Friday, November 2, 2007
Sushi at Sasabune
Last night I ate what at times was some of the tastiest, freshest sushi I have ever had in the States. Nevertheless, it was a bit uneven. My friend Barry and I went to one of LA's best sushi spots, run by the former number 2 for what many consider LA's best sushi - Nozawa. Though the fish was incredibly fresh, I must say that other elements of the restaurant detracted seriously from the experience: the first floor cafeteria in an office high rise space, the awkward, rushed service, and most notably the appallingly bad beverage program. I'm not asking for a wine geek list a la Blue Ribbon inSoHo, but at least some variety of quality wines and sakes to complement the quality of the fish would be a start. This list seriously was on the level of a B grade neighborhood sushi joint in Washington, DC, if that gives you any idea of how bad it was. I ordered a Hitachino Nest white ale - which was delicious - but still I'd have ordered bottle of wine or champagne if there were anything good to order.
Given Barry's enthusiasm for the freshness of the fish, we decided to only eat sushi. We started with some yellowtail and compache, the former was incredibly fresh and meaty, the latter thinner, a bit more toothsome and an acquired taste. Afterwards we had the famous red snapper, which was butter soft, tender, and tossed lightly with scallio, chiles, and ponzu, nestled against lightly vinegared, warm rice. Every bit as good as Barry said it would be. Though in my mind two other pieces of sushi gave the red snapper a run for its money. Bonito, aka skipjack, was so fresh and butter-soft, I wondered how long ago it had been caught. Black cod, however, was a bit disappointing. Usually it is another standout, but last night it had been seared with what tasted like a bit of hoisin sauce. Not only was it served piping hot, scalding the roof of my mouth, but much of the subtlety and delicacy of this fish was lost in its preparation. Toro was just ok, and the chilled toro (consisting of cold, minced toro with some scallion) was also so-so. The tamago (egg sushi) was the best I've ever had - slightly sweet as usual, but with an unusual, mushroom like woodsiness and complexity that I have never found in this type of sushi. Another stunner was the sweet shrimp, which was as tender, sweet, and pleasantly sticky as other examples I have had, but also much larger. We finished off with some halibut which, while not a highlight, was very good. The tab was very reasonable considering the quality and freshness of our sushi.
To recap: If you're in LA, you should check out Sasabune, but if you want to drink wine I would bring your own. Definitely order the red snapper, bonito, sweet shrimp and tamago; it is probably worth the risk to order the black cod as well, though it might be worth asking how it is prepared on that evening. Overall, the fish here is second only to what I had at Bar Masa a few years ago. Warning: They close early! Last seating might be by 9pm or so (?) Make a reservation before dining here.