Sunday, March 1, 2009

Asanebo - 12/27/2008

11941 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 760-3348

As the last Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Los Angeles I had yet to try, Asanebo has been on my radar for quite some time. The restaurant is located in a generic strip mall along Ventura Boulevard. Though I didn't realize it when I arrived, the lot is valet only. Fifteen minutes into dinner, the valet knocked on the restaurant window and called me out to pay him which I found a bit unfair given that he didn't actually do anything.

At a restaurant of this caliber, ordering the omakase is the best way to sample the breadth of the chef's cooking. Asanebo offers three ranges 75-100, 100-125, and 125+. Given that we would likely not be back for a while we went with the top level and set a cap of 150.

Baby Spinach Salad - with Scallop
A solid start to the meal, the lightly seared scallop had a delightful char that complimented the bitterness of the spinach. The deep fried bits of noodle added a pleasing roughness to the scallop.

Red Snapper - with White Asparagus
I am not sure what the green sauce was but it added a tartness that complimented the snapper well. I am impressed they were able to pair a sauce with the snapper without dominating the fish entirely.

Sashimi Plate
An eclectic mix of seafood, I believe there was kanpachi with jalapeno, yellowtail belly, and calamari. The kanpachi with jalapeno was nothing special, clean fresh fish with a hint of heat. The yellowtail belly was nice and firm with a subtle fattiness. The calamari was out of place next to the raw fish and I could have easily done without it.

I am still not quite sure what was in this course, but it was called "Stick" on the handwritten menu we received at the end of the meal. The stick was quite hot which contrasted nicely with the cool salsa.

Hama Hama Oysters
These Hama Hamas have to be the largest oysters I have ever eaten. The supple and meaty the texture was quite appealing; however, the use of ponzu and pickled vegetables was far too potent giving the dish a harsh abrasive flavor.

Jumbo Clams
I am not sure why they served two shellfish courses back to back. What's worse, the vinegar and brine aftertaste of the previous course hadn't dissipated and masked the subtle sweet sauce used to season the clams. If not for that, this might have been a decent dish.

Lobster and Halibut - with Truffles
I thought for sure after a string of lackluster dishes this would be the one to turn things around. I mean, lobster sashimi and truffles, how do you screw this up? Well the chefs at Asanebo found a way. Serve lobster and halibut with soft mealy textures and season with truffles that have no aroma whatsoever. Terrible!

Daikon Radish - with Beef Miso
When our waitress presented this course she said this was their special beef and that it was "better than Kobe." I honestly don't know how she could make the claim with a straight face as this tasted like day old chili to me. In fact the saving grace of this dish was the daikon as its flavor helped mask the shudder-inducing beef.

Kobe Beef and Sea Bass - with Lettuce
After two of the worst courses in recent memory this was a welcome change of pace. The grilled sea bass was nice and tender, although the lettuce wrap didn't really add much to the fish. The Kobe beef reminded me more of galbi with distinct fatty and lean parts and chewy texture. Overall nothing to write home about, but leagues better than the last couple dishes.

Grilled King Crab Legs
I knew the bliss of mediocrity couldn't last. The slightly moldy odor and taste and the fact that it was impossible to pull the meat from the shell cleanly makes me think these legs had been sitting around for a while. Honestly the week old frozen king crab legs my parents cook at home tasted better.

Our meal ended with four of the saddest looking pieces of sushi outside of Todai, the perfect punctuation mark to a meal that missed on so many levels.

The meal started out well, showing off some of the European flair Asanebo is known for, but the food quickly took a turn for the worse. Some of the courses were just terrible with the king crab being the worst of the bunch. I actually asked to stop the meal when we received the daikon radish but was told the next courses had all been prepared. I would have understood being forced to endure one more course but three seems like a bit much. When all was said and done the bill came out to $148pp, $2 under the limit. I am reminded of my experience at The Hump and I left thinking that I had just been swindled by a restaurant solely concerned with making money.

I have been putting off writing this review for two months because I knew it would force me to relive this awful experience and infuriate me to no end. With so many other strong sushi restaurants just down the street it is a wonder Asanebo is still around let alone deserving of a Michelin Star.


Cookie said...

Wow, I was considering this place for a belated Father's Day dinner and I'm glad I checked with you first.

Epicuryan said...

I think there are plenty of better sushi restaurants in Studio City. If you don't mind the drive Zo in downtown or Sushi Tsujita on the westside are both great choices.