Urasawa (LA) – Delicate & Exquisite
There are a small handful of masterful Japanese restaurants in the US – temples where you surrender choice & freedom to the chef. True, there are thousands of sushi restaurants and “ethnic” (re: cheaper) places in strip malls across the country, but there are very few restaurants that demand, and deserve, awe.
Urasawa in LA has positioned itself to be one of those few restaurants, serving a kaiseki meal that consists of up to 30 courses with a 3-5 hour duration. Urasaw also trained under Masa when he operated Ginza-ko Sushi in the same spot before his Masa enterprise in NYC. Urasawa is now mentioned in the same breath as Masa (NY) in quality and some long-time patrons says the student has surpassed the master. Could this be true?
Unfortunately, I lost my detailed notes. However, I will be returning next week to give it another go.
Patterns & Progression
Many ingredients were used repeatedly throughout dishes, rotating from the primary ingredient to supporting cast. Toro was featured in multiple preparations with different cuts; mushrooms appeared, retreated, and resurfaced near the end; divine shrimp were hidden, featured, and then faded like a memory. The masterful re-use of ingredients gave the meal a consistency and progression lacking in most meals – a rhythm that weaves in and out throughout the duration of the meal.
The Cooked Dishes
There are a variety of cooked dishes, numbering 8-10. They range from shabu shabu where you cook your own foie gras & live lobster to a porridge made w/ potatoes, shrimp, and fish intestines. The cooking is about small quantities of perfectly prepared dishes – ephemeral.
The shrimp was featured in 3-4 dishes but it deserves special mention – this was the best shrimp I’ve ever had. Anywhere. Sweet & supple, perfectly cooked – I termed it “divine shrimp.”
The Raw Fish
The fish was the weak link in this meal. Granted, the fish is better than anything you’ve probably eaten, but it was clearly on “the 2nd level” of the major sushi players in America. Sawa & Kuruma are better, but the fish is probably, on average, as good as Masa and it’s definitely better than Sushi Yasuda.
While the fish was not perfect, the rice was. Masa & Yasuda are generally known as the “sushi” places b/c of their rice, but Urasawa might have them beat. The rice is perfect – warm to create a perfect contrast w/ the cooler fish and acidic enough to cut through the oils of the fish.
Urasawa is very special – reserved, delicate, and exquisite. Price? $400/person after all is said & done.