off our seconds, Shunji-san stopped serving. “This was it,” he must have thought, “I gave these fatasses so much to eat, there’s no way they’d want sushi, right?” But nope, in front of him sat three fully grown men, looking up at him with sad puppy eyes as to why he wasn’t busting out the fishes. So he caught on, and we spared him somewhat by only requesting three pieces of nigiri. But the clean flavors were a wonderful way to follow the simple, yet decadent rice, and to close out a typical meal at Shunji – in the purest, most classy way possible.

So my thoughts on the truffle gohan: arguably my favorite dish of the year, so good it gets its own sub-heading in the post title, and a spot on my favorite dishes list of this year (see: “Best Of” tab). Of course, the truffles definitely helped, but to eat this dish was to eat at a private dinner at Shunji-san’s house. But then again, the dish does take up a great part of the meal, so it is difficult to experience a wide variety of what Shunji has to offer if eating it. And its availability really depends on the man himself – whether he has the truffles, what kind of truffles, and if he wants to serve the dish at all. But if you’re a Shunji veteran who wants your experience at the restaurant to be just a little different and special, then you have to try this dish at least once. And bring friends (or other Chowhound members who are dying for the chance at finding enough people for such a dinner).

Mozuku w/ Crab, Red Snapper & Red Okra

Mozuku w/ Crab, Red Snapper, & Red Okra

Suri Nagashi

Suri Nagashi w/ Scallop & 4 Types of Mushrooms

Zensai

Zensai (clockwise from top left): sazae, persimmon w/ whipped tofu & truffle, whipped ankimo w/ caviar, blue cheese ball w/ candied persimmon, braised octopus, kazunoko & gingko

Dungeness Crab w/ Kanimiso

Dungeness Crab

Spiny Lobster Tartare w/ Truffles

Spiny Lobster Tartare w/ Truffles

Matsutake Dobinmushi

Matsutake Dobinmushi

Truffle Gohan ready to go

Shunji-san shaving the truffles

Truffle Gohan w/ Accompaniments

Truffle Gohan Rice Set: pickles, ikura, bafun uni, marinated egg yolk

Lobster Miso Soup

Spiny Lobster Miso Soup

Waygu Beef a la Gyudon

Simmered Wagyu Beef (a la Gyudon/Nikujaga)

Oka Aji

Oka Aji

Sanma

Sanma

Iwashi

Iwashi

Desserts

Desserts: lime ice cream, pineapple sorbet, chocolate mousse, lemon ice cream, mango ice cream, fruits

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Japanese, Sushi West Los Angeles $$$$ A+

Kiriko [14]

Kiriko
11301 W Olympic Blvd, Ste 102
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 478-7769
www.kirikosushi.com

I haven’t had dinner at Kiriko in a while, so I popped in unannounced this past Wednesday for a (relatively) quick dinner, and to catch up with Ken-san and Shinji-san. Always a good time chatting and sharing some stories, and it was fun to try some new dishes, as well as revisit some Kiriko classics (and downright just great sushi). I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo of a rice bowl Ken-san gave me, one with sake lees-marinated (for 3 years) fugu roe (picture a “drunken” tobiko) and sea cucumber intestines (konowata), both of which he brought back from his visit back to Japan last month.

Ankimo w/ Ponzu Gelee, Hokkaido Ikura w/ Grated Daikon, Persimmon w/ Whipped Tofu, Shima Aji w/ Bonito Gelee & Shiso Pesto

Ankimo w/ ponzu gelee, Hokkaido ikura w/ grated daikon, Riesling-soaked persimmon w/ whipped tofu, shima aji carpaccio w/ bonito gelee & shiso pesto

Fresh Albacore w/ Garlic Ponzu, Hokkaido Scallop 2 Ways (Carpaccio, Soy-Marinated & Seared), Seared Sanma, Smoked Kamasu no Kobujime

Fresh albacore w/ garlic ponzu, Hokkaido scallop 2 ways (carpaccio, soy-marinated & seared), seared sanma, smoked kamasu no kobujime

Seared Miyazaki Wagyu in Black Truffle Red Wine Soy

Seared Miyazaki wagyu in black truffle red wine soy

Bluefin Akami

Bluefin akami

Bluefin Chutoro

Bluefin chutoro

Tai

Tai

Buri

Buri

Amaebi

Amaebi

Fried Amaebi Head

Mameaji

Mameaji

Sumi Ika

Sumi Ika

Uni

Uni

Smoked Scottish Salmon

Smoked Scottish Salmon

Anago

Anago

Seared Toro

Seared Toro

Sumi Ika Geso

Sumi Ika Geso

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Japanese West LA $$$$ A

Daikokuya (West LA)

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Daikokuya
2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 575-4999
www.dkramen.com

With this post, we essentially conclude coverage of all the new ramen restaurant openings in the Little Osaka area – unless another one opens soon, which isn’t completely out of the picture at this point. But all of the big shots in LA do now have branches in this area, with Daikokuya and Shin-Sen-Gumi’s recent openings. Usually, the more the merrier, but as I previously mentioned in my Shin-Sen-Gumi post, the number of ramen shops on Sawtelle is too damn high. But let’s see what each of these restaurants bring to the table:

Asahi – mapo ramen, nostalgia
Daikokuya – decor?
Gottsui – beef ramen
Hayatemaru – appetizers, half sizes
Kotoya – ?
Ramenya – more “varieties”
Shin-Sen-Gumi – customization, appetizers
Tatsu – opens the latest, stunt ordering
Tsujita – best tsukemen, best tonkotsu ramen
Tsujita Annex – best overall ramen (Jiro-style, which no one else has), 2nd best tsukemen

As you see above, it’s hard to say that the addition of Daikokuya really adds anything to the area. Everything on the menu can be found at the other ramen restaurants, and it’s not as if Daikokuya does them better in my opinion. It also doesn’t help that the restaurant is located outside of the actual Little Osaka, being south of Olympic on Sawtelle (in the former Ramen Jinya space). But Daikokuya IS the city’s most popular ramenya by far, as evidenced by the crowds that the Little Tokyo location continues to receive.

Don’t get me wrong people – I think the ramen at Daikokuya is fine. I just don’t think that it’s the best that LA has to offer, and I wouldn’t wait an hour for it. But if you love it, you’ll probably love the version here as well. It’s pretty much EXACTLY how I remembered the Little Tokyo one (as well as the Monterey Park branch) to be. So that’s probably a good thing. Also, while I didn’t order any on this visit, Daikokuya’s gyoza and rice bowls are pretty good, even superior to the ramen in my opinion. So that’s something to consider.

I mentioned decor as a possible selling point for the restaurant. Not like it matters, especially for a ramenya, but I really dig the decor here. It’s like a commercial neighborhood block of a Japanese suburb during the 1980s. I am being this specific, because it reminds me of Shenmue, the Sega Dreamcast game from 1999 (if anyone remembers that game). Really cool, and an upgrade over the slightly over-the-top decor of Jinya (that giant styrofoam bell, in particular).

So if you love Daikokuya, just consider this new branch as one you won’t have to wait nearly as long for, and has arguably the best parking for all the ramen restaurants in the area. There’s your selling point.

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Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Japanese West LA $$ B

Daikokuya on Urbanspoon