Review: Picca

2 March 2014

I had decided not to write too many reviews for this trip to LA; the only one I had originally planned was for Kiriko, because it deserved a full review. I had also dined at some other places I have reviewed frequently such as Il Grano (review #1, review #2, review #3) and Hakata Yamaya (review #1, review #2), so I will not clutter the list with more glowing reviews of those excellent establishments (the meals were, again, excellent). In addition, I also dined at the excellent back-room Nozawa Bar, which featured another amazing omakase dinner — but I chose to keep the phone off all night as I needed a short break from the heartbreak and chaos that is Ukraine…

Nevertheless, I felt I needed to write a review for Picca. I’ve had some nice food there before, and I have not done a review for it yet. Picca is an excellent and innovative Peruvian small-plates restaurant at the edge of Beverly Hills, and I was looking forward to a good dining experience on this long but wonderful Sunday evening. Everyone was busy a few miles north at the Oscars, and I didn’t care…

It wasn’t very busy and I took a seat at the empty chef’s counter. It’s nice to watch the different stations work here, as the different parts of their menu requires such a separation — from the raw stuff to the grilled to others. I chose a selection of small dishes for this meal.

uni_scallop_tiradito

First up was the uni scallop tiradito. The scallops were nice and large and the urchin was a nice touch, but the whole thing seemed a little sloppy and almost a waste. It didn’t mesh as well as you would have thought. A tighter arrangement would have worked better to be honest.

anticucho_lengua

Next up was the anticucho lengua — the skewered braised ox tongue. Nice flavour, soft texture (maybe a little too soft), but the portion was rather small for such a price.

cartilago

Third up was the cartilago — or chicken cartilage. This dish was fried with peppers and onions. Unfortunately, this was nearly inedible. All I tasted was a thick and chunky batter, and there was almost no cartilage. Have you ever had calamari that was all batter and no squid? This was like that. And the batter was just awful… I abandoned most of this dish.

So far I was not happy with this meal, being half way through. The service has been spotty despite the restaurant being rather empty. Took ages to get anyone’s attention for a drink…

anticucho_culito

The fourth dish was anticucho culito — crispy chicken tail. At least this was much better than the last dish, which was still sitting there, almost taunting me… Not bad, but nothing special here…

arroz_con_erizo

Next up was the arroz con erizo, something of a cross between a paella and risotto, with sea urchin and seafood. This was actually a really good dish. This tells me the main station is still doing good work, and that it’s the other stations (grill, and especially fry) that are not up to par this Sunday evening.

anticucho_corazon

After all that I wanted to give them one more chance, so I added one more, anticucho corazon — the beef heart. This portion was more like it, and it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t anything to write home about…

To be fair, after I complained about the cartilago, they took the price off — though after they had already processed my card (no idea if I was being double-charged). It seems the kitchen was confused, the front-of-house was confused. It’s just way too lax. I know it’s Oscar Sunday, but still, your customers are still customers.

I left without any last drinks or desserts, as I was rather disappointed with this dinner. I’ve had such good food here before, even from the grill and fry stations. This was just not up to par, and I don’t see myself returning here again. A total shame, as this was one of the places I always recommend to people in LA…

Picca
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, California

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Review: Kiriko

26 February 2014

It’s been a few weeks since I got back from Japan. I’ve had a few meals in the meantime in DC and New York, but just didn’t feel like writing about them for some reason. The taste of Tokyo was still taking up a prominent spot in my head, and I wonder if I could really enjoy Japanese food outside of Japan again…I know I must try!

I had to run to Los Angeles for a few days, and for my first night I returned to what I thought was the best sushi I had in LA in the past, Kiriko. I went for a sushi omakase, like I did last time, and was hoping for something as brilliant and interesting. I was totally blown away last time, especially by the diversity and rarity of some of the pieces.

I sat down on a quiet weekday early evening, with sake in hand, and began my sushi adventure…

01-hamadai

The evening began conservatively with a nice piece of snapper. Good texture, easy to eat.

02-03-maguro-chutoro

Next came a duo of bluefin, a leaner piece and a nice chu-toro. Nice, modest pieces of tuna, a good way to start things off.

04-hiramasa

Following that was a nice piece of amberjack. Not usually my favourite, but this was flavourful and the texture was enjoyable.

05-06-sablefish-katsuo

Next up was another due, this time of sablefish [on the left] and bonito (katsuo). Interesting balance between the two items that you don’t always see on a sushi menu. Nice.

07-ika

Next up was the humble ika, which is always one of my favourites. I love squid, and this was a nice piece. Sorry the photo seems out of focus. For some reason after the last software update it has problem focusing on white-coloured things…

08-hotate

Following that was one of the evening’s treats, a large and sweet Hokkaido scallop. I really like how they presented this, almost making the scallop look even meatier and juicier. Fabulous!

09a-ebi

Next up was a two-parter. First up was the raw shrimp, which was extremely tasty. Sweet and tender. Chef asked what I would like to do with the head, and one option was to fry it, so…

09b-shrimp_head

A mini tempura shrimp head. How awesome… This was one of the highlights of the night, and the head was excellent!

10-11-kohada-baby_sawara

Next up was another duo, this time on the left the gizzard shad, the right baby mackerel. To be honest, these didn’t do that much for me, they were very neutral in taste. Maybe just a touch too much adulteration. I love mackerel, and wished it was more forceful. I love strong mackerel…

12-smoked_chilly_trout

Following that was a piece of smoked chilly trout. I had these in Japan, and they are interesting. Not imposing at all, a nice flavour.

13-anago

Then we have a nice eel (anago). Though always one of my favourite things to eat, especially with sea salt, it just didn’t carry the day today. Not sure why…hard to explain.

14-uni

Then we have some nice Santa Barbara uni, which again is one of my favourite. However, again, I don’t know why, it just didn’t hit the spot as it usually does… Is the sake not matching the flavours? I chose a dry one, but…

15-saba_handroll

A small rest with a mackerel handroll. A good piece to clear out your palate with the nori.

16-mirugai

Now we’re getting into my favourite shellfish section. First up is the mirugai, or the giant clam. I love this, the texture was just excellent.

17-hokigai

Next was the surf clam, or hokigai, which also had a wonderful texture that I love. I wish there was more attention paid to the shellfish portion too, despite how much I love the fish.

18-19-seared_madai-seared_toro

The next pair are both seared…on the right is the red snapper, the left is the toro. I usually am not too into seared sushi, but this brought the flavours out very well, adding a different dimension to both types of fish. Very nice.

20-seared_king_salmon

Following that another seared item, this time the king salmon. I’m not a big salmon-for-sushi fan, but this worked out pretty well.

21-cured_ebodai

Then a pair of cured ebodai, or butterfish. You don’t see this very often on menus, so it’s a nice treat. Nice and flavourful.

22-engawa

Next up is the delicate engawa, or halibut fin. You definitely don’t see this often, and here it is perfect. I had this in Japan as well, which is a very tasty part of the fish that needs extra work to bring out the flavour. Excellent!

23-tako

Following that was the humble tako, or octopus. I usually like my octopus a bit rougher, with more texture. But this was a nice piece, maybe a little too soft for my usual liking.

24-otoro

Now next was another of the highlights, a beautiful piece of o-toro. This was nice and fatty, without any stringiness or problems that sometimes comes with them. Excellent, I loved it.

25-geso

Another dish you don’t see often is the geso, or the squid tentacle. Lovely presentation for a nice dish here. Again, I love squid, so this was a treat.

At this point the session was nearing an end, and chef asked if there’s anything I like again. So I did have the engawa (halibut fin) and the big scallop again.

28-ikura

And finally, the humble ikura, or salmon roe. I have a strange tradition of closing out my meals with these, and it was a nice end.

This omakase at Kiriko was excellent. Maybe not as exciting as the last time I was here, but it was solid and good. Perhaps the sake I chose didn’t work that well, but that’s my fault. The fish was top rate and fresh, and the presentation was wonderful. Great balance.

However, this does make me miss Sushi Bar Yasuda and Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo so much…

Kiriko has proven itself again to be an excellent place for sushi, one of the very best in the entire country. I know next time I’m in LA I’ll be back here certainly.

Kiriko – Sushi Omakase
1. Snapper
2. Maguro
3. Chu-toro
4. Amberjack
5. Sablefish
6. Bonito
7. Squid
8. Hokkaido scallop
9. Shrimp (and head deep fried)
10. Gizzard shad
11. Baby mackerel
12. Smoked chilly trout
13. Eel (anago)
14. Uni
15. Mackerel handroll
16. Giant clam (mirugai)
17. Surf clam (hokigai)
18. Seared red snapper
19. Seared toro
20. Seared king salmon
21. Cured butterfish (ebodai)
22. Halibut fin (engawa)
23. Octopus
24. O-toro
25. Squid tentacle
26. Halibut fin (engawa)
27. Hokkaido scallop
28. Ikura

Kiriko
11301 Olympic Blvd
West Lost Angeles, California