Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sushi of Gari - 10/18/2016

6201 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 400-6300

Despite being something of a sushi fiend, my experience is decidedly Los Angeles-centric so when I heard Sushi of Gari, a Michelin-starred transplant from New York, it was an easy must try. My friends and I came for a late dinner after the pre-show Pantages crowd had left and we pretty much had the place all to ourselves.

Kuromutsu Nambanzuke - Bluefish
This was a rather traditional preparation of Nambanzuke, the fish is first fried then marinated in vinegar and soy sauce and served chilled, resulting in firm dense flakes of fish infused with a light tang of sweet soy and vinegar.

Hagashi Toro - Fatty Tuna with Ground Daikon
Hagashi Toro is a relative rarity on account of the amount of labor that goes into it. The meat comes from a sinewy part of this fish and requires a great deal of effort to extract. The resulting morsel wasn't as opulent as an Otoro but still had plenty of flavor and a more complex delicate texture. The dollop of daikon added an upfront pungent sharpness that further balanced the fish.

Tai - Snapper with Pine Nuts, Green Leaf, Lotus Root, and Sprouts
The snapper was one of the most impressive bites of the night, coated in a slick oily pesto and topped with vegetables and leaves that exhibited a complex blend of fresh zesty verdance and an earthy nutty flavor.

Yukima - Snow Trout with Applesauce
This was my first experience with snow trout and the fish doesn't disappoint with a pillow-y litheness that was an absolute textural joy. I was a bit taken aback by the decision to pair the fish with applesauce but the Nagano apples worked well imparting a mix of smoke and gentle fruit-laden sweetness.

Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp with Yuzu Miso
The sweet shrimp came with a more conventional topping of yuzu infused miso. The raw Spot Prawn was a touch softer than I'd have liked but still quite delicious especially with the enveloping aroma of fresh citrus.

Sawara - King Mackerel with Mushroom Sauce
The grilled Sawara was keenly enjoyable. The fattiness of the fish develops a pointed smokiness deftly augmented by the earthy mushroom. Besides the charred smoky exterior, the raw mackerel has a distinct warm fleshiness.

Shima Aji - Skipjack with Jalapeno
The Shima Aji was another of the evening's standouts. The bits of diced jalapeno are the perfect foil for the fish, succulent crispness to balance the jellied snap of the Aji and pinpricks of heat to counter the oily heft of the fish.

Sake - Salmon with Sauteed Tomato
Despite sounding positively pedestrian this was arguably my favorite bite of the night. The warm topping of soft tomato explodes with a blend of savor and fresh onion reminiscent of Chinese steamed fish and the warmth of the tomato helped to heighten the natural lushness of the fish.

Maguro - Bluefin Tuna with House-made Tofu Puree and Chili Oil
Akami is a subtle delicate fish that typically doesn't play well with others so I was surprised that the tofu and chili worked as well as it did. The mild tofu was akin to a creamy burrata while the chili oil fit surprisingly well with the fish and soybean.

Hotate - Scallop with Plum Sauce
The thick slab of delicate Hokkaido scallop came topped with a pink dollop of plum sauce and the pungent flavor of the sauce coupled with the scallop's intrinsic sweet salinity was eerily similar to strawberry ice cream.

Gindara - Seared Black Cod with Miso
This was arguably the most familiar course of the night the high fat content of the fish yields a pungent smoke with a sharp twang. The sweetness of the miso is apparent up front but the fish has a bitter finish that serves as an effective counterpoint.

Masaba - Mackerel with Sesame
Unlike the typical Mackerel preparations, this one was marinated with soy giving it a distinct saltiness and moderating the natural fish oils.

Kinmedai - Golden Eye Snapper with Kelp
The Snapper came marinated in some form of fish broth which accentuated the fish's naturally snappy texture while adding a deep-seated savoriness that was further emphasized by the umami funk of the dried kelp. Personally I think a quick sear to soften the sinewy fish would have made the dish more cohesive.

Hotate-Sote - Sauteed Scallops with Parsley Sauce
I was thorough impressed by this dish, a gunkan maki filled with scallop abductor muscles that so often go to waste. The abductor often discarded on account of its tough texture, but sauteed and served with parsley the little bits were shockingly similar to a classic French escargot recipe, firm and savory with a heady aroma of herbs and garlic.

Hamachi - Poached Yellowtail with Sesame Sauce
Like the salmon we had earlier, Gari's yellowtail is a wonderfully fresh take on classic nigiri fish. Ever so delicately poached, the fish has a touch more flakiness, but a supple core threaded with rendered fish oil. I appreciated the onion and radish though I could have done with less of the sesame which imparted an odd peanut butter-like flavor.

Aji - Spanish Mackerel with Creamy Miso
Gari continues to defy convention, paring a rich oily Aji with sweet miso. While I appreciated the concept, the execution was a bit jarring.

Nodoguro - Seared Blackthroat Seaperch with Yuzu Kocho
Also called Akamutsu, the Perch was one of the most textually interesting pieces of the night. Lightly seared on the top the fish almost has layers of texture ranging from the hard snap of the skin to a soft even fleshiness. The interplay of the smoke and fat is highlighted by the citrus bite of the yuzu kocho. Only the second truly conventional nigiri of the evening, but definitely an enjoyable one.

Ika - Seared Squid with Broccoli
Easily one of the most visually distinctive squid presentations that I've ever had, the light sear gives the squid a slightly dry and tough exterior that leads to a lean snappy base. The mildly herbaceous topping didn't add much to the dish but it didn't get in the way either.

Zuwai Kani - Seared Snow Crab with Sea Urchin Sauce
I've always found Snow Crab a bit stringy and less impressive than King Crab, but this preparation was absolutely sublime. The thicker cut allowed for a feathery soft texture while the flavor was a mix of cooked savor with intrinsic shellfish sweetness. The bit of cooked uni on top added a touch of pungent funk to the crab.

Sake-Tataki - Seared Salmon with Japanese Fish Broth
The seared salmon was far less impressive than the earlier preparation. Made from a leaner variety of the fish, the searing imparted a dry hammy smoke fitting to the more austere texture.

Baked Oyster with Bread Crumbs and Aioli
With plenty of butter this was more akin to an Oysters Rockefeller than anything I would have expected to find at a sushi restaurant.

Murasaki Uni - Sea Urchin with Quail Egg
Naturally we couldn't leave before trying the uni. The quail egg was a remarkably clever addition, the slick texture masking the strongest elements of the urchin roe and resulting in a balanced sweet richness that built over time.

Bafun Uni - Seared Sea Urchin
The Hokkaido style uni was one of the few bites that didn't come topped with some other element and with good reason. The reddish-orange roe had a much deeper saline-focused flavor that reached new heights when kissed by the blowtorch.

Kama Toro Tataki - Seared Fatty Tuna with Garlic and Ginger
After already trying the Hagashi Toro, I was exceedingly pleased when Také-san presented us with another piece of rare toro. As the name suggests, the Kama Toro comes from the area around the collar and is prized for its high fat content and deeper flavor. The searing softens the meat while simultaneously rendering some of the fat and browning the exterior, another contender for bite of the night.

Hirame - Seared Halibut with Egg and Truffle Oil
Its been a while since I've had halibut with truffle and Gari's version hits all the right notes with a supple fleshy mouth feel and heady truffled musk. The silky runny yolk of the quail egg was the proverbial cherry on top, adding a viscous sensuality to the mix.

Engawa - Halibut Fin
This was a specific request by our party and came with a simple brush of soy rather than the more elaborate accompaniments of many of the evening's earlier nigiri. Také-san scored the tough fin muscle to tenderize it though personally I would have preferred a quick flash of the torch to soften things up.

Seared Foie Gras with Pear Compote
Our final piece was a strange sight that would have been more fitting in a French restaurant. The foie was a touch dry though the restrained sweetness of the compote was a superb pairing.

I've always been leery of sushi restaurants that pair unconventional ingredients with the fish, as that seemed to be a smokescreen to hide substandard fish or a crutch to help newbies by masking the true nature of the fish. Sushi of Gari manages to pull off the use of unique accompaniments to impart unique flavors while still letting the intrinsic character of the fish shine. I did notice the rice was a touch denser than I would have liked, mildly annoying but not enough to overshadow the distinctive experience Gari offers.

I highly recommend going after the pre-theater dinner rush for a more intimate experience but do it fast as I have a feeling once word of this place gets out, it won't be so easy to find a seat.

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