22330 Sherman Way C12
Canoga Park, CA 91303
Whoever coined the phrase "hole in the wall" definitely had Go's Mart in mind. Amazingly the restaurant remains largely unchanged since my first visit back in 2007. Behind the nondescript signage and ubiquitous strip-mall facade lurks a garishly painted orange interior with a few tables and a small sushi bar. In fact, the only real change was the removal of a couple bookshelves worth of racy Japanese VHS tapes. Who could have guessed that there wouldn't be much demand for VHS rentals in 2013?
If the abysmal decor didn't deter you prepare to be rewarded with a delightful sushi meal served by the quirky Go-san, his wife and two assistants. The small staff and bare bones "kitchen" (there is no range all cooking is done with blowtorches) give the restaurant an ad hoc feel like a food truck or underground dinner that adds to the overall charm of the place. Unlike some other top sushi chefs, Go-san isn't too proud to make diners a rainbow roll if they request it, but for the best experience either go omakase or order off the specials board in the back.
Sunomono - Cucumber Salad with Smoked Salmon
A classic start to the meal. The vinegared slices of cucumbers were crisp and refreshing while the smoked salmon imparted a strong woody heft.
Suzuki - Seabass
Go-san isn't shy about combining bold flavors with yuzu, shiso, chili paste, and truffle all making an appearance. The combination is a bit intense but the mix of spicy earthy and tart go nicely with the bass's lighter flavor. Despite being a leaner fish the Suzuki felt quite lush, but still possessed a pleasing supple snap.
Kinmedai - Golden Eye Snapper
Much richer and softer than the seabass, the oily flavor of the kinmedai meant that the fish still stood out against the intense mix of accompaniments.
Shiro Maguro - Butterfish
The butterfish was the least impressive of the quartet with not much flavor and a soft indistinct texture.
Kampachi - Amberjack
The Amberjack combines characteristics of both the Suzuki and Kinmedai with a firm snappiness similar to the bass along with a creeping oiliness that becomes more apparent with mastication.
Akami - Bluefin Tuna
Naturally with the tuna I worked my way from leanest to fattiest. First up was a classic piece of lean tuna, clean flavor, smooth even texture the scallions and garlic chip added a nice contrast to the dark concentrated soy.
Kawagishi Toro - Scraped Fatty Tuna
According to Go-san, Kawagishi toro is scraped from the bone using a scallop shell. Despite being ostensibly less fatty than O-toro the pre-tenderizing treatment makes it feel far oilier and tender, reminiscent of a toro tartare. The rich soy and raw onion play well with the sheer power of the toro.
Toro - Fatty Tuna
As if fatty tuna wasn't luxurious enough ours came topped with an over the top amount of gold flakes. The oiliness is a bit restrained to start, with a growing intensity nicely tempered by the bitter shredded daikon.
At this point Go-san mentioned that business started to right around the time following my first visit. Normally I'd consider this a good thing but Go-san lamented that the increased business has forced him to work too hard. I'm not sure whether this was another example of his trademark humor or an honest complaint or perhaps a bit of both.
Zuwagani - Snow Crab
I'm not normally a fan of snow crab but this was quite nice, exuding a sweet succulence with each bite. The truffle oil imparted a slightly bitter and smoky complexion to the crab which I quite enjoyed.
Tarabagani - King Crab
The king crab was far richer than the snow crab with a robust salinity to go along with its firm meaty texture. Go-san was a bit heavy on the wasabi with this piece but the burn was an effective counterpoint to the crab.
Ao Ebi - New Caledonia Blue Shrimp with Caviar
The blue shrimp was my favorite of the quartet. The inherent sweetness of the shrimp pairs well with the nutty brine of the caviar while the light sear gives the shrimp a savory heft while still leaving the flesh with a taut crunch.
Uni - Sea Urchin
A very solid piece of uni, cool sweet and creamy to start though I did notice a trace of bitter funk on the finish.
Saba - Mackerel
This was a classic piece of Mackerel, dry dense and meaty with a smoky fishy flavor.
Aji - Spanish Mackerel
Compared to the Saba, the Aji was much more nuanced with a more subdued oiliness that highlighted the herbaceous tang of the shiso and the sweetness of the goji berry.
Sake - Smoked King Salmon
Go-san puts an interesting twist on the ubiquitous salmon, with a robust smokiness this was more akin to lox than the fish normally served at sushi restaurants.
Benizake - Sockeye Salmon
The Benizake has a softer texture and much milder flavor which made the citrus zest and earthy truffle much more apparent than it was with the Sake. At this point the abundance of truffle oil was becoming a bit tiresome, fortunately Go-san was sparing with it the rest of the way
Fresh Ikura - Salmon Roe
Typical salmon roe is cured in a light brine before serving to give the eggs some salinity as well as their characteristic orange color. The uncured variety was markedly darker with more of a weighty buttery flavor that was a nice change from the norm.
Awabi - Abalone
The thick slab of abalone was predictably dense with a darker salinity complimented nicely by a whiff of smoke and the bitter twang of dried seaweed.
Mirugai - Giant Clam
This was a stellar piece of Mirugai, bright acid and fresh shiso augment the clam's natural sweetness while a quit sear on the edges gives the fish a dry snappy crunch.
Ankimo - Monkfish Liver
The dense block of smooth creamy monkfish liver was faultless on its own but the overly sweet dark sauce was a bit heavy-handed for me.
Anago - Sea Eel
The anago was a bit fattier than I expected with a heady smokiness that went quite nicely with the toasty sesame and flavor of the nori wrapper.
Unagi - Freshwater Eel
A relatively thin cut of Unagi, the texture felt noticeably dryer and more well done than I typically like but the sweet dark sauce and citrus zest paired nicely with the eel's oily savor.
Kani Maki - Crab Roll
Hand Rolls are typically a sign that the meal is coming to an end so we took the opportunity to order the few specials that we hadn't tried yet. The roll itself was faultless the crunchy seaweed wrapper housing a bounty of sweet crab seasoned with truffle salt and a light touch of mayo.
Okoze - Sculpin
This was my first experience with Okoze. A quick Google search shows the translation as Stonefish but Go-san referred to it as Sculpin. Regardless of the name the fish was quite a treat, with a pinkish color and lean shrimp-like snap, the mild flesh went quite nicely with the abundance of spice and acid from the zest and yuzu kocho.
Hirame Kobujime - Kelp Halibut
Originally developed a way to preserve fish before refrigerators, Kobujime involves salting then wrapping fresh fish with kelp. Contact with the Kombu wrapper draws some of the excess water from the fish while simultaneously imparting an umami flavor. The result is a denser more robustly flavored fish tinged with a bit of woody character from the kelp.
Seki Aji - Premium Spanish Mackerel
Seki Aji refers to a particularly prized type of Aji from Saganoseki a small town in Kyushu's Oita prefecture. Indeed the texture is a bit more complex and nuanced than the regular Aji we had earlier. The fish also has a more subdued flavor with the oiliness more of an accent than the focus of the piece.
Even at a glance I could tell this was horribly overdone. Last time we were here the Holy Cow had a translucent redishness to it. Even though the texture was a bit tougher than I'd like the meat still had plenty of rich beefy char to it.
I use the term "dessert" loosely with this dish. The simple mix of berries and melon isn't much to write home about but the tart sweetness was an effective way to cleanse the palate after 25+ pieces of fish.
Apparently the decor isn't the only thing that has remained unchanged the past six years, the food, both good and bad, has remained largely as I remember it as well. On the plus side there is still a varied selection of high quality fresh fish but Go-san still has a habit of using truffle oil like its going out of style.
During my first visit I didn't have many high end sushi experiences under my belt so the only real comparison I could make was with Urasawa. Having been to my fair share of top sushi restaurants since then I can say that Go's Mart can hold its own with the best of them.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
22330 Sherman Way C12