Just got back from my mouthwatering LA trip, and it was a blast. I went to eat at Sushi Zo, Torihei, and Izakaya Bincho. Didn't have time for more Japanese, as I went to 7 Vietnamese eating establishments in Westminster over 2 dinners, but that's for another thread in the LA Board...
I'll start with Sushi Zo, since that is the most relevant to this thread. I think it was quite delicious - got the omakase, which is the only thing they allow, and I went through their entire selection. Some highlights include the warm ankimo, the halibut fin(engawa) that I ordered twice, and his San Diego uni, which was not too rich and also had a just enough earthiness. The yuzu juice at the end was a nice touch, and I thought the blue crab roll was more subtle and better than what they serve at Sasabune. In general, I think it's a great place, but relative to the top 3 of 15 East, Yasuda, Kuruma in NY, he over sauces some of the sushi and uses yuzu zest too often. Also, I felt that some of the fish pieces did not have enough texture/were a bit flabby, and the rice was good but not great. I'd actually compare the quality to Sushi Azabu, but with much more variety. The bill was also $145 +tax for just me, and I only had one small serving of Hakkaisan sake (I HATE having to drive everywhere in LA!) - this is comparable to a bill at 15 East/Yasuda. If I had to move back to LA, I'd be quite happy with the trio of Mori/Go's Mart/Zo (and whatever else). I just don't think it's worth it for a New Yorker to go out of their way for this while visiting, given that the very top in NY is, IMHO, better. Of course, given the raves that Zo has gotten from LA inhabitants as well as NY inhabitants, I'll emphasize that opinions are like ....... everybody has one :)
Torihei was an absolute revelation. We tried the yakitori and the oden, and everything was absolutely heavenly. I knew I was in for a special meal when our first skewer came out. This was "basic" chicken thigh, but it had everything - a nice chewy texture, a good but not overwhelming amount of sauce, and fantastic underlying meat flavor. Highlights of the meal include the jidori kara-age/fried chicken, which was the best kara-age I had ever had to that point, along with the special heart skewers, and the fish cake oden. But everything else, and I mean, everything else, on the skewer and oden menu was incredible. This is definitely better than the NY yakitori establishments. The best part was that our mean totaled $125+tip for 5 people, compared to the $160+tip bills for TWO that I've had at Torishin. The only thing I'd miss from Torishin is the chicken oyster and the chicken sashimi.
Izakaya Bincho was great (and a great value) as well. Some of the dishes were not memorable, but the ones that were blew me away. We had the normal jidori kara-age, which, amazingly, was better than the Torihei version that I'd tried a couple days before. Also liked their chicken wings, and green onion fried chicken. I wish I had tried their yakitori in their previous incarnation. Exilekiss really liked the buta kakuni - I thought the seasoning was amazing - flavorful without being too salty or oily, but I thought the lean part of the meat was too stringy. The agedashi tofu was also a highlight. All in all, this place needs to move to a better location than Redondo pier - it was really dead when we went on a weeknight, and I bet they'd get a packed house in West LA.
Thanks to Lau and all the others in this thread for their suggestions! I'm definitely a convert to LA Japanese food.
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