218 North Rodeo Drive (2nd Floor, Via Rodeo)
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Chef Hiroyuki Urasawa
Tried: August 2007
Urasawa was everything Masa promised to be, and less, so to speak. I am almost reluctant to discuss price at all because the experience was so far beyond the mundane, but for almost half the cost of admission, Urasawa hit every single high note and exceeded all that I had been hoping to experience at the master's hinoki bar in New York.
Urasawa's creations made me recall how I felt when I first tasted fresh, creamy Bluefin tuna, when that taste awakened my awareness to the sublime beauty of fresh raw fish, eaten at its peak. Or that first really fresh, sweet and briny oyster that needs no sauce or dressing to add to the enjoyment of its unadulterated pure ocean flavor.
I was so entranced by the progression of one mind-blowing taste after another in the omakase meal that I refused to let my brain interrupt my tastebuds to note the various ingredients of each dish. Instead, I floated from one flavor to the next, noticing nothing except the sheer pleasure from each successive intense or delicate combination placed before me. (I even relinquished the sake selection to Chef Urasawa. If you are with a large enough group to order bottles, I highly recommend this approach, as that yielded the privilege of tasting sakes I had never tried before, to match the unrivaled sushi creations.)
I remember the popping of the bright orange, glistening miniature pearls of salmon roe accentuating the custard of creamy homemade edamame tofu underneath. I remember the thin slices of ruby-red beef, streaked with veins of sweet white fat (taken from the large slab of beef on the counter behind the chef's station), the sweet translucent-white shrimp, and generous slices of caramel-colored foie gras, each cooked for seconds in the konbu broth, for the world's most decadent shabu-shabu. The resulting broth, having imbibed all of those phenomenal flavors, was not only reminiscent of the incredible ingredients that passed through but created a whole new dish to be relished.
Next to the giant slab of Miyazaki beef was an equally large slab of dark pink tuna, from which the chef carved out several different preparations of toro-- completely raw sashimi, tataki topped with gold flakes with the interior still raw and lovely, "standard" sushi, seared cubes (on individual hot stones, seared in its own fat), and smoked sushi. The smoked toro tasted so much like prime rib that we kept asking what type of beef it was, only to realize after the chef repeated his answer for the third time that he was saying, "It's not beef."
The clam sushi was so fresh and alive that the edges of the shellfish curled on the chef's cutting board. For all of the sushi, served one piece at a time, we were instructed to eat within 10 seconds of service. I happily obeyed until I was so full I could barely move but could not stop eating in anticipation of the next great taste. I was never disappointed (although eventually I did have to stop eating).
Forget Tokyo, I need to get back to Los Angeles as soon as possible.