Urasawa (LA) – Spring is in the Air

Urasawa is a celebration of the season, sometimes down to the week or day. This Spring meal was possibly my best Urasawa meal yet – everything had a lightness, and brightness, to it; perfectly complementing the beautiful Los Angeles weather.

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Analyzing the food is nearly impossible. The meal, and its component dishes, are a system that can not be reduced to single elements – circular and inter-locking. The flavors are balanced, subtle, and fresh – despite some dishes approaching what could be a dangerous number of ingredients. Ingredients pop up in one dish as a primary flavor, recede to the background, and re-surface seven to ten dishes later as supporting cast. The meal is a journey with complex patterns.

I raced down to LA a day before a weekend of festivities (a friend’s bachelor party) so I could enjoy a meal at Urasawa. A trip to LA has nearly become incomplete without a visit. When I walked in, I saw Refined Palate sitting two seats down. There’s no better place to unexpectedly share a meal with friends. The sake and wine flowed freely (my hotel was a brief walk away!) for four hours.

Below is a sampling of the dishes. There were more cooked dishes and sushi – you can read the extensive list on Refined Palate’s Urasawa post. It is courtesy of her that I have descriptions below; my only intent was to take pictures and enjoy.

Okinawan Spring Seaweed – served with tiny, little shrimp and topped with Gold Flakes

Urasawa (LA)

Kinuta Maki – Red Snapper and Shrimp is laid on nori with shiso and then very thinly sliced daikon encases the fish to resemble a traditional maki roll. It is topped with finely grated yuzu and a slice of pickeled ginger.

Urasawa (LA)

Urasawa (LA)

Goma tofu, Kyoto-style – Tofu made from sesame seeds, stuffed with sweet Uni (urchin “roe”), topped with freshly grated wasabi and gold leaf, served in a light dashi seasoned with shoyu and mirin

Urasawa (LA)

Toro Tataki – Ohtoro, from Spain, lightly seared topped with Shiso no Hana flowers, Shiso buds, Radish and Gold Leaf

Urasawa (LA)

Uni Nikogori – Fresh Uni, Small Shrimp, Red snapper, Fish eggs served atop Yama no Imo (Japanese Mountain Yam), topped with Pure Gold Flakes.

Urasawa (LA)

Sashimi served in a hand carved ice bowl – consisted of Ohtoro, Red Snapper and Santa Barbara Uni placed in a manila clam shell. The wasabi is freshly grated, Hiro’s soy sauce is made by him.

Urasawa (LA)

Asami Age – a tempura “sandwich” of Fresh Bamboo, Shrimp Paste and more Fresh Bamboo.

Urasawa (LA)

Uni sushi – one of many sushi courses including, but not limited to, toro, kanpachi, tai with sundachi, spanish mackerel, squid, uni, razor clam, mushroom, kohada, needlefish, abalone, giant clam, scallop, spanish mackerel tataki, hokkaido beef (A5-10), baby shrimp, and eel.

Urasawa (LA)

Japanese Plum and Jelly

Urasawa (LA)

Urasawa is a top, if not the best, restaurant in America. It is no wonder it was voted #1 on the recent Opinionated About Dining guide. It is a must-visit for anyone that steps foot on the West Coast – your view of Japanese, and American, dining will be forever changed.

- chuck

  • Liz Haskell

    What an absolute surprise and pleasure to see Chuck “saunter” into Urasawa. He was most generous in sharing his sake and we shared our wine. As Chuck said, this was one of my most favorite meals at Urasawa and I can’t say enough about how gracious Hiro is.

  • http://www.thelivingkitchen.wordpress.com elarael

    This does look amazing and very beautiful. Excellent photos.

  • http://gastrosontour.wordpress.com Laurent (GoT)

    Hi Chuck,

    First congrats for your blog, a few months now this blog is part of my weekly reading bloglist, i even lately realized i didn’t mentioned it on my blogroll… done now :o )

    This experience at Urasawa looks indeed fantastic and makes me understand why this restaurant is in first place in Steve’s OAD guide. Impressive.

    By the way, i’m going in NY (4 days) and Chicago (2 days) last week of october this year (my first visit :o ) … and i want to combine it with great meals of course. I’ve already selected Per Se, WD-50 and Alinea (these 3 are an absolute must for me – i have to admit i go to Chicago especially for Alinea :o )… But i’m still looking for a third place in NY (and why not another in Chicago) as i have 5 evenings available.

    Actually, for this third evening in NY, i’m looking to a similar place like Urasawa in term of food and dishes (i was tempted by Masa, but it looks a lil bit too much more focused on sushi / sashimi and you can”t take pics)… I’m looking for a japanese or molecular experience but all what i’ve read in OAD didn’t convince me. Any recommandation ?

    Thanks a lot
    Cheers
    Laurnt

  • ChuckEats

    Laurnt, i bet the best bet for Chicago would be L20 – a seafood-focused restaurant from Laurent Gras. He has a blog chronicling the opening of the restaurant – I doubt it will disappoint:
    http://l2o.typepad.com/l2o_blog/

    For NYC, Masa is the closest you’ll get to Urasawa, albeit at considerable more cost. This link for En Japanese Brasserie certainly sounds interesting although I’ve never been:
    http://www.japanesefoodreport.com/2005/11/en-on-my-mind.html

    Or try getting a seat at the new Momofuku Ko restaurant:
    http://thewanderingeater.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/elation-at-momofuku-ko/

    - chuck

  • http://gastrosontour.wordpress.com Laurent

    Thanks.

    L2O looks interesing indeed… i also have seen that Moto provides molecular gastronomy, could be a good second choice…

    For NY, Momofuku Ko seem to be a wonderful choice… thanks for the links.

    I’ll probably do the following : Per Se / Momofuku Ko / WD-50 / Moto (or L20) / Alinea…

  • ChuckEats

    laurent – i ate at Moto and it’s not good. Interesting? maybe? Delicious? no.

  • MK

    What about GEBowles new spot in Chicago? Open yet? Avenues was great when I went last year.

  • ChuckEats

    MK, I don’t know the name or if it’s open, but that would be another good option.

  • http://julieskitchen.vox.com/ Julie

    Alright now I must go to Urasawa. It’s next on my list, but my wallet keeps saying no. :( After reading you review and Liz’s, it looks like it’s worth every penny. Great blog you’ve got here. Can’t wait to scour your archives. Going to SF this weekend… so off I go to your SF reviews. :)

  • stephen

    chuck,

    in the past you have commented that the rice and toro were a bit disappointing there, was that the case this time? In fact, in past reviews you have put the fish quality on the high second tier. how was the ingredient quality overall this time?

  • ChuckEats

    stephen, this time everything was top tier. the rice has always been top tier; but i do find Yasuda slightly better on that front. the toro over my past few meals has been excellent.

  • http://hungryhedonist.blogspot.com/ hungry hedonist

    This looks amazing. Funny, I had just been chatting about Yasuda with a friend and how much we crave good Japanese. I just got back to the sfbay area and this makes me want to book tickets to LA right now.

  • chuckeats

    hungry – keep craving b/c you won’t find good japanese here (as i’m sure you know.) urasawa is definitely a must now that you are so close.

  • Peter Liao

    Chuck: Looks like we missed each other by a couple of weeks at Urasawa. He had these Wagyu beef that was AMAZING. He said it was way better then Kobe and I had to agree.

  • http://pepsimonster.blogspot.com Pepsi Monster

    Chuck, I totally agreed with you! Urasawa had moved up to my favorite dining place in LA. Not quite sure about the best in U.S. as I don’t travel that often. This place does live up to my expectation as you have profoundly put it. Thanks for the write up as I’ll do my review of Urasawa very soon.

  • chuckeats

    Glad to hear Pepsi Monster – the price has gone up since I wrote this review so it’s good to hear that the “value” is still there.

  • Phyu

    Can people who are stupid comment here? I have no idea about food and I cannot care less about my meals but this is eye opening. (I forgot why google led me to this page… )

    Being a mere college student, I certainly cannot afford this what-seems-like-a-million-bucks meal but this restaurant is DEF going on my to-do list! One day…. one of these damn days!!! Haha..

    I’m in SF…. thank God! I’ve been to LA so many times I hate it. But now I’ve got a reason to return to the city of angels.

    Okay, Mr…. Enjoy your food…

  • chuckeats

    Phyu, there’s nothing stupid about reading my review and having it inspire you to try something new :-) This meal was not quite a million bucks so it is attainable!

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