Link to pictures for this write up below.
"This is one of the best, unknown places on the Westside" my friend told me. He may be right, and I have mixed feelings about writing it up here. It's a tiny space and I would hate for my review to cause the reservation list to become unaccessible. I'm willing to take that chance though, because it's better that it be busy and open than empty and closed.
We started with some drinks while we waited for the rest of our party to arrive. I picked one of the two beers on the menu, Orion, which it turns out is hard to come by in the US, but is revered in Japan. Orion has a slightly sweet taste and tiny bubbles, it may just be the champagne of Japanese beer. My wife and friend opted for Saketinis, fruity coctails which use sake as a base instead of gin or vodka. They were tasty too, although a bit on the sweet side.
On to the appetizers, where our only complaint was that there were too many good choices. You could reasonably make a pan-asian tapas meal just off of the starter menu. We choose two items, first the Ahi Tuna Napoleons: fresh chopped spicy tuna placed between two crispy won-ton skins.
Next out of the kitchen was the yellow tail carpaccio. Sure, it's a fancy word for sashimi, but the carpaccio did have a unique flavor. Served on a pile of shredded daikon, the yellow tail was topped with a piece of cilantro and a slice of mild pepper (shishito maybe?) then drizzled with a ponzu-like sauce
After the appetizer, we were ready for the next course. The mango salad came packed with avocado, on top of fresh greens and topped with sweet chunks of mango. A tangy ginger dressing tied the sweetness of the mango and the light salad flavors together
An absolute mountain of tempura came to the table. A melange of vegetables was arranged next to some sizeable shrimps (oxymoron?). The tempura was a bit different than the standard fare. It was exceedingly light and flakey. I would compare it to dry snow, if snow could be fried and coat vegetables.
My main dish was Japanese Lava Cod. Cod tends to be rich and I wasn't sure that I was up for it that night. I'm glad that I made the choice though, because the dish tasted even better than it looked. The fish was cooked perfectly, placed on top of asparagus, mushrooms, onions and bok choy, then flavored with a tasty sauce. There was also a dallop of green goodness on the fish. I assume that it was some sort of mild wasabi-potato mixture. It was mild, but definitely flavored with the japanese horseradish.
I was impressed with every aspect of the meal, from the drinks to the appetizers to the main course. We were too stuffed to sample the dessert menu, next time I am going to have to plan better.
Saketini also has a tasting menu and I asked Sung Kang about it. He suggested that you call ahead to reserve for the tasting menu and the chef would keep an eye out when he shops for that day. Fresh is definitely important at the restaurant and it's not unusual for them to run out of dishes for lack of ingredients.
I have yet to try Saketini for lunch, but there is an enticing day time menu of items priced under $10, as well as take away bento boxes.
So there it is, the best kept secret on the Westside is now out of the bag.
150 S. Barrington Ave.
Brentwood, CA 90049
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