Urasawa (LA) – Redux

I ate here last month – when in LA, eat @ Urasawa & the beef place. The meal was similar to 2 others I’ve had on previous occasions over the past 2-3 months.

These temples of Japanese cuisine are often foreboding and one often feels they must ‘prove’ themselves to the chefs in hopes of being ‘worthy’ for his food. Sawa, Masa, Kuruma, Yasuda – they all put you through the drill, presumably til you eat something impressive or visit enough. Urasawa, however, is the antithesis of what has become a cliche – you already know enough to be here, no need to put you through further hoops. He greets you w/ a smile, makes jokes, answers your questions, and proudly offers his food to you.

As you watch Urasawa work, you realize there may not be a chef in the country who cares more. From carving out designs in ice bowls to trying *every* last ingredient (from the toro to the chopped scallions in a dish to the grated yuzu rind), Urasawa’s cuisine has to be a reflection of the man & his dreams.

My only complaint was that i’d like more ‘dishes’ & less sushi – he served 8 dishes, all of them fabulous, and 17 pieces of sushi. The dishes are better than his sushi so i’d like to see a better balance here – maybe 12 dishes & 12 sushi. (I might ask for this next time i go.)

His sushi is very good; the rice on par w/ Yasuda but his fish is a notch above Yasuda. I still maintain Kuruma & Sawa have better fish with Masa falling somewhere in the middle of these heavyweights. Urasawa’s shrimp was *magical* on my first visit, but it wasn’t nearly that good on this visit.

Overall, a must-do when in LA and definitely one of my favorite restaurants.

The complete menu:
1. hairy crab salad – sweet w/ a bright touch of yuzu at the end
2. small shrimp w/ dried roe & tofu – tofu/shrimp had a sweet custard-like texture that i swore had hints of cinammon
3. bamboo w/ scallops in miso/shiso sauce – cubes of each, great texture
4. toro & spanish mackerel on ice block – toro better than previous visits; mackeral even better. mackeral is the uni of fish – an average piece will scar you for years but a great piece approaches the sublime
5. custard of uni & shrimp – where’s the magical shrimp? and why was it replaced w/ this overcooked one?
6. something i can’t remember

7. hairy crab served in shell w/ uni – wonderful smell
8. lobster & foie shabu shabu – excellent as always

and the sushi experience
9. toro
10. medium toro
11. bluefin tuna
12. (forgot)
13. red snapper w/ grated yuzu
14. baby shrimp
15. orange clam
16. parboiled shrimp
17. mushroom
18. mackerel cut in thin stripes, snake-like
19. abalone
20. eel w/ grated lime
21. pickled turnip
22. raw lobster
23. giant prawn – (yum!)
24. grilled toro
25. tomago

and the desserts
26. mountain pear, apple, & strawberry – the mountain pear stole the show – perfectly ripe and bursting w/ flavor
27. sesame pudding

Needless to say, i was ridiculously full… one of the best meals you’ll eat in America.