19 June 2014
Since I planned my trip to Los Angeles I had been anticipating returning to some of my favourite eateries, including the sushi double of Kiriko and Nozawa Bar. I had a fabulous omakase at Kiriko the day before, and was looking forward to another wonderful omakase tonight.
The styles of the two restaurants are very different. As Kiriko is more relaxed and loose, Nozawa Bar is much more regimented. It has a single seating and all dishes are served simultaneously. It certainly has a top-end restaurant feel about it, from the service to the entire experience. I did not write a review last time, so this time it was definitely necessary to redress that omission.
Like last time, I waited in the crowded waiting area along those hoping for a table at the popular Sugarfish — within which Nozawa Bar is located. We were all herded into the back room as a group and took our places around the 8-seat sushi bar, where Chef Fujita greeted us. He remembered me from my last visit.
As tonight I was staying nearby and not driving, I happily drank a generous amount of sake through this omakase. Chef was on good form, joking with the customers and chatting with me about sourcing and so forth. It was an excellent evening of wonderful seafood at the hands of a brilliant sushi chef.
The first course, traditional here, is jellyfish. I always hear people a little apprehensive about this start, but I love it. Textured and sliced well to absorb the sauce deeply, a nice start like always.
Course two was a sashimi delight, comprised of hon maguro of an Equadorian big-eye, some Alaskan king crab, slices of fabulous tako (octopus) from Japan, and a touch of wakame seaweed. Watching Chef Fujita work on these was a pleasure, and he joked around a lot with the diners over the octopus tentacle.
Next up was a bright piece of toro, also from an Equadorian big-eye. Excellent, with just enough texture for the melt-in-your-mouth fattiness. We are now in the main part of the meal, the nigiri adventure.
Following that was a rarer item on menus in the US, isaki — or the grunt. This was a beautiful piece of fish, almost looks like a thinly sliced pata negra. It was smooth and hints of the sea, an excellent piece! One of the reasons I like Nozawa Bar, like Kiriko, is the use of less-than-common-in-America items.
Next up was the humble squid, a nice piece. I enjoy the texture of these things, and Chef keeping the skin on was a nice touch.
No need description for this wonderful piece of Santa Barbara uni. Excellent, just melts with goodness in your mouth. Some of the diners passed on this dish, to our shock, so, as with a few more dishes down the line, they were shared with other diners. This was excellent.
Lucky number 7 was hotate, a sweet piece of scallop from Hokkaido. A nice generous size, large enough to extract get the sweetness out of the entire piece. Fabulous stuff.
I enjoyed more sake as we continued into a fabulous piece of akamutsu, or ruby snapper. You don’t get these deep-sea treats too often, and it was excellent.
Next up was katsuo, or skipjack. This deep-red tuna was excellent, with a richness that is quite different from the more typical types of tuna.
The half-way point of the meal is marked by another “usual” for Chef Fujita, the yamaimo (mountain yam) handroll, with some shiso leaf and ume (plum) sauce. I’m not a big fan of this yam as it is like an odd poi from Hawai’ian cuisine but textured…hard to describe.
We continued into the second half of the meal temporarily departing from the nigiri, and we are presented with some excellent oysters — kumamoto, kusshi & shigoku. Now oysters are terribly subjective so I won’t discuss the three in detail, but I know kusshi are very popular out in the West Coast. I felt the sauce was unnecessary, as the oysters were fresh and very tasty on their own.
We continued with the detour as the next course was ankimo, or monkfish liver. Several diners were not sure about this, but they seemed to like it. I enjoy these things, but probably don’t hold it to as high of regard as most Japanese cuisine connoseurs. Nice though.
Next was a return to nigiri, and in fine fashion with sawara, or Spanish mackerel. This was an extremly rich piece from the waters off Boston, and I immediately had a flashback to some of the richest mackerel I’ve had over the years. This was fabulous and rich, the way I love my mackerel!
Following that amazing piece was a rarity in a sushi environment, a piece of Maine lobster. It was nice, but for some reason this is one of those things I prefer cooked. Nevertheless it was an excellent piece.
Next up we moved into the bivalves and a nice soft clam from waters near Boston again — like the Spanish mackerel. I really enjoy my bivalves, especially ones with texture, and this was excellent. Several diners had bivalve allergies, so I got some extras here. Lucky me!
More sake, to help wash down the extra clams and the next piece — ikura. I like how Chef made this item, purposely overloading so the extra eggs tumble down off the mountain like a mini avalanche of goodness. They are like little treats after the main piece. Of course Chef uses proper roe, not the over-salted crap you get at 99.9% of sushi places. I love these. Usually my “dessert” piece, but this worked great now!
Continuing with our feast, next was a large local shrimp. Nice and sweet, I enjoyed this more than the lobster earlier. At this point I actually bought some of the other diners a round, as they often fed me things they didn’t eat. So unlike last time, when I was done with the planned course, I did not have to order extras.
Next up was the tachiuo, or the beltfish. Nice to be back on the fish, as this was a nice piece of an under-appreciated fish.
The next item told me we were very close to the end, as were presented with a Maine lobster handroll. Nice and rich, this was a nice set-up piece. And we all know what the final item is…
I usually don’t like tamago but this was a nice ending, with a touch of apricot injected ito the fold of the egg. And after this I was quite full, having had some “extras” from other diners. Mmm…
I enjoyed some dessert but by now I was just basking in the afterglow of the fabulous seafood. I kept chatting with Chef for a bit until he made sure everyone was full and happy before departing, and I took my leave soon after that. Another excellent omakase!
Nozawa Bar is more regimented and less flexible, but it’s good fun. Chef Fujita is always in good humour, and by end of the evening you make new friends. Service is excellent, and the quality is top notch. It’s the place to take sushi lovers that demand a Michelin-level of service and environment, a quiet back room like a peaceful oasis in a chaotic and noisy desert.
Fabulous. You’ll love it. Prices are fixed and there’s a no-tip policy, so you know what you’re in for. Pricey, but worth it. I think it’s better than most of the other over-the-top omakase places in LA and through the country. A must. And frankly, Chef Fujita is more fun than most of them. That counts a lot over 20 courses…
212 North Cañon Drive
Beverly Hills, California