A friend and I thought we would grab some sushi last night. Over the last 4 or 5 months it has been rather difficult to get us to try anything other than Sushi Zo. While fellow Hounders have mixed feelings regarding Keizo-san and his manners, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the man. Granted I tend to have some basic manners while dining and show the chef respect, but I have never experienced any attitude or arrogance rising to the levels that some Hounders describe. Further, his sushi is awesome and I would gladly, although I have never had to, endure a little attitude for such amazing sushi. Literally second only to Urasawa IMO.
With that said and the fact that we were feeling adventurous we thought we would try Nozawa Sushi in the valley on Ventura Blvd. Arriving there early, the restaurant was completely empty with the exception of 2 busboys and the chef, Nozawa I assume. Upon arrival, we were greated by a busboy who tried to quickly sweep us off to a table. Prefering the sushi bar, I made my preference known. Busboy #1 attempts to explain, "You have no choice at the sushi bar! You should sit at this table." "Omakase?" I asked. With no response provided I assumed this was the case and, typically only dining omakase, I was quite happy to sit at the bar despite busboy #1's shock. Eventually we sit at the bar. (Don't worry I will get to the food but the experience is often as important to me)
Without a hello, we begin with a plate of baby tuna. Not bad. The pre-cut pieces of fish were a nice start. Meanwhile, busboy #2 had the most attitude I have ever encountered in my life! This was like Keizo-san on steroids. Don't do this...don't do that...don't touch that. As I mentioned above, I am not completely against a little attitude, if your food backs it up. This, on the other hand, was quite different. I was getting sushi attitude from busboy #2 who was no more Japanese than Venus Williams and no more sushi chef than Bobby Flay. Having realized that the service was just notgoing to be great, I tried to focus on the food...
As I feel rice is the foundation for great sushi, I begin here. Nozawa's rice was mushy. It had no texture and felt like I was eating rice pudding.
The second plate was Toro. This is where I realize that Nozawa uses a brine to soak his fish in before service. While the toro looked no different than a regular piece of tuna you would get at Todais' all-you-can-eat sushi bar, the texture was soft (brine!). Needless to say it didn't quite bring me the joy I typically feel when I eat Toro.
Next was halibut. This may have been the best order of the night. Nothing special but it had the fresh, clean, ocean taste to it that I love.
Yellowtail. Todai style.
Skipjack followed. Again, average.
Crab Hand Roll - Good. Seaweed was stale.
Ebi - Here we go. I tend to not order Ebi very often as I go to the Boiling Crab to get cooked shrimp and its not a favorite at my sushi bar. Regardless I ate it. Awful and regretful.
This culminated the omakase circuit. Not fully satisfied, I thought I would ask for one order of uni and one order of amaebi and call it a night.
The uni was clearly not A grade. Closer to C but I'll give them the benfit of the doubt and call it B grade. It was runny and, although it tasted great, the texture and coolness that typically hits your pallette was missing.
Now for the kicker. Awaiting the amaebi, I am given Ebi. I try to explain that there may have been a problem but busboy #2 quickly explains that Ebi is "much better and has better texture" than amaebi. SAY WHAT? Maybe for you busboy #2 but not for me. Honestly, a simple, "we don't have amaebi tonight," would have sufficed but please don't try and convince me that over the last 25 years of my life I have been completely stupid in preferring the bubble-gum texture, sweet taset, and awesome fried head of amaebi over the bland, rubber texture, plain ebi.
Well, I guess, overall, that this night alone based on the food would not have had me ranting at such lengths. However, the enormous attitude and vibe that the place was giving off was toxic. It's dirty, average and over-flowing with anger. Paying MORE than Sushi ZO put the nail in the coffin for me. Not going back. There is just too much great food in LA for restaurants to have an attitude. Didn't anyone tell these people that they were in the "service" industry? Keizo-san I look forward to seeing you soon my friend!