To say that Urasawa is a meal of a lifetime or that it's an absolutely amazing experience are both understatements. I've read reviews on the place before and it has been called "the best restaurant in Los Angeles" or "the best sushi in the United States" numerous times. Further, I knew that going to dine there would not be something that I would ever regret, regardless of the price tag. And that it wasn't one of those "passing fancy" thoughts, that I would get over in a matter of months, or even years. So when I got a larger than expected bonus at work, the first thing I did was make reservations. Well, to be honest, I was afraid I would get a pidly bonus at work and if that had happened ... nothing for me but gas station sushi. Because I'd be too depressed to care.
Located on the second floor of the 2 Rodeo plaza, the restaurant was beautifully and simply decorated. Getting a reservation actually wasn't too hard, and I can only imagine that is because of the price tag. However, when we were there, Chef Hiro-san mentioned that he had a customer that visits about 30 times a year! That's a lot of dough. The reservation was set for Friday at 8:00pm and needless to say, I was excited. I mean, I even bought a new camera!
We were seated prompted by the nicest girl (she was probably the best server I've ever encountered in my life) even though we were almost half an hour early. The bar seats nine, with a table off to the side for a table of four. I'm really glad we weren't put at that table; in fact, we were right in front of Chef Hiro-san so we could watch all his action with totally front row seats. Half of the meal, Boyfriend and I didn't even talk to each other because we were so mesmerized by his skillz.
Even if Chef Hiro-san or his brother-in-law, Chef Ken-san, prepared a dish, our waitress would step next to us to place the plate in front of us. I tried to help by reaching for a dish in one instance, when she was pouring water for another couple but he stopped me with a smile. Like I said, service was top-notch. THIS is the kind of service that is given at three-star Michilin starred restaurants.
seared toro wrapped around monkfish liver, chives, ponzu
sesame tofu, uni, wasabi, 23k gold flake
Prior to this, I had only had freshly greated wasabi once. It's actually quite a bit more mild than you'd think. The ones that you get at 99.5% of restaurants is wasabi that has been rehydrated from powder, so the taste is a lot stronger.
assorted vegetables, smoked salmon wrapped around mountain potato
sashimi over ice - skipjack, red snapper, o-toro
This was the most beautiful presentation of sashimi EVER. Rumor has it that Chef Hiro-san carves the blocks of ice himself. If so, damn he has just elevated himself even further up in the skillz category. The toro was like nothing I've ever had before - it almost disintegrated in my mouth.
In between courses, we also got to see the dishes that were being prepared for everyone else, thus heightening our excitement for the anticipation of what was to come. This absolutely gigantic abalone was killed a mere two feet from us (it was still moving around when he ripped it out with a wooden rice paddle) and we couldn't wait until it was our turn to eat it.
Hokkaido scallop, Russian caviar, shitake mushroom, red turnip, white turnip
hairy crab chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), uni, ginko nut, squash, 23k gold flake
habayaki (grilled leaf) - shrimp, abalone, codfish roe, miso
shabu shabu - live scallop, red snapper, foie gras
Though the burner for the shabu shabu was set in front of us (one per person), the waitress did the actual cooking. She swished each item for the precise amount of time, then deposited it into the ponzu. Afterwards, the burner was taken away and the bowl of broth brought back for us to drink ... so damn good, with the scallop, red snapper and foie gras flavors.
Some of the other diner were starting to finish up their meals and Chef Hiro-san apologized and said he would start making our sushi soon. Of course, we reassured him to take his time. There was a bit of drama to the right of us as one woman wishy-washied about eating her live spot prawn (amaebi or sweet shrimp) because they killed it in front of her and she could still see its antenne waving a bit. Before sushi starts, the chef recommends you to eat it within 10-seconds of him preparing it and you could tell that he was starting to get a bit antsy as she wavered back and forth for almost five minutes, trying to decide. Finally, one of her dining companions just ate it for her - which is exactly what I would have done, except I wouldn't have waited five minutes.
seared o-toro (OMG!)
red snapper, yuzu zest
squid, yuzu zest
live sweet shrimp (amaebi)
sea urchin (uni)
smoked raw shrimp
chopped Spanish mackrel, ginger, scallion, kyoto miso
Tamago signals the end of the sushi course. During the suhsi making, Chef Hiro-san was able to chat with us a lot more. Though he was trained by the owner/chef of Masa in New York, he was humble about this skills, stating that the chef there was far better than he was. He talked about Ryan Seacrest visiting the restaurant often, and about people coming from as far as Australia and Europe to eat at Urasawa (when other diners asked him). When complimented that he was world-famous, he stated that he was "just a regular chef" - so modest. He also talked about going to Montery Park on the weekends and enjoying dim sum and Cantonese cuisines. It was really nice to get to know him beyond being an extraordinarily talented chef.
homemade grapefruit jelly, goji berry
The matcha green tea was very very strong, but was a great ending to the meal. For each diner, Chef Hiro-san busted out matcha powder, bowls and a tea whisk to prepare the tea.
sesame pudding, red bean paste, chestnut, 23k gold flake
matcha green tea
At the end there was also roasted green tea, which Boyfriend wasn't as huge a fan of. I drank his and totally forgot to take pictures of either serving. The meal lasted three and a half hours and we were the last ones to leave (we were also the last to arrive, so it makes a bit more sense). On the way home, there was just a feeling of contentment. I couldn't have dreamed for a better night. The price tag, though very hefty, was definitely worth it. Even though this is a very VERY special occasion sort of place, there is no doubt in my mind that I'd love to return again.
218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210