Saturday, May 22, 2010

Urasawa - 08/15/2009

218 N Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 247-8939

Even after four trips here, Hiro-san never fails to amaze. The new courses dazzle and delight and the old ones make you wonder why you ever go anywhere else. With another trip coming up I felt I had to get this old one off the backlog. Having been here so many times I sometimes feel at a loss when writing about Urasawa, I mean what can I say that I haven't already said?

1. Toro Tataki - with shrimp, uni, and shiso, radish, scallion, shiso flower, yuzu juice and zest, soy, vinegar, and mirin
Hiro-san wasn't pulling any punches with this course. The lush rich toro is paired with equally luxurious shrimp and sea urchin making for a stupendous seafood trio. The accompaniments ran the gamut from sweet salty sour and bitter yet the overall feel was remarkably light making this the perfect course to whet our appetites.

2. Ikura Chawan Mushi - with shiitake mushroom and shiro ebi
Another fixture of dinner at Urasawa is some sort of custard (egg, tofu, yamaimo). This is the second time I've had egg custard at Urasawa and this time around I was better able to appreciate the interplay between the silken creamy egg and the ikura. The musty earth of the mushroom settles appreciably throughout the custard giving it a lingering depth of flavor.

3. Wagyu Tartare - uni, pickled radish, caviar, scallion, and shiso
Wagyu, uni, and caviar three of my favorite things in the world. I wouldn't have expected such heavy ingredients to necessarily play well with each other but the tangy radish helped temper the Wagyu's unctuousness while the salty sweet interplay of the uni and caviar served as the dominant flavor profile.

4. Sashimi - toro, tai, uni with freshly-grated wasabi, soy, red cabbage, and seaweed
As always the fish comes on a beautifully carved block of ice and as always the quality is unmatched. The minimal adornment make it possible to appreciate every subtle nuance of the sashimi.

5. Fukahire-ni-Ichigoni - awabi, shark's fin, uni, and shrimp
I like to think of this as an upscale shark's fin soup and like any good shark's fin soup, the key is not in the fin itself but the soup. The stock itself was surprisingly thick and heavy with a concentrated umami essence from the shellfish. The fin has a subtle gamy fishiness that intensified the flavor of the soup making for an incomparably rich broth.

6. Sake-Steamed Beef - shrimp, shiitake, and uni
Hiro was brought 10 black ceramic bowls into each of them he poured a small amount of liquid which immediately resulted in a gout of steam. The liquid was sake and the steam was caused by a bed of hot stones in each of the bowls. The result was an exquisite temperature of beef that I have never seen since or again kissed with a touch of sweetness. As enjoyable as the beef was the accompaniments of uni, shrimp, and mushroom made it better, the wondrous riot of flavor lingered on the tongue and made me crave more.

7. Anago Tempura - with tentsuyu, daikon and ginger
The anago tempura was laughably simple compared to the complexity and elegance of the previous dishes. Still the sea eel was incredibly tender with delicate sapor that lent itself well to the tangy tentsuyu sauce.

8. Seared Toro - with ponzu
I have yet to meet a single person who doesn't love this course. If I ever chose to give up meat watching the fat bubbling on the hot stone would probably shatter my willpower. The cooking heightens the natural flavor of the oil resulting in a smokier fishier complexion which is remedied by a quick splash in the ponzu.

9. Shabu Shabu Hamo, Hotategai, Kagoshima Wagyu, Foie Gras
The shabu shabu course is a fixture of the Urasawa experience with a rotating selection of seasonal ingredients. This time around we were served king eel, scallop, beef and foie gras. The foie gras during my first visit to Urasawa was a revelation but this time it was the beef that reigned supreme high praise considering the strong beef courses we had previously. The stock used to cook the shabu shabu doubles as the soup course that heralds the beginning of the nigiri

10. Toro - Fatty Tuna
What more is there to say the ultimate expression of decadence in fish form. The use of citrus tempers the richness somewhat and the savory tang lingers on the palate long after the morsel is gone.

11. Seared Toro - Seared Fatty Tuna
See above but this time the fat is rendered giving it a even softer mouthfeel with a slightly bitter char that adds a nice depth of flavor

12. Kanpachi - Amberjack
An old favorite Kanpachi has been surpassed by other fish but it remains one of the most texturally satisfying, the complex texture is just a joy to experience.

13. Aji - Spanish Mackerel
In earlier years Aji was a watchword for fishy but with more upscale restaurants, Urasawa in particular offers a more temperate version the characteristic flavor is tinged with a subtle sweetness. This particular example didn't even come with the traditional ginger and scallion topping.

14. Tai - Snapper
Deliciously snappy and vibrant the mild flavor of the fish lends itself well to Hiro-san's chosen accompaniments.

15. Hon Maguro - Bluefin Tuna
Tuna is the gateway drug of the sushi world, no slimy texture or off-putting flavors to speak of. This happened to be one of the richer pieces of tuna but still was positively boring next to the fatty tuna.

16. Shima Aji Striped Jack
Another exquisite fish, the texture defies simple quantification and must simply be experienced to be understood. Hiro-san's custom soy and wasabi mixture is the perfect compliment to the mild flavor of the fish.

17. Ika - Squid
Squid possesses one of the more unique textures in the sushi world, initially rigid and dense the texture becomes creamy over time and yields a slightly sweet salinity perfectly accented by the citrus zest.

18. Shiitake - Shiitake
The shiitake nigiri is an Urasawa original and a great opportunity to appreciate the yielding bite and woody muskiness.of the mushroom unfettered by richer accompaniments that it is often paired with.

19. Uni - Sea Urchin
Perfectly spot on uni, from the chilled temperature to the thick creamy texture to the vivid sweetness and lingering essence of the ocean.

20. Chu-Toro - Medium Fatty Tuna
Oddly this may be a first at Urasawa. Visually this looks much closer to the hon-maguro though a good deal lighter in color. Texturally this was a much more muscular cut, more like a white fish in texture with a pleasing snappiness.

21. Shiro Ebi - White Shrimp
The Shiro Ebi always reminds me of beef tendon, extremely dense, the tiny shrimp take on a distinctive viscous consistency.

22. Awabi - Abalone
I am always amazed at the abalone nigiri at Urasawa. The delicate scoring, the pleasing snap, and the briney sapor all make it a joy to eat.

23. Mirugai - Geoduck
Biting through this reminded me of eating the chicken cartilage at Yakitori Totto, the geoduck has a satisfying crunch and a flavor reminiscent of the abalone but magnified.

24. Toro - Fatty Tuna
Same as above and just as delicious. I never get tired of Toro at Urasawa.

25. Kohada Gizzard Shad
Easily the oiliest fish of the night, distinctly fishy with a slightly sour twinge. Quite delicious and a nice change of pace from the milder fish we have been enjoying all evening.

26. Negi-Toro Fatty Tuna Roll
I have always wondered if this is a normal part of the meal or if Hiro-san uses every last bit of Toro on hand to satisfy our group's insatiable lust for the fish. I think I have had this every time I've been here so my money is on the former.

27. Gyusashi - Wagyu Beef
Imagine the ideal slice of beef, temperature, thickness, texture all perfect, the flavor is one of concentrated beefiness layered with unctuousness. For all those beef purists who scorn Wagyu, I say try this.

28. Uni - Sea Urchin
The sea urchin has been plentiful tonight apparently because Hiro-san bought too much, but can you really have too much uni?

29. Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp
Urasawa is one of two restaurants where I have had sweet shrimp sauced with its own innards, giving the shrimp a noticeable metallic tinge on top of the shrimp's natural flavor.

30. Aji no Tataki - Diced Spanish Mackerel
The Aji no Tataki is prepared in a more conventional method than the Aji nigiri, combining the delicate flavor of the Spanish Mackerel with shiso, scallion, and ginger which add an invigorating tang to the mix.

31. Chu-Toro - Medium Fatty Tuna
Another piece of that sublime medium fatty tuna. I've had purported pieces of o-toro that weren't as rich as this.

32. Shima Aji - Striped Jack
We were fortunate to have another round of this absolutely delicious fish

33. Anago - Sea Eel
An unusually dense anago, much richer and more full-flavored than most, it came with a coating of a sticky sweet "chocolate" sauce.

34. Tamago - Egg
As the shabu shabu signals the end of the kaiseki, so to does the tamago mark the end of the nigiri

35. Peach Gelée - with goji berry
A forceful yet refined dessert, the flavor of peach suffuses the mouth, sweet and refreshingly light.

36. Sesame Ice Cream
As always the ice cream is absolutely delicious, the pure essence of sesame in a creamy body with a hint of roughness from the ground sesame.

37. Matcha
The first tea is a thick frothy green tea. The herbal bitterness of the tea is readily apparent in contrast to the sweetness of the two previous dessert courses.

40. Hojicha
Theres nothing better than chatting with friends and enjoying a few cups of this soothing brew to end the evening. The light bitterness helps cleanse the palate after long meal

As always Urasawa delivers. On the eve of a fifth and extremely special visit I thought it fitting to revisit an old memory to whet my appetite.

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