Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sushi Nozomi - 05/11/2011

1757 W Carson Street
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 320-5511

My first trip to Nozomi was over a year ago and I was thoroughly impressed by the omakase. The restaurant offers an array of cooked dishes as well as the typical rolls, but I'd recommend getting a seat at the bar and trusting the chefs. The nigiri compares favorably to more renowned spots in LA yet Nozomi manages to retain the feel of a neighborhood sushi joint. The head chef, Yasu, has an air of humility and a warm sense of humor, quite the contrast from the stern unsmiling itamaes behind some other sushi counters.

Sunomono - Cucumber, Seaweed, Octopus
The meal started with a light salad of cucumber and seaweed meant to whet the appetite. The crisp vegetables are paired with a dense meaty octopus, a simple yet effective amuse.

Hada - Grouper
Though a favorite cooked fish of mine, I don't recall ever seeing grouper at a sushi restaurant. The fish is uniquely dense, snappy, and fibrous while the "melty" leeks and yuzu kocho provide an earthy citric accompaniment.

Kuroadai - Black Snapper
Black snapper has never failed to impress, the texture and flavor are both much fuller and fattier than other snappers while the topping of daikon and scallions adds a lovely contrasting tang.

Hobou - Yellow Snapper
The selection at Nozomi is certainly extensive, three pieces in and two of them are completely new. The yellow snapper is a bit gristly for my tastes though the housemade sesame soy was quite impressive

Aji - Spanish Mackerel
Aji is an old favorite that never fails to please, just seeing that translucent pink flesh and shimmery silver skin can set me drooling. Nozomi doesn't break any new ground here, offering a jellied oil laden fish laced with the spicy bite of ginger.

Sayori - Half Beak
Needlefish often comes rolled or folded very artfully though I'm not sure what purpose that it serves. Regardless the fish leans toward the milder side, though the dried miso accentuated the fish's natural flavor.

Kohada - Gizzard Shad
Kohada has always been one of the most eye catching fishes around, with an unabashedly oily flavor that is just as arresting. As a bonus the sushi came with a deep fried chip made from the fish's bones.

Awabi - Abalone
Mark, mentioned the abalone was a special that came from a regular who free dives for them off the coast of Monterey. Despite being scored, the generous slab of abalone was exceedingly muscular requiring significant effort to chew through. The brown sauce is a blend of soy and the abalone's innards, its offal-tinged earthiness was quite a change from the delicate brine of the mollusk itself.

Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp
Hard not to love fresh amaebi, the plump shrimp has a lush juicy crunch and the flavor is a combination of sweet shellfish and chilling metallic brine.

Shima Aji - Yellow Jack
The fish has a slick snappiness as well as a nuanced oiliness that is much more expressive than the more common white fish varieties, little wonder that this has become one of my favorite sushi.

Opal Eye Egg
From the appearance to the amused glances the chef and owner were exchanging, everything about this course reminded me of shirako. Turns out this was actually the egg from a female opal eye and though the flavor was reminiscent of shirako the texture was markedly grittier.

Sunazuri - Yellowtail Belly
A very unique presentation of yellowtail belly, the fish retains an immensely soft texture while the grilling adds a savory aroma of charred fish oil enhanced by the pepper and garlic chip.

Toro - Fatty Tuna
Though this particular piece lacked any overt marbling it proved to be a very good piece of toro, silky smooth and clean of any gristle with a palpable richness that left me wanting more.

Hotaru-ika - Firefly Squid
Another rarity that until now has been an Urasawa exclusive, the squid is delightfully snappy while its earthy brine is tempered by the application of a sweet white miso.

Inside Tuna Skin
This was a special treat, the inside of a tuna belly lightly grilled yakitori-ya style proved to be delightfully snappy with an echo of grilled toro-like richness

Chawanmushi - Egg Custard with Shrimp and Sea Cucumber
Dried sea cucumber is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine so I was curious to see the Japanese take on the fresh version. Truth be told I couldn't discern too much difference between the two, both are fairly mild with this being perhaps a hair firmer. Still the egg custard was quite enjoyable, infused with a delicate brine from both the shrimp and sea cucumber as well as an herbaceous counterpoint from the cilantro.

Ikura - Salmon Egg
Though it took me some time I've come to enjoy fresh Ikura immensely; the tiny globules snap and pop releasing a cascade of perfectly chilled brine.

Mejina - Opal Eye
Yet another new experience for me. The opal eye's flesh is decidedly lean while the slivers of cucumber and myoga added a refreshing edge to the otherwise mild fish.

Zuke - Soy-marinated Bluefin
Regular tuna tends to be a bit boring but the Zuke manages to hold its own with a savory depth from the marinade.

Anago - Sea Eel
I've slowly managed to shed my preference for unagi in favor of the more refined anago. This was a particularly effective preparation, with the dusting of sansho pepper adding a pleasing numbing tingle.

Tamago - Egg
Tamago is the traditional close to a sushi meal and though I wasn't a fan at first the sticky savory sweetness is a nice change of pace from the savoriness of the nigiri.

Miso Soup
Rather than fry the heads, the kitchen used them to flavor a bowl of miso soup to finish the meal. Though the richness of the shrimp was evident, I would have preferred the visceral crunch of biting the freshly fried head instead.

Black Sesame Ice Cream
I've developed quite the penchant for sesame ice cream, whether its the sublime homemade version at Urasawa or a simple store bought variant like the one above.

While decor might leave something to be desired, the quality and variety of the fish reaffirm Nozomi's place as one of the top sushi restaurants in Southern California. The food falls slightly short of Mori or Zo with the main differentiator being the quality of the rice. Still at less than $70 per person for 20+ pieces of sushi, Nozomi is quite a bargain compared to its peers. Completely unpretentious, Nozomi caters to all types; there is no "Trust Me" rule here, still if you choose to do so you will be richly rewarded.


Darin said...

Some really good looking stuff here, Ryan. And at that price point, sounds like it presents quite a bit of value. I must visit soon!

Epicuryan said...


When you go I recommend asking for the senior chef, Yasu. Also call ahead ask for Mark and maybe you can set up a special dinner. Let me know when you go I might be tempted to go again.

Charlie Fu said...

looks like a great deal for the variety! I'm with Darin, I will have to check this out asap.

Sam C. said...

This looks like a place i have to visit...and the price can't beat that for what you get. Thanks man!

Anne said...

Was this price for one person or two? Thanks!

Epicuryan said...

The price was for two people