Urasawa (Los Angeles, CA) – The Spoils of Winter
As vegetables go so goes the sea – there is a season for everything. January at Urasawa brings sperm sac and hairy crab for 10-14 days. It is easy to contort one’s face in a grimace over the former, and I may have reached my limits during this meal, but the latter is sheer joy in Urasawa’s hands – crab meat, eggs, internal organs, and uni – cooked over an habachi. KevinEats says it best – “it’s the pure essence of crab.” Dinner is always special at Urasawa but dropping in during opportune times can lead to more exotic fare than usual.
Two months removed from Tokyo, this was my first sushi, not pictured, on American soil since the trip.1 It was comparable to the better sushi in Japan, falling just a notch below Sushiso Masa. The rice seemed warmer than usual2, to the point that it sometimes warmed the fish. It is also clear that a full ten person bar might be too much for Hiro to handle, as sushi and dishes come at an uneven pace – six or eight has been a perfect-sized crowd in the past.
The prepared dishes, pictured throughout, were as elegant and delicate as usual. The hairy crab was my favorite, rivaling the tastes from Koju and Ryugin, but every dish was of a higher quality. The shabu shabu course can be a source of (silent) contention when they help cook it, as I generally prefer raw to cooked, so I immediately took the reins on that course. Hiro has also scaled back on the beef portions and dishes – which is unfortunate. The sperm sac risotto, covered by surprisingly aromatic truffles in the photo below, was a little too “creamy”, if you catch my drift.
As I’ve said before, ingredients rotate in and out of the dishes in an advanced choreography of tastes and textures. The crab began the meal in a bright cool salad, returning later cooked. Uni shines in the sashimi course, plays a support role in the middle of the meal, and then gets featured later as sushi. The ingredients come into focus and out; playing primary, secondary, and tertiary flavors throughout the meal. It gives the meal a tight cohesiveness and a sense of narrative – characters or themes running throughout – highlighting the season.
It is one of my favorite restaurants and I recommend everyone try it at least once. The only caveat is that it is very expensive – and he raised prices again – and I, embarrassingly, let out an audible gasp when I got the bill. The pricing is now Masa-like, solidly the second-most expensive restaurant in the US. If one were flexible, one could fly to Japan for cheaper than a dinner at Urasawa with alcohol.
Pictures are below – it has been too long for any detailed notes but KevinEats, Kung Food Panda, and Food Destination had a similar meal so you can peruse their blogs for detailed descriptions and impressions.
1 – Seriously, I do not eat sushi often – I would rather let the fish live and re-populate than to denigrate their memory by eating the crap served most everywhere.
2 – This is probably my tenth trip or so to Urasawa.